Monday, 7 June 2010

The Glenlivet Distillery Expansion - Our Royal Visit

On Thursday the 3rd of June Andrew and myself were invited to take part in the opening of the Glenlivet 10 million pound  distillery expansion.

We flew up early from Leeds to Aberdeen to be promptly greeted by  James our driver for the trip to the distillery. Audi Quattro my favourite German car.

With a pleasant trip through the glorious Scottish Highlands we arrived at the distillery to be met by Alan Greig (Director of Brand Education) who arranged for us to go on a personal tour around the original  distillery. As we finished with a  look round one of the more modern warehouses Allan had caught up with us again and took us down to The Glenlivet Malt Barn for lunch.

Salmon and cold meats buffet ideal for the warm day that had developed . Here we met our contacts Caitriona and Siobhan with our detailed itinerary for the visit.

Next came the Helicopter flight from a field next to the distillery, the farmer who had lent the distillery the field had hinted that he had never been in a helicopter before, needless to say his hint was taken and he got to see his farm from the air.

Likewise I had never flown in a helicopter before. Only downside is the noise as for the flight - superb. Straight up a nice spiralling climb above and around the distillery then out over the mountains and back down the next valley to the distillery again. I will just have to add this to my wish list for when my daughter finishes  college.

Down to earth again, Now for the new distillery tour with Allan and ten other guests  As  we entered the newly built extension  the first room contained a miller used to ground the malt. not working but a cut away version so that you can see the workings, Proud to see that it had come from Leeds. This room was illuminated from a church window with a definite distilling theme.

Out and up some steps (lift Available) and into the Still room to be greeted by a Stainless steel Highly polished Mash Tun, as you move round the rest of the stills come in to view, a majestic sight of copper and brass all gleaming in the sunlight from the glass walls on two sides of the room.

We exited the still room to the left into a darkened corridor, here stood the newly hand built Oregon pine wash backs that feed the stills. These giant vats had not yet picked up the patina of age.

Out of this corridor and back into the still room, this time on the same level as the stills themselves, interspersed with more copper and brass of the spirit safes, I will just have to take out shares in Brasso.

Down some stairs to ground level here you can see the bottom of the stills and heat source, each still neatly stood on a large ring of black steel supported by four legs.

Tour over we headed for the Malt Barn for the tasting - Tough part of the job - lots of discipline needed here.

New make spirit -the base line to see how the whisky develops

The Glenlivet 12 year old - Light to medium bodied. Vanilla, Bananas & pineapple,  cream toffee, malty. the classic Speyside.

The Glenlivet 16 year old Nadurra -A much sweeter dram. The age introduces a light oaky background to the vanilla and rich fruit flavours of the signature expression

The Glenlivet Founders Reserve 21 year old specially produced for this occasion limited to 1824 numbered bottles, (I bet Charles receives number one). I will have to look out for it on eBay. This one I like - Sherried and Dark Chocolate my sweet tooth loves this.

Left the distillery, with that pleasant whisky glow, on the coach to the Macdonalds  Aviemore Highland Hotel - a good shower and clean up after the hard days work- My kilt,  shoes and sporran ready for the evening meal.

Trying hard not to look like a Yorkshireman attempting  to be Scottish we made our way to the Peregrine Suite. another fine Scottish Spread

Smoked salmon - haggis, neaps -lamb- and a delightful sweet Cranachan. And of course more Glenlivet.

Successfully managed to navigate my way back to my hotel room for a good blissful nights sleep.

Early rise, my favourite, a full Scottish breakfast everything cooked to perfection. Then onto the coach for the trip to the distillery.

On arrival at the distillery we were taken to the distilleries’ communication room for a press briefing on the company’s  ambitions with The Glenlivet distillery, conducted by Christian Porta Chivas Brothers Chairman and CEO

Simply to be the Number One Single Malt in the world (already number two)

After the presentation, of course there was a question and answers session here I noticed a slightly agitated gent from Chivas. With a dilemma, here he had his Boss taking questions, whilst running well behind schedule, from the floor and he is in the wrong place luckily there were not too many questions.

As we came out of the meeting we could see the next port of call was the warehouse near the entrance to the grounds. Here our hosts had opened one of the traditional dunnage warehouses and were dispensing a 1979 Glenlivet

Also in the grounds the distillery staff had set up an old style still and worm tub bubbling away dispensing new make spirit, just the perfect garden accessory we all need for this long hot summer we are going to have.

From there we proceeded across the grounds to the Malt Barn for Lunch, again superb food - Salmon & langoustine - Beef, potatoes, bannock in an oxtail and red wine gravy,  with a peach tatin for pud -followed with coffee and The Glenlivet Founders Reserve 21 year old as a digestive. Leaving that delightful Speyside glow inside.

As we were finishing our meal a helicopter came roaring over announcing the arrival of the Guest of Honour “Prince Charles”

Lunch was over, we made our way over to the large visitor car park to where the slate statue and plaque was ready for the unveiling, from here we could follow the Princes progress through the distillery by observing the flashes going off in the distillery. After about fifteen minutes the Prince emerged,  crossed in front of us and up into the visitor centre.

Five minutes later he remerged and made his way to the statue, covered in appropriate Scottish Tartan,  with Christian Porta. No chance of getting to the front the Koreans  and French had control.  Christian delivered a nice simple to the point speech,

Now did I miss something here I didn’t hear  the Prince speak had his mike failed? However it was an elegant way he threw the tartan on the floor. His mum had brought him up well

This was followed with a brief walk to meet the crowd, handshakes and exchange of pleasantries then into the waiting car and away.

Now that the event was over we found Caitriona and Siobhan who directed us to our coach trip back to Aberdeen Airport.

On our arrival at the booking in desk we were informed that our flight was delayed for three hours due to a technical fault? However they gave up on trying to repair the old plane and sent a replacement. and boy this one could shift. 55 minutes back to Leeds instead of the scheduled 75.

We must thank all the staff at The Glenlivet for putting on such a great event and making us feel welcome and a special thank you for Caitriona and Siobhan for their attention to detail.

Slàinte!  Mòran taing! 

Not quite ready. new Glenlivet Pages Should be ready on www.whiskymerchants.co.uk including our distillery tour photo slide show in the next day or so

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