Sipping Tour through Scotland - Speyside

24-03-2017 By Whisky of the Week

Onwards to Elgin on our virtual sipping tour through the Scottish whisky regions. Situated halfway between Aberdeen and Inverness, Elgin is a former cathedral city and the perfect place to start exploring Speyside. Elgin itself has much to offer from the historic ruins of Elgin Cathedral and Duffus Castle to the breathtaking views around the River Lossie. Wander around the Gordon and Macphail shop and look for that special bottle or visit Portsoy, a small fishing village with a picture perfect harbor.

Portsoy Fishing Village

Speyside has the highest concentration of whisky distillers in the world. Situated on fertile ground with valleys, rivers and glens, this region is home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries. General characteristics of Speyside malts are notes of nutty fruit, apple, pear, honey, vanilla and spice; rich and elegant flavors. Speyside is also known for its use of Sherry casks – think of the heavily sherried Glenfarclas. Just like the Highland Region, the Speyside regions has a variety of taste profiles that range from the lighter GlenRothes to the fruity Glenfiddich. Speyside whiskies are thought to be the country’s most complex, and are known for their sweetness and elegant flavors and aromas.

Distilleries from the region include Aultmore, Aberlour, Tomintoul and Linkwood. Although the Speyside region is geographically part of the Highlands, it is considered a separate region because of its unique characteristics. The region received its name from the river Spey, which cuts through the area. Many of the distilleries use water straight from the river Spey in their production process.

The River Spey

Just outside of Elgin we find our first Speyside distillery – Glen Moray. It started out as West Brewery producing local ales in 1830 but in 1897 the first local barley spirit was created. Known as the sunniest distillery in Scotland, The Glen Moray Classic range includes whiskies aged in Sherry, Port and Chardonnay casks. The Heritage Collection ranges from a 12 Year Old to an 18 Year Old and the Glen Moray Reserve Collection has a 25 Year Old Port Cask Finish.

Glen Moray Distillery

Today we try the Glen Moray Elgin Classic Single Malt. Aged for an average of seven years in entirely ex-bourbon casks, the majority of which are first-fill. The Elgin Classic is light, smooth and easy drinking and include notes of condensed milk, butterscotch, butter shortbread, malty toffee, ginger marmalade and lemongrass citrus. It’s a balanced Scotch with fruity sweetness and cinnamon spice.

The Glen Moray range

Leaving Elgin, it is barely 20 minutes drive before we stumble across our next distillery on this virtual sipping tour through the Scottish Regions. The Glen Grant distillery was founded in 1840 in Rothes by the brothers John and James Grant. After their passing, a nephew inherited the distillery. Young James “The Major” Grant was a worthy sucsessor with a keen interest in whisky. He was highly sociable, a legendary inventor and traveler and the first man in the Highlands to own a car. Glen Grant was the first distillery to have electric light. The Major introduced the tall slender stills and purifiers which create the fresh, malty flavour and the clear colour that defines the whisky to this day.

The Glen Grant Distillery

The core range includes The Major’s Reserve, a 10 Year Old, a 12 Year Old and an 18 Year Old. The Glen Grant Limited Edition Series includes a 25 Year Old and a 50 Year Old. Let’s try the 12 Year Old on this tour. The Glen Grant 12 Year Old has a bright, golden colour and notes of orchard fruit, almond and citrus. There are hints of apple pie crust and caramel and finishes with lingering fruit and subtle hints of spice

The Glen Grant buildings are set in an elegant Victorian garden. The rest of the afternoon is spent exploring the garden. There is a small path that winds its way up the garden passing glorious flowerbeds and luscious lawns. The pathway crisscrosses the stream and leads to a little cave where Major Grant kept his own private Glen Grant barrel. After a magical afternoon, tonight we dine in a traditional pub on some Cullen skink paired with a glass or 2 of whisky.