Glen Moray is a distillery that is located in the Speyside region of Scotland, sitting on the outskirts of the town of Elgin and the banks of the River Lossie. The distillery started life as a brewery that was founded in 1828 and was converted to become the Glen Moray whisky distillery in 1897. It is currently owned by French drinks company La Martiniquaise, who took control in 2008 after buying the distillery from Moet Hennessey. They use the whisky made and matured at Glen Moray for a number of their own blended and vatted whiskies that are particularly popular in France, namely Label 5 and Glen Turner, as well as an expanding range of single malts. The main market for Glen Moray single malts is the UK, where it lies in fourth place for total sales last year, behind only Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie and Glenlivet.
The tour begins in the Visitor Centre and we are welcomed by our guide Emma. The first stop is the milling room where the three whisky making ingredients (barley, water and yeast) are explained, followed by how the barley is malted and then milled to the correct specification. This section is hands on as you can touch and smell barley from before and after malting, as well as the milled grist. It is then off to the mash tun, where the grist is added to warm water in order to extract the soluble natural sugars. We get to see this process in action before moving on to the washback room, where the yeast is added. Glen Moray has one mash tun and five washbacks. Each washback contains liquid at different stages of the fermentation cycle and it is interesting to see and compare the differences.
The tour continues in to the stillroom and this is the only area where we are instructed not to take photos (the photo to the left is of the stills but is taken from the stillroom doorway, in case you were wondering!). There are four stills - two wash and two spirit stills - and these operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They produce 2.1 million litres of spirit each year and this flows through the spirit safe. Emma explained the different types of alcohol that are produced during the distillation process, how they are separated in the spirit safe and how each is used. An interesting point is that you get to see the bottom of the stills (as pictured), which is something rarely seen on other tours or photos. It gives an idea of the scale and full size of the stills. The bases are covered in metal sheeting that protect the still by contracting and expanding with the heat.
After seeing the cask filling area, we move to the warehouse. Here it is explained how important the environment and constant temperature is for maturing whisky (thick stone walls, earth floor, low ceilings), the different types of casks used and the evaporation of the spirit over time (called the 'angel's share). They have a great way of showing the 'angel's share' by having two perspex ended casks set up so that you can see how much has has evaporated in the two years since they have been filled (pictured left). The casks are both ex-bourbon but the one on the left has been charred and the other is non charred to show how this can influence the colour. This is very innovative and we have never seen this before on a distillery tour. Glen Moray use mostly ex-bourbon casks and their 10 warehouses hold around 65,000 maturing casks.
Finally, we are returned to the Visitor Centre to sample some of Glen Moray's whiskies. The brief tasting notes for these are below. The Visitor Centre has a gift shop selling all styles of Glen Moray merchandise and a cafe serving refreshments. This tour is excellent and would be perfect for beginners, as the whole whisky making process is explained from start to finish in a clear, interactive and concise way. The distillery feels intimate and welcoming. Our guide Emma was friendly, informative and attentive, both during the tour and the whisky tasting afterwards.
Glen Moray Classic - This whisky is popular in the UK, USA and Europe and is roughly eight years old. It has a pale lemon colour and a fresh, vibrant nose that has elements of sweet vanilla, cereal grains and dried grasses. On the palate, this is light, crisp and refreshing with some butterscotch and a citrus zing (imagine lemon zest) added to the elements of the nose. The finish is short, sweet and enjoyable. This would be ideal as an aperitif or on a hot day.
Glen Moray 12 years old - This is richer, sweeter and more rounded than the Classic. There is a cereal maltiness on the nose that is joined by vanilla and toffee notes. On the palate, it feels richer and more viscous with a warm spiciness (think of ginger) and a juicy fruitiness combining with the elements from the nose. The finish is of medium length with the toffee and cereals particularly prominent. A good, easy going and balanced dram.
Glen Moray 16 years old - Unlike the Classic and 12 years old, this has a small part of sherry cask maturation in addition to the bourbon. The colour is a golden amber and the nose is hotter, drier and spicier than the 12 years old. On the palate, this is sweet with lots of cereal grain, toffee and caramel. The spiciness from the nose is present (think of cinnamon and nutmeg), as is some dried fruit and a hint of something darker and bitter (imagine dark chocolate). The finish is long and enjoyable with just a whiff of peat smoke coming through.
Glen Moray 8 years old Red Wine Cask - This bottling was released for WhiskyLive in Glasgow in September 2009 and is from a single French red wine cask. It is bottled at 59.7% ABV and only 270 bottles are available. The colour is amber with a reddish tinge and the nose is full of red fruit, demerara sugar and spice (think of nutmeg and clove). These are replicated on the palate which is rich, sweet and viscous. A bitter rich element comes through that is reminiscent of coffee beans or chocolate. A long, fruity finish rounds off a very good dram.
Entry - £3 per person/ Tour duration - 1 hour 15 mins/ No. of drams - 4/ No. of people on tour - 2 (us! well it was 9.30am)/ Further details - www.glenmoray.com