The Glenlivet Distillery has spent the past 18 months renovating its visitor centre to offer guests new experiences and innovative ways to learn more about their story and the history of the Speyside area.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit The Glenlivet where I could explore these new features and enjoy a few drams.
The Glenlivet Experience
The updated visitor centre is built to make you feel like you are visiting the home of Captain Bill Smith Grant, the distillery owner who helped The Glenlivet through tough times and made the brand the success it still is today. There are many cosy seating areas, a fireplace, a lounge with whisky and cocktail bar, two tasting rooms and a new archive wall that features some of the rarest bottles.
For me, the winning design was the interactive tour where you walk between (indoor) fields of barley and listen to the distillery workers and farmers talk about the whisky making. These short video clips are played from large screens, but somehow they feel much more personal than just reading about the history yourself. It is a nicer way to learn more, and you feel better connected to the brand.
At the end of the tour, you end up inside an old washback where you can learn more about the whisky-making process. Being inside a washback definitely gives you an understanding of how big those things really are.
You can now fill up your own bottle of The Glenlivet. Choose from three exclusive cask-strength bottlings: The Glenlivet 12, The Glenlivet 15 and The Glenlivet 18. The first 100 bottles of each whisky are pre-signed by Master Distiller Alan Winchester, and you get to label them yourself.
The Glenlivet Hand-Filled 12 is the cheapest of the distillery exclusive cask-strength editions at £50. The signature 12-Year-Old is aged in both American and European oak. You can expect fruity notes of pear, juicy pineapple and sweet toffee.
The Glenlivet Hand-Filled 15 (£70) is finished in Limousin French oak. It has a lovely balance of rich apple, vanilla and nuttiness. A slightly dryer finish than the other two. I took one of these home with me.
The Glenlivet Hand-Filled 18 (£125) is aged using both first- and second-fill American oak and ex-sherry casks. It has a nice balance of winter spices, sweet orange, dark chocolate and a dried fruit influence from the sherry.
If you would like to try the core range before bottling, I recommend you book ‘The Original’ tasting experience as this includes the tasting of all three core expressions. Although, note that the whisky used in hand-bottling will be cask strength.
‘The Single Cask’ tasting experience includes four exclusive single-cask editions from The Glenlivet Distillery Reserve Collection. You’ll be guided through the whisky-making process and cask selection. This tasting will help you to understand the cask influence better when you sample each whisky side by side.
‘The Archive’ experience is designed for you to learn more about the art of maturation. You will have a tour of the warehouses and a tutored tasting of some of the oldest and rarest whiskies, including The Glenlivet 30-Year-Old Cellar Collection and a dram from the archives.
During my visit, we also did a tasting where we paired a few drams with carefully selected chocolate and cheesy popcorn. One of the bottlings included their 12-year-old Illicit Still, 48% ABV, which took inspiration from the early days of The Glenlivet whisky production, pre-licensing. It is non-chill filtered with notes of green apples, banana, marzipan and oak spice. Although higher in ABV, it was an easy sipping and enjoyable dram.
You will also have a chance to try the legendary whisky pods from The Glenlivet Cocktail Capsule Collection. These are basically small whisky cocktail capsules that offer a ‘flavour explosion’ by bursting in your mouth. The capsule also dissolves easily and is completely safe to consume. Unfortunately, these aren’t available for purchase or else I would have stocked up for my next party! Originally created only for the London Cocktail Week, but once they went viral, it only made sense for the distillery to keep producing them for special occasions. The design has since been amended and the pods are now smaller in size and slightly lower in alcohol by volume.
With so many whisky distilleries around these days, it is nice to find experiences that are innovative, but at the same time very relaxed and accommodating for all levels of whisky enthusiast. Whether you just want to relax and enjoy a dram or a cocktail or learn more about the history of The Glenlivet distillery and the surrounding area, the new visitor centre caters for everyone.
The location on its own is also very interesting. Take a walk around the distillery to enjoy the vista, take pictures of the highland cows or stop at the Packhorse Bridge, the 16th-century bridge used to cross the River Livet.
Disclaimer: I was invited on a press trip by The Glenlivet’s PR company, and all the expenses were paid for.
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