Glenturret: Time to shine
With a new owner, a new look – and even a new date of birth – Glenturret distillery is emerging from the shadows to take its place in the single malt spotlight
WORDS: RICHARD GOSLAN PHOTOS: COURTESY OF GLENTURRET DISTILLERY
The distillery's exterior remains (mostly) unchanged following a change of ownership
The statue of Towser the mouser – Scotch whisky’s most famous rodent-slaughtering feline – is still there. But there’s no sign of the copper sculpture of a certain Scottish bird at the entrance. The Famous Grouse has flown, and now Glenturret is poised to take its place as a single malt in its own right.
The distillery’s reinvention is down to Edrington’s sale to the luxury glassmaker Lalique and Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss in March 2019. Since then, Glenturret has had something of a makeover, where Lalique’s lavish touch is to the fore. There’s a sleek new tasting room, and the addition of The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Mark Donald.
Bottles have been transformed into chunky and beautifully grooved works of art, with a Lalique stamp on their base. Even the claim to be ‘Scotland’s oldest working distillery’ has been given a new lease of life, bolstered with the discovery of new documentation. A determined archivist brought in by the incoming owners unearthed a rental document dating back to 1763, shaving another 12 years off the known age of the distillery in the ‘Hosh’ next to Crieff in the Perthshire countryside.
Bob Dalgarn0 joined Glenturret after 30 years with The Macallan
That historic provenance is one of the touchstones of the reinvented Glenturret ‘trinity’, along with pride in the prowess of its traditional hands-on form of small-scale distilling, and the passion of the people maintaining that traditional approach.
“There’s been a huge shift,” Glenturret’s Matthew Turner tells me over a coffee in the distillery’s cafe. “People might have come here and heard a lot about the Famous Grouse and about our contribution to that blend, but now Glenturret is finally the star.
“It’s always been there. The whisky’s been sitting in our warehouse for decades, and some of the stocks are 30 years and older, so it’s been sitting there quietly for a long time and its quality is very high. It’s a gem, and it has been hidden. Even the most educated and knowledgeable whisky lovers around the world may never have heard of The Glenturret. So it’s a hidden gem and our task is to wipe the dust off, to cut that gem and make it sparkle and let the world see it.”
Glenturret unveiled a new range in September last year, created by whisky maker Bob Dalgarno who joined the distillery after 30 years with The Macallan. The range includes the non-aged statement Triple Wood, a 10-year-old peat smoked expression, along with 12 and 15-year-old bottlings. The distillery also recently collaborated with carmaker Jaguar, with a limited-edition release of 265 bottles to commemorate the launch of the iconic E-Type (and its 265 bhp engine) at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. Matthew hints at more collaborations to come as Glenturret emerges from the shadows.
Glenturret is a compact and traditional distillery
“There’s been a lot of energy that’s gone into the desire to tell the world about the brand and the unique and fascinating story that The Glenturret has to tell,” he says.
“Our vision is that over the next five years we’ll build The Glenturret into the most respected single malt. Everything we try to do has a high degree of elegance and sophistication, but at its heart, it is a crafted single malt, handmade and hand-distilled.”
That’s one element of Glenturret that hasn’t seen any significant changes. A tour of the distillery shows how compact it is, with only one pair of stills and a production capacity of around 340,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, although last year saw only 210,000 litres. The mash is still stirred by hand using a wooden paddle known as a rouser. Fermentation is a leisurely 90-100 hours, and the stills are run slowly to create a new-make spirit light in esters and with a sweet, toffee apple character. Peated production takes place for six weeks a year – bottlings that have been highly prized by SMWS members over the years.
Everything is hands-on at Glenturret, including stirring the mash
“We are committed to small batch production, that hasn’t changed and will not change,” says Matthew. “It’s one of the approaches of Lalique that we will remain a distillery that produces the highest quality single malt and of a limited amount, and that’s the commitment. What has changed, I think, is just the general pace of the business in terms of its desire to build awareness of the brand and to reach new markets.”
One thing that may be on the cards is in the range of expressions emerging from Glenturret in the years to come, given the possibility of using wine casks from the vineyards under Lalique’s ownership at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey and Château Péby Faugères for maturation. That’s all in Glenturret’s future. In the meantime, cats Glen and Turret have taken over duties from Towser, but the mice now seem as elusive as the grouse.