MUfLT, Part Three: Glen Moray Distillery

As I munch autumn pears in the cool breeze of a near-October evening, it seems slightly incongruous to recall the glorious summer’s day — the kind that makes you forget the rest of the abominably cold and wet summer’s days — that I visited Glen Moray. The previous day’s dramming at Aberlour and Balvenie had prepared me for the all-too-rare combination of whisky and sunshine, but this day’s pace was less frenetic, its agenda much more open, plus I’d had a full night’s sleep and a proper breakfast. The relaxed style of tour at Glen Moray, then, felt fitting.

Grain mills

Besides me and Sunjay, there were only two other people on our tour in addition to our guide and a trainee guide. The 2-to-1 guide ratio allowed us to wander through and take photos at our own pace, as one guide could lead the way while the other waited to bring up the rear. (As at Aberlour and Balvenie, Glen Moray was in the middle of silent season and so we could take photos throughout the distillery.)

Glen Moray stills – dusting on the to-do list

The whole tour was fascinating but laid back, lacking canned marketing speak and instead more like a dialogue with the guides offering local knowledge and fun facts. For instance, one guide pointed out a road winding through the distillery grounds which was the original way into Elgin and over which Macbeth, among others, is said to have travelled. The road also happened to pass a wee cottage where the excise man used to live — yes, on site! I’m sure today’s excise men are quite disappointed this is no longer the case.

Watching spirit age > watching paint dry

By far the best part of this tour, and most tours, was the warehouse. Here I learned that distilleries throughout Scotland (and presumably elsewhere?) swap casks every so often, storing each others’ aging spirit in their respective warehouses. This is done as a precaution in case some unforeseen disaster — a fire, for instance — were to wipe out the stocks of the distillery on-site: at least there would still be something left in the other locations. Glen Moray have also put transparent lids on some of their casks, allowing one to observe the color of the spirit as it ages as well as its dissipation, the fabled “angels’ share” which evaporates through the porous wood year by year.

Sniff, sniff!

The distillery folks have done another clever thing: setting out different kinds of casks on their sides and allowing visitors to remove the bung and smell the spirit within. (I think I’m sniffing a port finish here.) Although I am pretty familiar with the different aroma profiles of various casks and finishes, it was enormous fun to go from cask to cask and inhale each in turn, especially with the pervasive curtain of general whisky-scent hanging all around me.

Oh yes, it’s dram o’clock.

After the tour, of course, we proceeded to the tasting. I hadn’t previously tasted Glen Moray, so every dram interested me. The guide gamely offered the 8, 12, and 16 year olds, and then allowed us to sample other, less common expressions. While the 16 yo seemed to me exceptional for a standard expression, the Chenin Blanc finish sticks in my mind. I regret not having the space to buy a bottle at the time.

Glen Moray Classic (8 yo)
Nose: Light, citrus-y — plenty of lemon, and some hay.

Palate: Very easy to drink with classic bourbon notes of vanilla and a wee bit of spice.

Finish: Quite short with very little spice, but satisfying.

Glen Moray 12yo
Nose: Cherry, ginger, and a bit of a fruit bowl.

Palate: Overwhelmingly bitter at the back of the palate — I didn’t note anything else.

Finish: Short. (I must not have liked this one much, I wrote next to nothing!)

Glen Moray 16yo
Nose: Toffee, brown sugar, rich stewed fruits.

Palate: Incredibly smooth, with lots of chocolate and ginger notes.

Finish: Light and delicate, but lingering.

Glen Moray Chenin Blanc 2003 (Cask no. 1839)
Nose: Chocolate and toffee — very rich. Opens up with water to include crème brulée.

Palate: At cask strength, lots of dark chocolate, bitter orange and black currants. With a few drops of water, it takes on a lighter character with more lemon and orange.

Finish: I didn’t note the finish — but I noted how much I liked this particular expression!

Glen Moray 1995 Port Wood Finish
Nose: Cherries, plums, chocolate.

Palate: Dark chocolate, oak and bitter orange.

Finish: Not noted.

Two thumbs up to Glen Moray for providing a true five-senses experience! I’m looking forward to further enjoyment of this distillery’s whisky as it becomes more widely available in the US.

Bonus photo: what they do with old casks in Speyside.

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A Glorious Rammy of Whisky

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Edinburgh Surgeons’ Hall Museum — don’t you wish your doctors’ office looked like this?

Last Saturday evening, I was privileged to take part in the first (of many more, I hope) Edinburgh Whisky Stramash. Arriving after a long, hot day of shopping with my mother-in-law, I was ready for some palate-tempting, thirst-quenching adult beverages. Luckily, I was not disappointed! Because it was crowded and there were many things to see and do, I neglected to take any tasting notes. I’m going to use this post just to remind myself of what I had and what I’d like to have again.

We got in line for cocktails straightaway, as there were only two bartenders slinging the Jura Superstition into surprisingly delicious mojitos and mules. Whilst waiting to get to the front, I snagged a few drams: Tobermory 15, Ledaig 10 (which is fast becoming one of my go-to whiskies), Glen Moray Classic and Glen Moray 16. Those were the first Glen Morays I’ve had and I definitely plan on having a larger dram of the 16 again.

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New life goal: whisky library.

Over at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I enjoyed a lively Bowmore 14 (Cask 3.188) and giggled when I saw 63.27. My husband had the 76.89, a fantastic Mortlach 16 sherry cask. Moving on the next tasting room, I had another first with Dewar’s 12, then enjoyed Aberfeldy 12, the ever-satisfying Amrut Single Cask and Amrut Fusion, a fantastic Clynelish 16 bottled by Robert Graham, Tobermory 14, two new (to me) Wemyss bottlings — Red Cream Berries and The Hive. Then a taste of Dunkeld Atholl Brose, which would be lovely with some ice cream. Don’t ask me why, but I went on to Benromach Peat Smoke and the Benromach Organic, followed by Kilkerran 2004 which was a fantastic dram to end the night.

If that looks like a lot of whisky — it is. Luckily they were serving pretty tiny drams and all the ones I listed I split with my husband. Sure, I was still pretty steamin’ by the end of the night but I expected nothing less at an event that bills itself as “a glorious rammy of whisky”.

I also want to give a shout out to my new friends at J.K.’s Scrumpy Cider, who were there with Thistly Cross and their bar full of delicious apple concoctions. There wasn’t actually any Scrumpy to hand, but they did offer great banter and a fantastic apple brandy from my home state of North Carolina. I’m going to have to hunt down their organic Michigan cider when I return to the US…

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We ended the evening with the final performance of the murder mystery — an excellent whodunnit, especially for people who are already drunk. They never did tell us who the killer was, though…My money’s on the wife. She looked like the only sober one there.