My Love-Hate Relationship With Edradour
Edradour and I. The two of us have a love-hate relationship. Or I should say that I have a love-hate relationship with Edradour, since I don’t believe anyone in Pitlochry knows of my existence. Anyway, there was a point in time when it was only love. I vividly remember buying the Edradour 10yo. At that time it was one of the first bottles I ever bought that was a little bit of the beaten path. The smallest distillery in Scotland. Wow! It was still the early phase of my whisky adventure, so that label impressed me. And the whisky itself was good, so ever since that first buy, this distillery has held a special place in my whisky-heart. It remained that way for years, until I actually visited the distillery.
Before you continue reading my story, let me explain the thinking behind this blog post. In order for me to really enjoy a whisky, a positive association helps a lot. For example: I’ve recently had a great experience visiting Benromach, so when I now drink one of their whiskies, it takes me back to that wonderful day. But when I now drink Edradrour, it takes me back to a disappointing day. So in a way, that visit has ruined the whisky for me. It’s just the way my mind works. Let’s continue…
I visited Edradour in 2013 during my first trip to Scotland. When planning the trip, I actually went out of my way to make sure we could also visit this Pitlochry-based distillery. I really looked forward to visiting this small gem of the Scottish Highlands. A distillery that was acquired by Andrew Symington (of Signatory Vintage) in 2003, fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own distillery. There must be a lot of love in that place.
Quickly after I arrived I found out that the ‘Smallest distillery in Scotland’-title is open to interpretation. If you don’t take small craft distilleries into account, their production is the lowest in Scotland. But their operation rivals the biggest distilleries in Scotland. Approximately a 100.000 people visit Edradour every year. When I visited, there were literally busloads of tourists negating all the charm of visiting a small distillery. It was Glenfiddich-esque.
The tour started in reverse order. I’m used to doing a tasting afterwards, but our rather large group of about 30 people was immediately steered into the old malt barn for a tasting. Dare to be different, I guess. We were offered one dram of Edradour 10yo and one dram of the Edradour Cream Liqueur. If anyone from a distillery is reading this: don’t offer a liqueur to your guests. They are there for the whisky. Just don’t do it.
Credit where credit’s due
After the tasting we went on to the warehouses. On our way we passed something called the Caledonian Hall. It’s a room that accommodates up to 120 people and is actually used for corporate events. Does that sound like the smallest distillery in Scotland to you? Not the quaint atmosphere I was hoping to find. Visiting the warehouses was actually pretty cool. You were permitted to walk around freely and taking pictures was also allowed. And since the warehouses hold the stock for Signatory Vintage as well, there was plenty to see. Credit where credit’s due.
The entire production process takes place in one room and the vintage equipment is nice to see, especially the Morton’s refrigerator which is used to cool the wort. Because of the large group it wasn’t a relaxed experience though, which was a shame. The last stop of the tour was the shop. All the tour guides had to give visitors a tour of the shop as well. Our guide actually sent some other potential customers away that were not in our group, so that she could show us what we should buy.
Cattle and cash cows
So instead of Edradour looking like a place with great love for whisky, it looked like a commercial factory treating their visitors like cattle and cash cows. It might be an okay attraction for tourists who have a passing interest in whisky. But for someone with a genuine interest in whisky it’s a disappointment. Personally I wished I had never visited Edradour. Because of it their whisky has become tainted to me.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.