This post follows on from my previous post about planning distillery tours across Scotland. I didn’t end up visiting the distilleries I wanted to across Speyside and the Highlands but in the end I still enjoyed my 2 day visit to Glasgow and the Glengoyne and Auchentoshan distilleries.
It takes 4 hours to get from Birmingham to Glasgow on train which meant that I had an early start to the day. I got the 7:15 train which reached Glasgow central at 11:15. The first tour of my trip was at Glengoyne which I booked for 1pm. This gave me some breathing space but not a lot. I had time to grab a snack and make my way to Buchanan Bus Station where I would get the B10 Balfron. This bus departs once every hour during the day just before the hour and it takes about 55 minutes to get to Glengoyne Distillery where it drops you off right in front of the entrance. One this occasion my bus was running late and it ended up departing at 12:10. So I would make it just in time. I let the the distillery know because they advise that you turn up 10-15 minutes prior to the tour start time. I was worried that they would start the tour without me (which would have been fair) but they accommodated for me.
The bus journey takes you through the suburbs of Glasgow and into the countryside. I would suggest you let the driver know you are visiting Glengoyne distillery because it is difficult anticipate when you need to get off because there are no bus stop signs and the distillery appears out of nowhere on the side of the road.
So I turn up at 1:05 and hurriedly run over to the entrance with my heavy bag on my bag. They kindly took my bag and placed it somewhere safe and directed me to a building at the back of the site where there is a waterfall. Very tranquil. I had time to have a chat with one of the employees – I told him I trekked up from Birmingham and the closest distillery I have near me is the Cotswold’s Distillery, which is worth a visit. Anyway, by this time I was more relaxed and was given a dram of the Glengoyne 12. I had booked onto the Gold Medal Parade tour which allows you to try the 18, 21 and Cask Strength editions on top of the tour itself. You also get a Glengoyne Glencairn glass to take home with you. The tour is about 1 hour long and cost me £30. There was also another small group of people also on the tour, they had booked the Malt Master Tour which allows you to create your own single malt using malts from a range of casks.
The tour commenced with a short video providing an introduction to the distillery and then we were taken around the grounds. There are quite a few outbuildings on the site. We were taken to one of the larger ones where the distillation process takes place. Much of this part of the tour is what you’d get from many tours where you are walked through the production process and you get the opportunity to ask questions. Our tour guide was very helpful and was able to answer the questions I asked.
We were then taken to a small warehouse which contained some casks that were privately purchased and being matured. At this stage our tour guide explained the maturation process and the influence of wood on the flavour of whisky. Interestingly, the distillery site is located in the Lowlands, however the main warehouse is located across the road which is classed as the Highlands. They also store much of their barrels at Tamdhu because they are owned by the same company, Ian Macleod. I guess additional warehouse space is one of the benefits of being part of a larger company. Here is a picture inside of the small warehouse, you will have seen many of photos of this on Tripadvisor!
Once the walkthrough was complete I was then taken to another building, kind of like a house and was given drams of the 18 and 21 year old to try. The tour guide accompanied me and was really helpful. Both drams were very tasty and I struggled to pick between the 2. I remember the 21 year old was very rich and warming. I was kindly given a sample of the new make spirit that is used for the 15 year old which was a really nice touch and much appreciated. This is where you really get to taste the quality of the distillate before it is matured in barrels. I had the same opportunity at the Cotswold’s distillery when I visited a while ago.
I was then taken to a the distillery store and was given a dram of their Cask Strength to try. Now at this point I realised I needed to get to my bus stop otherwise I would have to wait an additional hour to get back to Glasgow City centre. My tour guide was very engaging and I didn’t realise until then how long we had been talking for. So instead of perusing the store I had to rush to get my back from the main reception and then head to the front of the distillery to get my bus. There are no bus stops so I had to just stand on the side of the road near the distillery entrance and wait and hope that I did not miss my bus. Fortunately I didn’t miss it and it appeared slightly late to my benefit.
I got back to Glasgow by 5pm and finally checked into my hotel. At this point I was quite tired as I had been travelling or on my feet all day so I was glad to get a bit of down time. I stayed at a Travelodge with the Bon Accord opposite, my evening plans were set. I would recommend a trip to the Bon Accord, the staff are welcoming and so are the locals. I got into discussion with the owners son and got onto talking about Ralfy, who frequents at the Bon Accord when in Scotland. I tend to struggle to decide what to drink when I got to whisky bars/pubs but on this occasion I just had to have a healthy dram of Springbank 12 year old Cask Strength.
It has been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well if that is true then you must have a breakfast like this. A pan of beans with sausages, egg and mozarella with brown bread at the Singl-end Garnethill cafe was immense!! I was well primed for a day of whisky sampling.
It is fairly easy to get to the Auchentoshan distillery from Glasgow Charing Cross to Dalmuir station. The journey is 17 minutes on train and then perhaps a 20 minute walk up Mountblow Road to the distillery. The road is quite hilly so if you want to avoid this then I would suggest you get a taxi. At the end of the road you get to a dual carriageway and as you follow it around the corner you will see the distillery appear.
The site is a lot larger than Glengoyne’s and there are a fair amount of outbuildings so you will find that you have to walk towards the back end of the site to get main visitor entrance. On my walk through the site I could see BeamSuntory signage.
I was welcomed at the main visitor entrance/store by my tour guide. I was the only one booked in and I chose the Ultimate tour which lasts for 2 hours and cost me £55. Again, the tour itself was as you would expect content wise. The tour guide started of by going through the history of whisky in Scotland which I thought was a good way to start the tour. He explained that one of the reasons there are so many distilleries further north of Scotland was because it was more difficult for taxes to be collected from Glasgow. Along the tour I got to try the American Oak and the Three Wood, which was really tasty. The tour guide also explained the difference that the Japanese owners have made and mentioned that they adjusted the Auchentoshan style slightly to get rid of a slight mushroom note. I have never come across this type of note but I’ll take their word for it. They are also experimenting with yeast strains. I was then taken to the warehouse and got to try a healthy dram of whisky from this cask. This was the best part of the tour for me, trying a whisky straight from a cask in a warehouse is something that every whisky fans needs to experience. The sheer amount of casks in the warehouse was impressive but I can imagine they have many more stored elsewhere.
I was then taken to the bar and was provided with a range of bottles to try. I can’t remember exactly what I tried but there was plenty on offer. Auchentoshan has a very light style so I would imagine the cask influence would come across strongly. The Three Wood stood out to me and the 18 year old was good too. I had a good chat with my tour guide and did not feel rushed during this part of the tour.
To finish off I was then taken back to the shop and had time to see what was on offer. I didn’t make a purchase as I didn’t plan of buying any bottles on my visit to Glasgow but I was given this little gift.
Later that evening I popped into the Pot Still which is a must for any whisky fan, but I did not stay for long as it was very busy. It is not a large venue so I would suggest you get in early to get a seat or comfortable standing spot. I headed back to the Bon Accord for a nightcap to end my trip.