At the risk of pissing off Glen Moray-fans (do they even exist?), I’m of the opinion that Glen Moray is probably one of the least attractive Speyside single malt whiskies out there. I’ve yet to try one that I really liked. And on top of that, the packaging screams budget and just doesn’t look very inviting.
Years ago I bought a Glen Moray 8yo, at the start of my whisky adventure, and the price played a large part in making that decision. It turned out to be a prime example of buying cheap and wasting money. And yes, I’ve tried more Glen Moray since. Also the more premium 25yo Port Cask Finish. And although that is a fine whisky, it’s still not what I’m looking for in a mature whisky. Too one dimensional.
So after all this praise, it might surprise you that I decided to visit Glen Moray on my most recent trip to Scotland. I heard good things about their tours and the visitor experience. Glen Moray is on no-ones list of must-see Speyside-distilleries. But once you’ve been to say Glenfarclas, Balvenie, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, Strathisla, Benromach… Ugh, nope, this doesn’t help to make my point. The list of more attractive (at least on the surface) distilleries to visit is pretty big. Anyway, I was curious and I wanted to see why other people where positive about visiting Glen Moray. Let’s keep it at that.
So I went on a standard tour of Glen Moray, which is situated in the outskirts of Elgin. They are currently undergoing a huge expansion, doubling their capacity to 6,6 million liters of spirit. Which also means they are doubling their warehouse capacity. After all is said and done, they can store 240.000 casks on site. In terms of production and storage, that makes them a pretty big time distillery.
The visitor centre is very nice. The picture doesn’t do it justice. They have lots of whisky and merchandise to sell, and also have plenty of older bottlings on display. There’s a small coffee shop, which also serves pastries. So you can go on a tour, try some whisky and fill your stomach. I can see why this would be a popular destination for tourists staying in the Elgin-area.
They say that once you’ve seen one distillery, you’ve seen them all. That’s overstating it a bit, but there is some truth to it. We went to see the mill room, then on to the mash room, and next up were the washbacks (nine of them, all stainless steel). Nothing revolutionary here. The still room (3 wash and 3 spirit stills) is also pretty standard. And the distillery itself is not very pretty. But even if you’ve visited you’re share of distilleries (like myself), there’s always at least one aspect that’s different and makes the visit worthwhile.
In the case of Glen Moray, it is the warehouse experience. They deserve some serious props for that. There are about a dozen of casks laid out. Different wine casks, different sherry casks. Ex-bourbon of course. Virgin oak. A cask filled with peated spirit. And even an ex-Laphroaig cask (if my memory serves correctly) filled with unpeated spirit. And once you’re in the warehouse, you can just do whatever pleases you. Remove the bung out of any of the twelve or so casks you find interesting (which was all of them in my case) and spend as much time as you want smelling them and inspecting them. Other distilleries should take notice.
I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else. And for a standard tour it is unrivaled. You might get lucky during a tour once or twice, especially one by a more experienced guide or (if you’re really lucky) the distillery manager. I’ve had one or two casks opened before in a warehouse, but not like at Glen Moray, and certainly not as many. It was like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Except that you didn’t get to drink any. That would be the only way to improve this experience. Let people pick one or two casks that smelled best to them, and they get to try a small cask sample for that. It would be incredible.
So would I recommend visiting Glen Moray? Yes. If you’ve never been to a distillery, this is an excellent one to pop your cherry. And even the more experienced distillery visitor will get something out of Glen Moray.