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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Glen Grant, Speyside, Scotland

You should go to Glen Grant for one reason, two if you actually like the whisky (and there is no reason why you shouldn't, it's very good).  The best reason to go however is the garden they have in the distillery grounds.  I don't remember much about the actual distillery (and to be fair they were in a construction phase at the time as well) but I do remember the time I spent with my family exploring their beautiful garden on a perfect Scottish summer day (contrary to popular opinion they do exist).   It has of course the famous burn running through it and in gorge behind the garden, the whisky safe where the famous Major Grant would take his guests for an after dinner dram.  As you tour the distillery you will hear lots of stories about the Major, including things like he was first person to own a car in Highlands and Glen Grant was the first Scottish distillery with electric lighting.  All that aside, this is also a very good whisky, and while not so popular or common in the UK market, it has huge global sales, especially in Italy and was one my wife enjoyed a lot – especially the non aged statement standard expression.  They also have a little coffee shop where you can relax after exploring the distillery and the gardens and a nice sampling room... did I mention the garden? 

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Loch Ewe, Aultbea, Scotland

Loch Ewe, Aultbea, Scotland Don't bother looking for this one in your standard guidebooks or whisky books.  It won't be there.   This is quite literally a distillery built in a garage at the back of a hotel.  The owner of the Drumchork Lodge Hotel exploited a loophole in UK law (now closed) which requires stills be 1800L or more to get approval for 120 L still and makes his own spirit.  He even allows you to come to his garage and make your own spirit (remember it is only called whisky if it stays in oak cask for 3 years).  You can read more on his website (http://www.lochewedistillery.co.uk) but I can tell you it was simply amazing to see everything done on this small scale by hand, including lighting the gas under the alembic styles stills to fermenting the wash in a wheelie bin (yes a wheelie bin) and maturation in small wooden casks .  The small size accelerates maturation to where it is quite drinkable in a matter of weeks – they usually bottle at around 6 weeks.  What Loch Ewe produces is probably the closest thing to traditional Uisge Beatha you can buy today (including the new make spirits that some distilleries sell).  The hotel by the way is a great, remote spot in Wester Ross and as you might expect the bar is very well stocked with Loch Ewe and lots of other whiskies.  Well worth the trip and one day I will be going back to make my own batch of whisky in a wheelie bin.
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