Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Speyside #3: Balvenie/ Kininvie and Glen Moray

At £35, it ain't cheap compared to some distillery tours. It's also worth every penny. Balvenie may have a reputation as a 'classy' whisky but the tour takes us to all the dusty and damp recesses while coating your tongue with beautiful tasting liquid.

The tour lasts nigh on three hours. Malt is tasted and wash savoured. Practises are explained without too much air brushing. Despite being almost a home boutique distillery, it is admitted that the core expressions for the mass market are tankered off to be bottled near Glasgow.

The kiln
Kininvie new washbacks
In the much vaunted Warehouse 24, visitors get a chance to taste three whiskies straight from the cask as well as bottling a 20cl with your chosen liquid. All are around 12yo with one sherry, one first fill bourbon and one refill bourbon. The first fill bourbon is pretty good. The other two are outstanding. Further to this, members of Balvenie's fanclub, 'Warehouse 24', are entitled to a complimentary dram. 'Not bad' I thought. However, when presented with a dram of a 39yo, distilled in 1974, I was more than happy. A superb and classy aged Balvenie with just a hint of peat. Does life get better?

While on the tour, it was hard to avoid noticing the references here and there to Kininvie - a 'distillery' which I understood to be 'closed'. It is anything but. Whether or not it counts as a separate distillery, I don't know. Maybe it's more like Balvenie's bidie-in that labours away in the background making 'industrial' malt for blending. Whatever, we also get treated to the sight of new washbacks being installed for Kininvie. A statement in itself, no?

At work in the cooperage

Balvenie stills
The tour is rounded off with a 5 dram tasting, including the renowned and expensive Tun 1401. What more could a whisky novice or connoisseur wish for?

As it says on the tin

For us, the whisky day is completed by a visit to Glen Moray. I've always viewed GM as a 'cheap' and perhaps unappealing dram. Possibly because I can recall purchasing a bottle for £14 many years ago and before I my whisky palate had developed. This view changed upon tasting both their peated spirit and 8yo cask-strength Chenin Blanc cask at the Whisky Fringe two years ago.

Their indepth 'Fifth Chapter' tour being unavailable we were nevertheless determined to visit the shop with a view to purchase something tasty. Unfortunately, the 30yo at £70 had sold out funnily enough. However, a chance to bottle a 9yo straight from a Chenin Blanc cask at £45 was too good to pass up. A lovely, mouth-filling and sweet whisky.

Respect to Balvenie and Glen Moray.

Speyside virginity lost
Speyside #2 - Lost and Reborn

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