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2014

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Whisky review

The Glenturret Distillery

Glenturret distillery is a legend in its own right. Their claim to be the oldest in Scotland, dating from records of unlicensed activity in 1717, is by no means straight forward. The Glenturret name has switched between two neighbouring distilleries at Hosh, on the Turret Burn, changed location and been redeveloped several times. The latest buildings date from 1960. Becoming Glenturret in 1775, the first license was taken out under that title in 1826 and transferred to Thomas Stewart, next door, in 1875. To add to the confusion, Glenturret was silent from 1921, re-opening in 1959. But the legend still persists, as it does with a few other claimants to the distinction of "Scotland's Oldest".

Glenturret, however, certainly has one unique feature - the whisky. The distillery is not only one of the smallest in size, it is also small in scale, the mash tun is diminutive and the single wash and spirit stills are quite petite. The spirit produced at Glenturret has the definitive randomness expected from small stills, the copper exerting a strong influence. It does improve with more weight, from taking a wider cut, higher proof and greater age, all three put to good use in the final products. What Glenturret might lack in limited output, it more than makes up for in a sheer range of expressions. I have found Glenturret from seven year old to a limited edition at 30 year old, they are all light, well honeyed and worth tasting.

The Optic barley is malted by Simpsons, at Berwick-on-Tweed, and mashed with the soft water from Loch Turret. The reservoir was the last in Britain to be constructed to this design, holding back a three miles length of water. Originally, the production and cooling water would have been provided by the Turret Burn, but only in the darker months when there was ample rainfall. Fortunately this coincided with the time of distillation, because Glen Turret means Valley of the Little Dry Burn - not much of a flow during the summer months. The new spirit is matured in bourbon and sherry casks, six bonded warehouses on site. The whisky is bottled at Drumchaple, Glasgow, with 40% being blended, principally into Famous Grouse.

Eighty percent of the Single Malt range, and their whisky liqueur, is sold through the distillery outlet, along with the usual associated gifts and souvenirs. There is also a restaurant, coffee shop and bar. One of the first to open up to the public, Glenturret is now one of Scotland's top visitor attractions with over 200,000 people passing through the "Famous Grouse Experience" every year. Look for the statue of Towser (1963 - 1987), the distillery mouser, listed in the Guinness Book of Records with 28,899 recorded kills. But do not forget, behind the all singing, all dancing and highly technical public presentation is the real Glenturret legend - the distillery.

Other whisky reviews.

John's new book, 'Of Dogs & Men', was officially launched on Tuesday, 30th April 2013 at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh.

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Discover Secret Scotland has an entry in the Stirling Directory!