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A dream realized – my first Scottish distillery visit

The Glenlivet distillery

It’s been a few months since I returned from Scotland, but I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I wish I could relive the moment over and over again: waking up in Scotland for the first time, knowing that I was going to be visiting my first Scottish distillery, The Glenlivet. The day was fill of firsts and I could go on gushing about it for ages, but instead of waxing lyrical, I’ll be brief and drown you in photos instead.

A traditional Scottish breakfast

My first Scottish breakfast, complete with black pudding (loved it!).

Instead of just driving up to The Glenlivet distillery’s visitor centre, Alex Robertson, global brand ambassador for Chivas Brothers, had something special planned for us. We were going to be dropped off a few miles beyond the distillery, and hike along an old whisky smugglers’ trail, approaching the distillery from behind. The walk was a great immersion into the beautiful Scottish countryside, complete with sheep and dung and Alex’s tales of life in the valley back when excise men came knocking at the door and George Smith’s decision to become the first legal distiller in the region.

Sheep skull at the start of the smuggler's trail Walking through The Glenlivet Estate

Our hike took us down through a small forest and as we cleared it, the distillery was before us, nestled in the valley below.

First sighting of The Glenlivet distillery

A short walk from the forest took us past the site of the old distillery which is marked by a stone monument bearing a plaque that reads “Site of The / Glenlivet Distillery / First Licenced 1824 / By / George Smith / 1792 – 1871”. (Slashes denote a new line)

Monument at the site of the old Glenlivet distillery

The path then led us to a spot I have seen countless photos of on the internet. And now, I was here myself… Josie’s Well – the water source for The Glenlivet.

Josie's Well - water source for The Glenlivet

Treading on the spongy, damp grass in front of the white picket fence felt a bit surreal. In fact, the whole trip to Scotland feels surreal. I still have a hard time believing that I was actually there.

And then we got to the distillery itself. A huge disappointment (for me anyways) was that it was silent season at The Glenlivet, meaning that there was no spirit flowing through the stills. Everything was at a standstill for maintenance to take place and for the staff to take a well-deserved break.

Inside The Glenlivet stillhouse

Up close-and-personal with The Glenlivet stills

The first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of everything. The towering stills in the (relatively new) expansion of the distillery were an impressive sight. Being able to walk between these towering giants, soaking up the atmosphere was something special.

A glimpse inside the mash tun at Glenlivet

Alex Robertson educates us on the washbacks

Alex took us through the facility, rattling off facts and stories as we went, but truth be told, I didn’t register much of it as I was doing my utmost to absorb the genius loci, or spirit of place.

The Glenlivet duty free warehouse No. 1

After visiting the mash tun, stills and wash-backs it was time for a dram. And not just any dram, but a hand-picked 1977 Glenlivet straight from the cask in the Duty Free Warehouse No. 1.

Inside a Glenlivet dunnage warehouse

Casks inside The Glenlivet dunnage warehouse

Tasting a 1977 Glenlivet straight from the cask

A great finish to a superb visit. My first Scottish distillery done and dusted with memories that will live on in me for ages to come…

For a brief account of the trip that I wrote for The Glenlivet, you can click here.

Sláinte!

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