Glenrothes. A brand owned by Berry Brothers & Rudd, living in a distillery owned by The Edrington Group, such is the weird and wonderful way of the world of whisky. I was fortunate enough to be invited on a press trip to Rothes House in Speyside to be immersed into the wonder that is Glenrothes.
This article is part one of a three part series following the trip. Today you will read about the distillery, part two will detail out an epic range tasting with a dream dram or two and part three will tell the story of Breakfast at Rothes House.
The trip itself could not have come at a more perfect time, I had just wrapped three client projects I’d been working on most of the summer on the Friday, been up to see my beloved Liverpool win at Anfield then on the Monday I was up at 5:30am to make my way to Speyside for two superb days with Ronnie and the Glenrothes team. Perfect.
Arriving in Speyside I was greeted by our host, Sophie and introduced to Christopher of Bexxonn.com – a thoroughly nice chap with a gorgeous website about the luxury world of whiskies and watches, please do check it out, the photography especially is incredible.
We got to know each other a bit over the next hour or so, trading stories of our favourite whiskies, tackling inevitable football woes and generally having a laugh as we were driven to Rothes house through the rolling hills and picturesque scenery of the Scottish Highlands.
Excitement levels were building as we meandered through the hills and passed some classic distilleries in Dufftown on our way. It really is a ‘spiritual’ place for whisky lovers and me specifically, excuse the pun, as depite spending a fair amount of time in Scotland nowadays and having spent four days in Speyside just three weeks earlier, I always get a buzz when I go.
Upon arriving at Rothes House we were welcomed like royalty and shown to our very comfortable and spacious rooms, Ronnie who heads up heritage brands for Berry Brothers & Rudd walked us round and gave us a few minutes to freshen up after our travels before sitting down to a homemade fish pie and chatting about Scottish and distillery history.
If ever a brand had a strong character pushing it, its Glenrothes. In Ronnie they have someone so full of energy of life, of fun, of personality and of great stories. When he speaks, you listen and are fully engaged as his manner is down to earth but, and I hope he does not mind me saying so, sage-like in the depth of his intimate knowledge about both Glenrothes and Berry Brothers & Rudd.
Once done with lunch we headed over the distillery, a lovely walk in the crisp Scottish air, here Ronnie handed over to Eric who took us round the distillery, politely pausing now and then for me to get a selfie or two with the stills or casks as I always do.
We heard stories about how the distillery manager’s house is smaller than the house given to the excise man of old in order to keep the tax man at bay, we walked through the cemetary with its intriguing head stone carvings and learnt about how Knockando actually loaned Glenrothes the cash to finishing building the distillery following the ‘Big Crash’ of 1878-1879.
Glenrothes itself was founded by the chap behind The Macallan as he saw the need for a different style of spirit to be in production.
As we walked around the distillery we saw a mash tun that was decomissioned many moons ago but has been kept as a memory of production gone past, we were told about two unused stills also being present but behind a wall we were unable to pass.
In total there are 20 washbacks at Glenrothes, eight steel and twelve Oregan pine and they have a 60 hour fermentation cycle that produces a 10% ABV wash, although it did not taste that high in ABV when we sipped.
There is space to store 55,000 casks on site.
The spirit is super-lightly peated at a miniscule 1ppm.
The casks get filled at 69.8% ABV – wow.
They have an Angel’s Share of about 1-1.5%.
Then we were taken to a warehouse to have a go at drawing whisky from carious casks whilst sampling the wonders of Glenrothes.
We tried, from the cask, spirit that had been filled in 2014, 2010 and 1987… and loved every single drop.
Just next to these casks is their ‘$1m store’ – a set of bottles containing whisky that was distilled in the 60s and 70s, bottled at 40% ABV and will sell for around £7,500 per bottle when eventurally released… we were not allowed to try these!
The final leg of our tour was to walk through a door with the ominous letters ‘I. S.’ painted above it.
What happened in there will be revealed in Part Two soon.