Nestled deep in the beautiful Perthshire countryside is The Glenturret Distillery – Scotland’s oldest working distillery. Originally thought to have been established in 1775, a Swiss historian discovered that the distillery dates to 1763 and 260 years on and the brand continues to celebrate its rich heritage.
With over a quarter of a century of stories to tell, this Scottish whisky has withstood the test of time; different owners, different names, local to global ambitions but one thing has remained consistent, the priority is always ‘to preserve the traditional methods of distilling whisky’.
Now owned by the Lalique Group in partnership with Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss, this ethos has been upheld and the global group, with an impressive portfolio of lifestyle brands, has ensured that The Glenturret remains a hand-operated distillery, with a focus on niche production of high-end quality whisky.
The setting of the distillery is picture-perfect; and like many places from days of old, it takes its name from its location. Sitting in the ‘hosh’ (meaning foot of the Glen) on the banks of the River Turret it’s an enchanting place, with magic (and steam from the still!) filling the air. And as our day unfolds, we discovered the magic is not just in the air. Read on to discover more.
The TLE Headquarters is in Edinburgh, approx. 1.5 hour’s drive from The Glenturret Distillery, however as our visit marked a special occasion, we wanted to make the most of our experience and sample the wonderful collection of whiskies we knew awaited. So, it posed the question ‘who would be the designated driver?’ The answer is Jim!
Jim? I hear you say, Jim, founder of MHH Executive Travel, was our charming and chatty chauffeur, who The Glenturret team had organised to take us to and from the distillery so we could fully embrace the whisky tasting experience.
At the agreed time, (in fact 10 mins prior) Jim arrived at the pick-up point in Edinburgh and greeted us with warmth and professionalism. With a spacious interior along with WIFI, charging points, mints (it was too hot for chocolates), chilled water and a Lalique magazine, the Audi A8L was going to be more than comfortable for the journey ahead.
As a driver to many famous names, Jim had lots of stories to share, which combined with the excitement of the day ahead and the magnificent rolling Scottish countryside made the drive pass very quickly.
The distillery is tucked away deep in the glen near Crieff, the road leading to the distillery is lined with olden trees and the distillery building itself lived up to my expectations in terms of old-world character. Inside, we were greeted by Jamie Morrison – Global Brand Ambassador and our guide for the day. Filled with knowledge and passion, Jamie began to tell us the story of Scotland’s oldest working distillery – right from the first rental document in 1763 to the present-day Lalique bottle, which is art deco in style, wider at the top to symbolise broad shoulders (strength) and incorporates the Murray clan crest in a nod to the original founders.
Each ‘room’ in the distillery is dedicated to an individual part of the distilling process and it was greatly impressive to see how the operations are very much manual and small-scale. Although some things have moved on, back in the day the 25kg sacks of barley would have been manually heaved into production, at least now they have a mechanism to do this strenuous task.
With each ‘room’ we visited came new-found knowledge (too much to share in this review – we recommend you pay a visit yourself to gain insight into the finer details) My favourite part of the tour was the washback where we popped our heads into the 3metre deep casks, made from Doulas Fir trees, and sniffed the potent liquid bubbling below. I won’t spoil the surprise by sharing my reaction – in case you do visit.
On our guided tour we met Ian, the Distillery Manager, who was engrossed in his daily, as they say in the industry, ‘cut by eye’ tasks ensuring the distillation process proceeded to perfection. Fiona MacDonald – Process Operator was busy rolling the hefty casks.
Fiona is the first female to join The Glenturret’s production team since Grace Gow who worked at The Glenturret in the 1860’s. Grace Gow sadly lost her life, when tending to the wash-back process and in 2022, The Glenturret launched their Grace Gow Scholarship programme, a six-month, fully funded, full-time position designed to allow a successful candidate to become fully immersed in the production process at Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery.
Fiona was awarded this scholarship in July 2022, giving her a full-time position working alongside the production team to gain her General Certificate in Distillation (GCD) from The Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD).
After completion of The Grace Gow Scholarship, Fiona applied for a full-time Process Operator job, where she was successful, joining The Glenturret’s production team on a full-time basis since January 2023.
This scholarship scheme is a testament to the dedication of ‘preserving the traditional methods of distilling whisky’.
Glen and Turret the resident cats were also on the prowl. These two feline friends are pets with purpose; cats eat mice, mice eat barley. Enough said!
After we finished the tour, we were taken to one of the private warehouses which is home to an abundance of ageing whisky – a truly impressive sight to behold.
Here we sampled a selection of the fine whiskies produced at the distillery; this included a non-age statement triple wood, 10-year-old (to mark our celebration) and the 30-year-old Prowess. Whilst we observed, nosed, swirled, and sipped Jamie talked us through the tasting notes, with each nuance highly evident.
The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant
After the whisky tasting, we strolled the short distance from the warehouse to the Michelin-starred The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant. This spectacular dining experience is the first of its kind in Scotland – a dedicated fine dining restaurant within a distillery. From outside it appears very unassuming, however, once inside it is a very different story.
Lalique, the French crystal, glassware, and lifestyle brand, is synonymous with luxury and the brand certainly lived up to its reputation at its namesake restaurant.
The décor is contemporary with a modern Scottish touch and the Lalique golden crystal barley motif throughout the furnishings is an impeccable finishing touch. The restaurant is spacious with a variety of seating formats and the ambience is refined.
The long bar is a key feature and not just a place to order a drink. It’s a gleaming work of art; with art deco decanters, shapely bottles of single malts, and a fine collection of rare wine adorning the highly polished shelves. Here guests can take a high stool and enjoy an informal whisky flight and engage in a casual or informative discussion with the knowledgeable bar team.
During our time at the restaurant, the clientele was a mix of nationalities and ages there for different occasions; with young (trendy!) couples enjoying a whisky flight, a large family of multiple generations cherishing a long lunch, mature couples savouring the elegant experience, and us!
Lead by acclaimed Scottish Chef, Mark Donald, whose culinary credentials include positions at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Hibiscus, and Number One at The Balmoral his menu has been crafted to showcase the very best of local Scottish produce, innovative cooking styles and a touch of French panache.
The menu presents a seasonal and choice offering of dishes for each course.
To start with the helpful waitress suggested we opt for a selection of four or five dishes to share, one of which was smoked Padron peppers served with whipped roe and to my surprise I couldn’t get enough of them.
Main courses followed a meat, fish, and vegetarian format, I was torn between skate wing with black pudding or BBQ lamb. Decisions, decisions! They both looked tempting and to my surprise (I usually favour fish over meat) I opted for the BBQ lamb and I was so very pleased I did. BBQ skin coated melt-in-the-mouth tender and pink lamb, served with St George mushrooms, wilted spinach and a tantalising jus. I savoured every morsel.
Ross opted for new season asparagus and black truffle butter which he said was first class on the taste factor too.
Dessert comprised of a sweet or cheese option; I enjoyed the strawberry crème brulé, especially the crispy caramelized topping but the cheese board was the star of the dessert show; even Ross, a real cheese monster, was (almost!) overwhelmed by the platter presented before him.
The 600-bin wine list has an emphasis on French wine, with an impressive collection of rare and fine wines, including some from the private collection of co-owner Silvio Denz from his estates in Bordeaux, Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey in Sauternes and Chateau Faugeres in Saint-Emilion to name a few. Executive Sommelier, Julien Beltzung, whose impressive career includes time at the landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is on hand to share his wealth of superlative knowledge.
The ambience is refined, the food more than exquisite and the service is entirely first-class.
What a truly wonderful day!!
Although whisky isn’t my drink of choice, it is impossible not to feel great admiration and appreciation for what the team (both past and present) has achieved here.
I highly recommend spending a full day at the distillery and its Michelin-starred restaurant and exploring every nook and cranny. Talk to the friendly team, work up an appetite (and thirst), and most of all take your time to understand the provenance, embrace the prowess and feel the passion.
Address: The Glenturret Distillery, The Hosh, Crieff PH7 4HA