Andy Gemmell’s Drinks Cabinet
Glen Grant Distillery Rothes, Aberlour
History: There are conflicting stories about the origins of this iconic distillery. It was founded in 1823 by former illegal whisky smugglers, which at the time was not unusual as illicit whisky distilling was rife throughout Scotland due to the amount of tax paid to her majesty’s government. In fact at the time it is believed that around half of the whisky in Scotland came from unlicensed distilleries. Glen Grant was later bought by brothers John and James Grant in 1840, who most believe built the distillery at this time. Regardless of the exact dates the brothers expanded the site to make it one of the biggest distilleries of its time. By 1872, the brothers had passed away and young James “The Major” Grant took over. The Major was a natural when it can to growing Glen Grant as a brand. Over the last 140 years it has grown to one of the world’s top five selling single malts. Today it is owned by Italian company, Gruppo Campari.
The whisky: Glen Grant single malt is known for its light, easydrinking style, which has proved massively popular in Italy, Spain and France: its biggest markets. The 18-year-old relaunched in 2016 is top of the list for me with notes of caramel, raisins and vanilla. The brand’s big seller is the Major’s Reserve, which you can pick up for around £23. This is often enjoyed with coke in the countries I mentioned, which personally, I see nothing wrong with at all.
Favourite tipple: If you are into your whisky and like trying something a little different then keep you eyes peeled for pretty much any of the Gordon MacPhail bottlings from Glen Grant. The relationship with the Elgin whisky bottler goes all the way back to at least the 1930s.
Why visit? This is a beautiful distillery surrounded by a stunning Victorian woodland garden. It attracts around 10,000 visitors each year. Tours are available all year round and offer an in-depth look at their process as well as an opportunity to learn about the legacy of the Grant family.
Interesting fact: If you are into the history of whisky, you may have noticed a lot of distilleries were founded around the same time as Glen Grant, around the 1830s onward. This is not a coincidence. As soon as the ink was dry on the act of Union in 1707, whisky was heavily taxed, so much so that whisky makers went underground and started to make their own illicit hooch to sell. The English even formed their own “whisky police”, better known as the excisemen, who would try to catch illicit producers in the act. This game of cat and mouse went on for over 100 years until the Excise Act of 1823, which meant that whisky makers could actually make money from creating whisky. So from this date the smugglers could set up legitimate distilleries of their own. Follow me on Twitter @andydrink or on Facebook