Glen Moray, located on the River Lossie in Elgin, Scotland, is the kind of long-established distiller of Scotch that is at the core of Scotland’s image as the holy land of Whisky. Its first spirit run was in 1897, under the name Glen Moray Glenlivet Distillery Company. This came after the Elgin West Brewery occupied the premises for the previous 60 years making local ales. Ever since, with the exception of a few years, fine single malt Whiskies have been distilled at Glen Moray. And so, 2017 is a celebratory year, the 120th anniversary of Scotch making in this particular corner of the world.
Located in the heart of Speyside — near enough to smell the salt in the air from the North Sea and not too far east of Inverness, and overseen by the Cairngorm and Monadhliath mountains — the immediate area around Elgin is home to a number of famous single malt names, including Glen Elgin, Benriach, and Glenlossie.
The highest concentration of Whisky distilleries in Scotland, and thus the world, is found in the Speyside.
“It’s a privilege to be leading our team into this year of celebrations and I feel very proud to be following in the footsteps of our previous distillery managers — all men who made Glen Moray great. Each and every one of us appreciates Glen Moray’s rich heritage and we have a huge respect for the traditions laid down 120 years ago,” says Graham Coull, only the fifth master distiller in the history of Glen Moray. “By combining age-old methods with modern techniques, we believe we have struck the perfect balance to preserve Glen Moray’s standing among the best of the Speyside single malts.”
History of Glen Moray
Starting out with two stills in 1897, Glen Moray was purchased by the wine and spirits merchants Macdonald & Muir — part owner of Glenmorangie — in 1920. Production was brought up to capacity by 1923 and continued — other than a brief break during a portion of World War II — in the original premises until 1958.
A major rebuilding occurred that year, with new warehouses opening and the purchase of Gallowcrook Farm, where barley used in the initial 1897 production run had been grown. Two more stills were added, bringing the total up to four, and coal was phased out in favor of oil burners. Saladin malting facilities were also built, which doubled output and made Glen Moray one of the most modern facilities of its time.
By the 19th century, the development of large breweries led to the industrialization of malting and an increase in the size of production units. Pneumatic malting was developed and reached commercial success in the late 1800s. Two Belgian malting engineers; Galland and Saladin are considered to be the fathers of the modern malting equipment. Galland introduced the first aerated rectangular boxes in 1873 and Saladin introduced turning machines in the 1880s. Saladin boxes are in common use today. (Source)
In 1996 Macdonald & Muir was renamed the Glenmorangie Company and in 2004 it was bought by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey, Paris, France. In 2008, the Glen Moray brand and its distillery was sold to La Martiniquaise, Val-de-Marne, France.
What Makes Glen Moray Unique
While its core ingredients are the waters of the Lossie and local barley grown in the rich lowlands of the Laich O’Moray, from its inception Glen Moray was somewhat unusual in using a wide variety of casks from foreign ports to age its Whisky. This long tradition of experimenting with a variety of woods produced a great reservoir of understanding about how the Whiskies distilled at Glen Moray interact with various aging casks. This knowledge was formalized in 1999, when Glen Moray launched its first two unique wood finishes: Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Master Distiller Edwin Dodson, who came to the distillery in 1987, oversaw this foray into a more artisanal direction.
In 2005, after Dodson’s retirement, Coull became the master distiller. Over the next decade, two product lines are added to the company’s collection, the Elgin Classic and Elgin Heritage.
Glen Moray offers nine distinct bottlings organized into three collections: the Elgin Classic Collection, the Elgin Heritage Collection, and the Elgin Reserve.
The Classic Collection:
- Classic Single Malt, aged an average of seven years in Bourbon casks, usually first-filled.
- Sherry Cask Finish, Aged in Oloroso casks, which brings a fruity, nutty overtone to the finish.
- Peated Single Malt Whisky, flavored by malted barley that is smoke-dried, and a fine introduction to peated Whiskies.
- Port Cask Finish, aged briefly in Port pipes from Porto Cruz, an intense Whisky with a distinct pink hue and tangy taste.
- Chardonnay Cask Finish, aged in wine casks originally from France’s Burgundy region, an elegant Whisky with overtones of vanilla and cinnamon.
The Heritage Collection:
The Elgin Reserve:
- An extremely rare, limited edition 25-Year-Old Port Cask Whisky, with the sweet vanilla and salted caramel of the oak Bourbon barrels underlying the finish from the Portuguese Port casks.
As one of eight select stops on the famous Malt Whisky Trail — which include Benromach, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Cardhu, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet , Strathlisa and Dallas Dhu— the distillery welcomes visitors year-round to its Speyside facility. At Glen Moray, there are several guided tours every day, with the exception of Sunday, when the distillery is closed to the public. There’s an educational visitors center and, naturally, tastings are offered. And in a modern twist, for those who can’t make it to northern Scotland, Glen Moray now offers a virtual tour of its home.
“We love welcoming visitors to our distillery and sharing our passion for our Whisky. The new online Glen Moray Experience lets us impart our expertise and spread that mutual appreciation on a wider scale,” says Glen Moray Visitor Centre Manager Iain Allan. “Many drinkers of Glen Moray across Europe, Asia, and America dream of coming to see us one day — and we’re ready to welcome them with open arms. But until they make it here, there’s the Glen Moray Experience.”
Finally, Allan and Coull star in an online tasting master class, where they introduce the finer points of appreciating the color and aromas of a single malt, and even touch on the age-old debate of whether to add water to your Whisky … or not. More information on their master class can be found at the Glen Moray Experience website.