Scotland September 2012 – Day 1 – Glenturret & Famous Grouse

My first day in Scotland got off to a bit of a shaky start. My flight was late leaving Calgary and so I missed my connection in Amsterdam. Three hours late landing in Edinburgh, I was lucky to be only 30 minutes late for my first appointment. Glenturret was officially founded in 1775; making it Scotland’s oldest distillery, though there is evidence that distilling has been taking place on the site since 1717. Yet as noteworthy as this is, Glenturret is one of Scotland most obscure distilleries, because the lion’s share of its production goes into blended whisky, mainly Low Flyer, AKA the Famous Grouse. Famous Grouse is Scotland’s best-selling Scotch whisky, and Glenturret is the distillery’s spiritual home.

The distillery was closed from 1921 through 1957 when it was reopened and largely rebuilt. Curiously for the home of one of the world’s best-selling Scotch whiskies, the distillery only produces 148,000L making it one of Scotland’s smallest. The stills are relatively large, crammed into small old buildings. In January 2009 the distillery started working with some heavily peated malt. The specifications are for the barley to be peated to between 80 and 120ppm phenols, and the resulting spirit is called Ruaidh Maor (named for a hunting lodge at Loch Turret) to differentiate it from the regular Glenturret. Burns is said to have written a poem at Ruaidh Maor.

The distillery is currently having a contest to name its new distillery cat. The kitten sleeps in the still room on a special litter. One of its predecessors, Towser, ruled the roost at Glenturret for nearly 24 years from 1963 through 1987. She was reckoned to have killed 28,899 mice over her lifetime earning a Guinness Book of World Records title for World Moussing Champion.

The distillery sits on some beautiful grounds next to the River Turret. While it has gone through a series of major refurbishments and upgrades over its 240 years some of the original buildings survive. The distillery has some creative interactive exhibits as part of the Famous Grouse Experience, a tastingroom, a well-run café and a nicely-appointed shop. No wonder it attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year, making it one of Scotland’s most appointed distilleries.

Whiskies Sampled:

  1. Famous Grouse 30 Year – 40% – My Tasting Note: Nose: very toffee’d and fruity and a touch tropical; Palate: soft, fruity and grainy with soft fruits and oily grain with subtle peat and floral notes with dark fruit and chocolate; Finish: more chocolate and dried fruit with oils and malt.
  2. Naked Grouse – 40% – My Tasting Note: Nose: toffee, fudge and honey, citric sugars and something medicinal with some dark fruit; Palate: very soft and very grainy with some sherry notes that eventually shine through: spices and dark fruit; Finish: grainy and oily.
  3. Black Grouse Alpha Edition – 40% – Employs more mature peated malts. – My Tasting Note: Nose: distinct signs of peat, malt, honey, toffee and late dark peat; Palate: peaty malt balanced with oily grain notes with a backdrop of dark fruit; Finish: more peated malt and oily grain.


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