Glancing at Glen Grant, Moray's Pride

A small village named Rothes in Moray, situated by the river Spey has been home to Glen Grant since 1840. Brothers James and John Grant, founder of Glen Grant spent years smuggling and distilling whisky illegally, before acquiring a license. It was not hard for the brothers to find an ideal location, since Rothes offered almost all. The sea, the port of Garmouth, the river with acres of barley growing by its plains, Rothes was bountiful in all the basic ingredients that make malt whisky.

But by 1872, both James and John were dead. Ayoung James Grant, popularly known as “The Major” was rising to power. Born in 1847, young James grew up fascinated with the process of making whisky. His keen interest in the distillery made him inherit the business from his uncle John Grant and he never failed him. In the due course of time, he only proved himself to be a worthy successor.

Stories about the Major are plenty. A man with incredibly high standards, he had regards only for the rules that he made, but that made him a man of authority. James Grant was loved and admired by all for the things that he achieved in his life. He was the first man to own a car in the Highlands and his distillery was the first among all of Speyside distilleries to have electric light after a generator was installed in 1883, followed by drum malting equipment and a patented draff-drying machine.

James Grant was a man of high spirit. He spent hours fishing or catching grouse on a Highland moor or traveling to the other end of the world, to hunt tigers in India and antelopes, springboks and pythons in Africa. The Major was also known for his legendary innovations. He introduced tall slender stills with purifiers at the distillery, which gave their malts a unique flavour and a clear color that defines Glen Grant malts till date.

After Major Grant passed away in 1931, his grandson Douglas MacKessack became his successor. And he efficiently managed the distillery till 1952, after which Glen Grant merged with another prominent distillery in Moray, the Glenlivet distillery. A few years later it merged with Hill, Thomson and Co. Ltd and Longmorn Distilleries Ltd.

Glen Grant produces some of the most sought after single malt whiskies in the world. Their limited edition Glen Grant 50 Years is a rare malt. Fifty autumns passed in shaping this robust spirit, giving it hints of caramel and toffee, laced with tones of chewy apricots, filling the palate with sweet sherry notes and baked apples. Glen Grant 50 Years is rare because the bottles are replicas of the Glen Grant stills and decorated with 18-carat gold and limited in number with only 150 decanters released worldwide.

Glen Grant organizes distillery tours round the year. The tour starts with a visit to the lavishly decorated Glen Grant House, the walls of which are lined with animal skins, assegais and heads of animals from his hunting expeditions. The hall houses a giant stuffed crocodile, mounted on its back legs, and holding a tray of old fashioned glasses to welcome their guests.

Visitors then tour the production areas, understanding how the eight uniquely designed traditional stills with the purifiers function in creating the spirit. Since the distillery has a bottling plant too, guests are shown the bottling process. After the visit to the warehouse, the tour ends with the tasting of the Glen Grant 10 Year Old and a short audio visual presentation.

The distillery has a beautiful woodland garden, stretching behind the distillery, where visitors are allowed to stay for hours on end to imbibe the serenity of the north end of Rothes, and sample more whisky. This garden has a history too. It was built using plants brought all the way from India and Africa by Major Grant, back when he was serving the British army. At the far end of the garden is the Major’s cave with his private barrel of whisky.