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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

24 hours in Perthshire. Part 2: Glenturret Distillery and The Famous Grouse Experience

Of the 120 or so single malt whiskies offered by the Century Bar at Gleneagles (pic), I’d like to think that one of them is The Glenturret. That was the name inside the second ‘surprise’ envelope of the day: a visit to what claims to be Scotland’s oldest working distillery - ‘making whisky by hand and by heart since 1775’.

The distillery is located just outside Crieff and is home to The Famous Grouse Experience, where the general manager, Stuart Cassells was Visitor Attraction Manager of the Year at Whisky Magazine’s ‘Icons of Whisky Scotland’ 2016. If you’ve never seen a grouse, pull into the car park at Glenturret. You certainly won’t miss the bronze statue of one.

It took us about 30 minutes from Gleneagles, so we arrived in time for lunch: oak smoked salmon sandwiches and salad in the Wilde Thyme at Glenturret cafe/restaurant. Part of the room was festively laid up for a wedding at 4pm but by then we’d done the guided tour and bought the whisky.

It was an excellent tour, just the two of us being walked and talked through the process of making whisky, half of the annual production here being peated, half non-peated. There was a distinctly low-tech feel about the place, what with the 120 year old milling machinery, the hand stirring (rousing) of grist and water in the mash tun, the washbacks made of Douglas Fir and, of course, the old stone buildings themselves.

Some of the finished article joins other whiskies in creating The Famous Grouse, the biggest selling whisky in Scotland. Because production of The Glenturret is pretty small, its main retail outlet is here where the full range, including the 10 and 16 year olds, is available. So too is The Famous Grouse. You can bottle your own as well, as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did when they opened the new visitor experience in May 2014.

We had a short lesson in nosing and drinking whisky (complete with scratch and sniff cards) and then a little tasting. I got a ‘driver’s dram’ to take away and savour later. And just as we were figuring out the notes of vanilla, orange and sultanas, we heard the sound of a bagpiper tuning up for the bride’s arrival. Perfect timing.

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