I like Glemorangie’s products a lot. They are well-finished, consistent and pure to their style. Their basic 10-year is a smooth dram worthy of quiet moods, some good cheese, contemplation and relaxation. It’s also reasonably priced. Their finished expressions, using port, Sauternes and sherry casks take their 10-year expression and finish for an additional two years, result in intense, well-married flavors. Note to self, I have yet to review these…coming soon.
It was with some disappointment then that we encountered our first truly industrial-scale distillery tour at Glenmorangie. The tour buses in the vast parking lot should have tipped us off. The Glenmorangie distillery produces 6 million liters per year, a bit more than the Balvenie. Their tour trade, however, must be many times that of the Balvenie or Glenfarclas. On the plus side, the tour is inexpensive: £7, and that includes a taste at the end. Also, they have a big, modern, well-stocked shop with a lot of special bottlings available. On the down side, the tour is short, with few photo ops, and starts with a healthy dose of marketing.
The distillery is exceedingly well cared for, all newly painted and scrupulously clean. No Victorian funk here — Glenmorangie is owned by the LVMH colossus, so they have deep pockets. You can tell the focus on production is on efficiency and consistency, no surprise considering how consistent and affordable their main expression is.
To start the tour, we were directed to a ‘multimedia experience’ in a darkened room on the distillery side of the street. This was slick, well-produced, and pretty typical corporate fare. Yawn. From there we were collected for the tour. We were trooped past clean, shining, well-cared-for machines, to the stainless-steel mash tun and washbacks. The mash tun had a window for viewing. No dusty milling machines or malt de-stoners, and no one was going to lift the lid of a washback here and let fly with the foaming beer-head, no way. I started thinking more fondly of Aberlour’s adventure with the beer tasting. In fact, after climbing up the lovely orange stairs (there is a LOT of orange here) to the still room, we were told ‘no photography.’ Risk of explosion, etc. Which is odd, as we took photos at Glenfarclas (and later at other sites), and no one exploded. Furthermore, the Glenmorangie stills are open to the outside–plenty of venting for all those explosive gases. It being another lovely day in Scotland (how did we get so lucky?), we were able to snap a photo of the still room from the outside (shown on the page banner displayed if you select this blog post).
The same went with the visit to their warehouse – again, no photography due to risk of explosion. From cell phones. Really? Odd. I didn’t buy it. Especially not after (days later) visiting Bunnahabhain, where we wandered around their warehouse and shot to our heart’s content. Ah well. Bigger companies have more lawyers.
On the upside, they had a really nice Chevy on display in the yard, and there is a short walk to the beach. On that day a tent was set up with a young lady handing out bird-spotting pamphlets; if you noted at least three birds you got a pin declaring you a friend of Scottish wildlife. That was nice.
The tasting is basic, a single dram (well poured, at least) but the tasting experience was not one to encourage contemplation. Glenmorangie attracted a much younger crowd than we encountered elsewhere, and folks were doing the tasting without the tour. Hence, families with small children joined us. I don’t mind kids, I’ve had a few of my own, but these kids were acting out, crawling all over the table, making a nuisance of themselves. The display you see in the center of the shot below was upset not long after. So, forewarned, this is not the place to come for a quiet dram with adults. Save that for the smaller less-traveled distilleries. On the plus side, if you have kids, they are welcomed, and you can let them go crazy at the tasting. Let ’em rip! I’ve already been… 🙂
All in all, I was happy to see where a favored dram comes from, but we felt no inclination to linger. You cannot fault LVMH from making the most of their brands, but it would be nice of they spent more money on insurance and less on lawyers and let us nosy visitors risk a fiery death in search of some decent shots. Also, enough with the multimedia.