16 Jun Famous for a Reason – The Finest of ingredients
One of the first things you’re asked when you visit The Famous Grouse Experience is this: Who knows what whisky’s made of? The answer, of course, is: malted barley, water and yeast. Here at the Glenturret Distillery we use only the finest grains for The Glenturret, our single malt whisky, which in turn forms an ingredient in The Famous Grouse brand.
But we add a few extra ingredients too – ones that make both our whisky and our visitor experience world-class. The grain and water are joined by seasoned casks, skilled hands, and world-class, reliable suppliers.
Together they make up Finest, one of the Four Fundamentals, or principles, that our world-famous whisky is built on. The Four Fundamentals were set in place by founder Matthew Gloag. Call us old-fashioned, but we love that we still rigorously follow them all these years later.
Let’s take a look at them one by one:
Our barley is usually grown locally in Scotland – not too far down the road from our Crieff distillery, in the neighbouring counties of Fife and Angus. It’s then malted by a supplier in the Scottish Borders. Our maize is sourced a bit further afield, usually in France.
But the beauty of blended whisky is that they’re just that – blends, and skilful ones at that, of one or more single malt Scotches and single grain Scotches. Therefore there are other maizes and wheats added too, from other sources. And we wouldn’t be doing our job properly if we didn’t keep those sources secret!
Our water sources run deep, if you’ll pardon the pun. That’s the thing about blended whisky: with various malts and grains going into it, their respective water sources differ widely. But one water source that is a constant is Loch Turret, right on the doorstep of our distillery. It’s the water from this loch that is used in The Glenturret single malt, and blended into The Famous Grouse. And it comes to us via our very own pipeline.
Our resident whisky expert, Drammolier™ Lucy Whitehall, says: “Since water defines much of the taste and character of a whisky, it’s hugely important that the water we use is pure and of the best quality. And you don’t get purer than Loch Turret water, which starts on Ben Chonzie and makes its way down the Grampian Mountains.”
The oak casks our whisky is aged in are crucial to the process, infusing it with flavour. The Famous Grouse’s founders, the Gloag family, made sure from the start that only the best Spanish sherry casks were used. That is still the case today. As one of the world’s leading spirit brands, The Famous Grouse buys the majority of Spanish sherry casks used in the industry – and pays more than competitors do to get only the best.
But don’t listen to us – see it for yourself! Our Warehouse Experience tour at the distillery lets you see where the casks for our single malts are kept, and includes a guided ‘nosing and tasting’ session to show you exactly how they benefit our whiskies.
Our stillmen’s motto is ‘by hand and by heart’. They take to heart the love, care and skill that’s needed to help create our single malt whisky here at the distillery. We’re the only place where whisky is still hand mashed, and we guarantee that it’s touched by only five pairs of hands – those of our five stillmen.
Distillery manager Neil Cameron says that’s why it’s important when he’s recruiting to look for someone who shares these values. The skills they need can be taught, says Neil, but the values can’t. “Here, it’s hands-on, it’s not press button,” he says.
We believe those stillmen deserve attention, so here at Glenturret Distillery we’ve devoted a whole tour to them. The Stillman Experience lets visitors spend the morning with one of them and learn just how it’s done. Bonus: you get to take home your own blended whisky creation, plus a personalised bottle of The Glenturret Highland Single Malt.
Knowing that The Famous Grouse and our distillery go back to the end of the 19th century, it won’t surprise you to know that our relationships with suppliers go back a fair way too. For generations we’ve been setting the highest standards with farmers, maltsters, merchants and others.
And they not only date back in time, they spread geographically too. We source our American oak from forests in Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri, and our Spanish oak from forests in three areas of northern Spain.
Sustainability wasn’t an issue back in the days when the distillery first opened. Now, of course, it can’t be ignored. Says Lucy: “Where we source our peat, for example, depends on which distilleries are used to craft our Famous blend. But no matter where it is sourced from, we work with conversation groups, estates and management teams to ensure that the peat is cut responsibly and sustainably.”
Take all of these, mash them together (by hand, naturally) and what do you get? Yet more reasons to be famous, and to call ourselves Scotland’s Visitor Experience of the Year.
If you’d like to read more about the rich history of The Famous Grouse and its origins, the book Famous For A Reason, The Story of The Famous Grouse by Charles Maclean, is available to buy in The Famous Shop at Glenturret Distillery.
If this little look at our finest ingredients has whetted your appetite for a rich and flavoursome dram, then visit our Online Shop and find our Dram of the Month, Smoky Black, a blend of peated malt whiskies and exceptional grain whiskies to produce a richer, lightly smoky and very smooth flavour.