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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Woodford Reserve, Kentucky, USA

A distillery was opened on this site by Elijah Pepper in 1812 and according to legend (or the marketing department) is the site where Dr Crow "perfected" bourbon.  Now owned by Brown Forman (of Jack Daniel's fame) you could literally pick up this distillery and drop into Speyside and it would not look out of place, with it's picturesque setting, stone stillhouse and copper pots stills from Forsythe's of Rothes.  This was exactly what I had imagined a bourbon distillery to be.  They had picked up a  few other ideas from Scotland as well, such as charging $7 for a tour, the first and only time I was charged on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and having a convenient lunch / coffee shop in the visitors center.  The tour was well organized with a short video and then a bus ride from the plush visitor center down to the actual distillery and a guide equiped with a mini PA system so all could hear him.  The tour focussed on the components that make up the distinctive sweet taste of Woodford Reserve, the grains, the yeast (one of many distileries that mentioned criticality of yeast) the stills and distillation process (Woodford Reserve uniquely triple distills their bourbon), the casks and of course the maturation.  Seeing the still house wtih three pot stills was definately unique on the KBT.  Another highlight was seeing the fermentation process because the day we toured they were actually making an unusual mash which will be part of a future Masters Collection and included chocolate roasted rye so it was much darker than usual yellow corn mashes I saw on the tours.  Then the mandatory bottling hall part of tour to watch Collingwood Canadian Whiskey being bottled... (something to do with similar bottle shape and Borwn Forman plant capacity).  After the highlight of watching and hearing some Canadian whiskey being bottled the tour concluded back in vistor center with a shot glass of Woodford Reserve (you get to keep the plastic shot glass!) and a chocolate!  All in all a very good tour and along with Maker's Mark was one of the highlights.

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Glen Garioch, Oldmeldrum, Scotland

Glen Garioch, Oldmeldrum, Scotland

Perhaps one of the hardest distillery names to pronounce correctly (other contenders include Bunnanhabhain and Bruichladdich) Glen Garioch is 17 miles from Aberdeen and only about  11 miles from my office, so this was my nearest distillery when I lived in Scotland.  However a combination of limited visitor hours and my first tastings of Glen Garioch at a conference in 2009 leaving a less than positive impression meant there were many others distilleries I wanted to see before this one.    Then a couple of things happened, including in 2010 Glen Garioch revamped their line and produced a no age statement Founders Reserve and they were at Whisky Live London in March 2011 and I got try some of their new expressions and liked them.  A few weeks later I was driving through Oldmeldrum and on whim I stopped by the distillery (I didn't even have my note book so very little notes) and did the tour.  They still have their original floor maltings, kilns and even the tools used in maltings, although they are no longer used, so it makes an interesting part of tour as few other distilleries still have these.  As they now produce unpeated single malts, I bought a vintage bottling of their peated whisky and enjoyed it very much.

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