The Spirit of Speyside whisky festival (website) held in early May is one of the biggest events of Scotland’s event calendar and I was extremely fortunate to be invited to attend a number of events. I jumped at the chance to be part of the annual Glenlivet Open day as it is my favourite Speyside distillery and was being headlined by a tasting run by Glenlivet’s Master Distiller Alan Winchester. We hope that the events described in this post encourage Glenlivet and Scotch whisky fans to visit next year’s Open Day and partake in some very exclusive and reasonably priced experiences.
Tip: One of the best reasons to visit the Glenlivet is its scenic location within the Cairngorms National Park. So for anyone visiting Scotland during the Fringe, an overnight stay in the area is a good way to explore some of Scotland’s natural and cultural treasures. Elgin is home to Speyside: Distilled (website) which brings a number of distilleries and local business under one roof on Aug 31st and Sept 1 (includes some nice masterclasses)
Free bus to the Glenlivet distillery
As a public transport traveller, I cannot stress enough how happy I was to see the free bus to the distillery (one each from Elgin & Keith) for the Open Day. It is quite difficult to get to the distillery by public transport alone and this arrangement is one of the many reasons why the Spirit of Speyside festival catered to a broad audience including public transport travellers. I chatted with folk from Japan, the USA and Norway as part of the bus journey (among other countries) making for a diverse group of attendees. A sparkling clear summer day gave us a lot to admire in terms of scenery.
Alan Winchester : The Legacy Continues
The big tasting that I was slated to attend was led by Glenlivet’s Master Distiller, Alan Winchester titled “The Legacy Continues”. As mentioned in our previous Speyside blogpost, the Glenlivet distillery was officially established in 1824 as the area’s first legal distillery and Alan shared with us a number of fascinating slides covering the nearly 200 year history of the distillery and his own 40+ years of experience in the industry.
The surprise launch of the Captain’s Reserve
The tasting consisted of four expressions: Founder’s Reserve (Amazon UK), Masters Distillery Reserve Triple Wood (distillery store), Master’s Distillery Reserve Solera Vat (distillery store) and the newest expression launched by Glenlivet, the Cognac cask finished Captain’s Reserve (Amazon UK). Alan discussed the notes for the expressions which was a big fanboy moment for me. The new expression specifically was paired with 6 bites packed with flavour set up by food writer and broadcaster Ghillie Basan (details below).
A wonderful food pairing with Ghillie Basan
As a foodie, I was really looking forward to the food pairing by “the Original Spice girl” and did these bites deliver. The salmon and venison were delicate and shone with the natural flavours of the fish/meat but the apricot was the real showstopper IMO (a flavour bomb, if I may). Ghillie has a lot of experience with African and Turkish cuisines and her use of spices is fantastic. She runs cooking workshops from her remote home deep in the Cairngorms and we are looking forward to take part in one when we are revisiting the area.
Glenlivet Smuggler’s Trail
The tour company Glenlivet Hill Trek (website, Facebook) runs a number of tours using the 8 wheeler Argocats pictured below on the left and we were taken up the Glenlivet Smuggler’s trail – the paths used by illicit distillers to spot excisemen and pack up the operation on time. Taking an 8 wheeler was genuinely a TON of fun and definitely the easiest way to reach a hill summit. Apologies for the stock music, the wind at the top needed to be countered. We also stopped at a bothy on the way down for a dram and a slice of whisky cake ❤
Met one of the most knowledgable people about whisky and Scotland travel in person 🙂 I met Ross Shand of Your Scotland Tour (Website, Facebook) online across a few Scotland travel forums and meeting him in person and talking whisky (albeit very briefly) was a pleasure. I highly recommend contacting him if you want to have a bespoke tour across Speyside and/or Scotland.
The distillery had setup an old-school still on the premises that was distilling a, wait for it, 60%+ ABV clear still spirit to recreate how production happened a few centuries ago. Very strong notes of caramel and banana and a few sips of it was more than enough for me.
The final unique thing that I learnt during the Open Day is that the buses were fitted with an in-built breathalyzer and it is the gate in the system for drivers to start the engine after measuring their blood alcohol content (which is a cool use of technology). Posting a couple of pictures from the entrance that distillery workers get to enjoy every day 🙂
Note: A big thanks to VisitScotland, the Spirit of Speyside festival and Pernod Ricard for providing me an opportunity to cover the Glenlivet Open Day as a blogger. All opinions expressed are my own.
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