In addition to the store and the tour, Glenlivet also sports a little museum where you can learn some of the history of the distillery. Almost every distillery has one of these and Glenlivet’s wasn’t particularly noteworthy. At the start of the museum, there was this crazy looking art piece:
Since this was the first whisky distillery tour we’d ever been on, Martha and I listened intently to the tour guide as she described the various parts of the process. Like every other distillery tour, photography was prohibited. While they’re probably trying to prevent the competition from getting a leg up, the reality is that many of the processes are the same.
You sign up for the tour at the visitor’s center. Each group is limited to sixteen people and they depart from the visitor’s center every twenty minutes or so. After a brief introduction, the guide takes you into a storage area where they store the malted barley. These are huge three or four story tall containers that contain malted barley produced elsewhere. Like many of the other distilleries, the need significantly more barley than they’re able to grow locally so they buy it from barley producers. The malting process and the type of barley is to Glenlivet specifications.
Right beside the storage area is a huge grain mill that grinds the malted parley into grist. The grist is then taken to the mash tuns where hot water is added to pull the sugars out of the crushed malted barley. This creates a mixture known as wort or mash. From here, the mash is cooled and yeast is added for fermentation. I was surprised to learn that they only ferment it for two days but this was standard, Macallan also ferments for only two days.
After fermentation, the wash is distilled in a stunningly hot room full of stills. A distinct moonshine-type smell permeates the entire room as New Make Whisky is distilled from the fermented mixture. I’ve obviously simplified the entire process greatly but this part of the tour is pretty much the same from distillery to distillery. There are probably some trade secrets involved but since they didn’t show us, it looked like the same process each time!
After the stills, we went to the tasting room where you’re allowed a dram of either the Glenlivet 12, the Glenlivet 15 French Oak Reserve, and the Glenlivet 18. Martha’s not a big fan of whisky so she elected for the Glenlivet 15 French Oak Reserve, which we discovered was marketed towards women, because I chose the 18 and she was just going to give me hers! What an awesome wife.
All in all, it’s a great tour because it ends with a nice serving of Glenlivet and it was for free!