Scotland September 2012 – Day 3 – Glencadam, Tomintoul and on to Glendronach

My first stop this morning was Glencadam, established in Brechin in 1825 shortly after the passage of the Small Stills Act. The distillery’s footprint has changed little over the following 187 years. Many of the doorways seem built for a race of people 5ft tall, with many tight corners and steep stairways. The distillery, as with many in Scotland these days is operating flat out producing 24/7 in anticipation of continued growth in demand. This year the distillery will produce 1.4 million liters of spirit. The company had been flirting with introducing some major upgrades to the distillery with an eye to doubling its production, but the funds will likely be spent on Tomintoul where the company can more easily and drastically increase production.

The distillery’s cast iron washback is gravity drained which takes longer, but it produces a cleaner wort and as a result a more vigorous fermentation. There is an additional benefit to the cleaner wort, it leaves less residue in the still and means they don’t have to be cleaned as often. The fermentation at Glencadam is short, only 40 hours, compared with 56-68 hours at some other distilleries. This may also come down to the strain of yeast, the type of washback (Glencadam uses stainless steel washbacks) and the fact the distillery begins adding its yeast after the first few thousand of 24,000L of wort have bee filled into them.

The distillery was purpose built over a small burn for two purposes: firstly, for production; but secondly, and more interestingly for power generation. Built on a slight hill, much of the distillery has been laid out to take advantage of gravity. In 2010, during heavy rains, a culvert under the distillery failed flooding it in a matter of minutes. Suffice to say water no longer runs under the distillery! The distillery is located right in the town of Brechin, which has grown around it with the football(soccer) pitch on one side and a cemetery on the other. Surprisingly, given its urban location, the distillery was only fenced off in 1993.Currently the distillery is sitting on 23,500 casks on site.

  1. Glencadam New Make Spirit – 68% – My Tasting Note: Nose: malty and floral with fine French soaps; Palate: a big surge of malt, a surprising creaminess, more floral tones and unsweetened apple cider; Finish: drying, applely and metallic (copper).
  2. Glencadam 21 Year -46%-My Tasting Note: Nose: marzipan, Tootsie Roll, apple crumble, some floral notes and Graham Waffers; Palate: sweetand surprisingly malty with cooked raisins, caramel sauce, brown sugar and browningwhite fruit; Finish: coffee grounds, more browning fruit and cooked raisins. – Believe this will be available in Alberta soon!
  3. Glencadam 1978 – 46% -My Tasting Note: Nose: lots of cadied nuts: orange glazed almonds, maple walnuts and beer nuts; apple-peach crumble, fruit leather, chococlate, licorice and brown sugar; Palate: dark and spicy with big leather anddamp tobacco; treacle sauce, burnt brown sugar, mint chocolate and spice: clove and ground black pepper; also shoe polish and waxed wood; Finish: long and lingering with more burntbrown sugar, polished leather shoes and fruity tobacco. – This bottling is now gone, but we may see a few bottles of a new releasefrom the same vintage at some point later this year.


After the distillery I tooka few minutes to drive through the town of Brechin. The North Port Distillery is now long gone, but the towns Cathedral made my detour worth the stop. The building is noteworthy because of it round tower, a feature not seen in many other Scottish Cathedrals or Churches. From Glencadam I cut my way through the foothills of the Cairngorms and the scenic towns of Edzell (where I’d spent the previous two nights) and Fettercairn where I stopped for lunch. The little coffee shop one of my tour groups and I dined at in May of 2011 is still there, and still serving excellent food and coffee, but the interior has been dramatically changed.

I left Fettercairn, past the great little distillery of the same name, and  cut over the hills to shorten my drive through the Deeside, or the valley of the River Dee. The River Dee is one of Scotland’s famous Salmon fishing rivers, and it winds its way into the Eastern Cairngorms past Royal Lochnagar distillery and Balmoral Castle, the Queens official residence in Scotland. I didn’t quite make it that far up the road, as I was heading for Tomintoul distillery, just outside the town of the same name. The drive into the mountains was beautiful, but the rains which would dog me for a week started just after I crossed the river and began climbing. The landscape has a bleak beauty to it with the mountains covered mainly in a blanket of peat and heather. Nearly every 5 miles along the drive I saw castle, and much more frequently the ruined foundations of long abandoned crofts. These serve as reminders that these hills and valleys haven’t always been so quiet.

Tomintoul distillery is the newerofAngus Dundee’s twodistilleries, more modern, and considerably larger. The disyillery’s location can make it a challenge to reach in the dead of winter, so it has the capacity to store 174 tons of barley, or roughly a week’s supply. The distillery opened its doors in 1965 and has been through one major upgrade where it doubled production. The distillery takes 10 hours to mash 11.6 tons of barley producing 59,000L of wort. The distillery’s fermentation time varies enormously depending on the weather, from 48-72 hours, but it usually average 52 hours. The 11.6 tons of barley produces 2000L of spirit some of which is filled in casks and stored on site, and some of which is tinkered away to other locations. Three weeks a year Tomintoul produces a heavily peated variant called Whitlaw, this is done just prior to the summer shut down and cleaning.

The larger scale of the Tomintoul distillery compared with Glencadam is quickly apparent, and they may embark on yet another expansion project. The distillery’s capacity is currently 3.3 million L, but there is talk of double production. The distillery has the ability to store up to 1 million liters of spirit in holding tank and has more than 10,000 casks in one of its new palletized warehouses. I sampled one whisky at the distillery, Tomintoul 21 Year:

Tomintoul 21 Year – 40% – My Tasting Note: Nose: minty, fresh, very sugary, soft toasted oak, caramelized barley and white chocolate: Palate: sweet, creamy, and very toasty with lovely vanilla oils from the American oak; fresh, nutty, floral and  peppery with candied citrus; Finish: warm, drying and sugary with soft toasty oak and more floral notes.

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