Glenfiddich is the most recognisable single malt brand and distillery in the world. It is the biggest selling Scotch single malt whisky across 180 countries worldwide. The distillery is located on the outskirts of the town of Dufftown in the Speyside region of Scotland. Dufftown is the whisky capital of Speyside and is home to six distilleries that are currently in operation - Balvenie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Mortlach. Three others are now silent - Convalmore, Parkmore and Pittyvaich.
The name of Glenfiddich translates as 'valley of the deer' from Gaelic and is pronounced glen-fiddick. It is Scotland's largest single malt distillery and remains one of the few remaining family owned distilleries. Glenfiddich was constructed by William Grant and his nine children in 1886 using materials from the surrounding landscape and the first spirit flowed from the stills on Christmas Day 1887. It remains owned by William Grant & Sons to this day.
Bert then carried on the introduction by filling in some of the historical gaps that were not covered in the film, followed by hitting us with some of the staggering statistics of this huge distillery. For example, at Glenfiddich they use around 90 tonnes of malted barley each day - this results in 12 million litres of spirit being produced and put in to casks each year.
The tour moved inside the distillery into the mash room. This is where the malted barley grist is mixed with warm water so as to dissolve the soluble sugars needed for fermentation. This process takes place in two of the biggest mash tuns that we have seen on any distillery visit to date. These copper-domed tuns dwarf us and can hold 11,000 tonnes of mash each. Between them they complete four mashes a day adding up to 56 a week in total. They also have a viewing window in the side and we witnessed a new batch of water being added to the mash and slowly stirred.
After a quick sniff of each cask, we all chose the one we wanted to bottle. Using the traditional dog and funnel we then get to pull our own measure of whisky and fill our own bottles. This is a great experience to take part in and felt special and unique, especially when standing in such peaceful surroundings. Karen chose the first-fill sherry cask from 1995 and Matt chose the first-fill bourbon cask from 1991 - this proved even more special, as it turned out to be the first bottle drawn from this new cask.
The Pioneers Tour left us with plenty of memories to reflect on. Firstly, how could three and a half hours go so quickly? Secondly and most importantly, is the sense of tradition at the distillery. We had wrongly imagined that Glenfiddich was going to be a huge industrial factory - this is not the case and you see this at every point of the tour. Yes, it is huge but everything feels traditional and is simply replicated to a scale that meets their vast needs, be it the mash tuns, washbacks, stills or warehouses. Every employee that we spoke to seemed to proudly enjoy working there and felt that they had a direct link to the Grant family in some way. Long may that feeling continue.
As we were going around Glenfiddich, we took a few clips of video so that we could bring you some of the sights and sounds of the distillery. We hope that you enjoy our video - don't worry it's not three and a half hours long, just four minutes ...
Tour details - The Pioneers Tour
Entry - £75 per person/ Tour duration - 3 hours 30 mins/ No. of drams - 7 + 20cl single cask bottle to take home/ No. of people on our tour - 6/ Further details - http://www.glenfiddich.com/
Glenfiddich also runs two alternative distillery tours - the Classic Tour and the Explorers Tour. The Classic Tour is free of charge and takes in a tour around the distillery, finishing with a tasting of three expressions from the Glenfiddich single malt range. This runs about every 20-30 minutes.
The Explorers Tour costs £10 per head and covers the distillery in more depth, taking in the famous Solera Warehouse No.8 and finishing with a tasting of four whiskies in the William Grant's VIP Suite. Booking is essential for the Explorers and Pioneers tours - email email@example.com or phone 01340-820373.