The Spirit of Speyside 2014 – day five – the last day

The last day of the festival sadly arrived far too quickly. We had pre-booked a trip to the (once more) normally closed to the public Auchroisk Distillery.

This distillery was perhaps one of the easiest for us to find; following the A95 north, turn left onto the B9103 where the road forks, and after a short ride through the lush, green Scottish countryside we arrived there on about an hour early, so we walked around a bit to take some pictures of the distillery setting.

Auchroisk does not have the look of the average distillery. The pagoda-chimney is entirely absent, and instead of the farmhouse style buildings, they have opted for a more church/ castle-like architecture, complete with its small tower and win vane. Refreshing to see such different approach.

Waiting for the tour to start, we once again kept running into people we encountered earlier this week, one of them being Dutch whisky-writer Hans Offringa, with his lovely wife Becky.

Once more this Diageo distillery is normally closed to the public, but Site Operations Manager (Distillery Manager) Joe Simmons was kind enough to open his doors for this day to some forty-odd people, spread over two sessions. Besides its normal function as a distillery, the distillery also functions as a warehouse-hub for the various Diageo distilleries in the vicinity. As many of the Diageo distilleries at this point in time, Auchroisk will have to shut down for some time come January 2015, in order to get modernised and, more importantly, automated. The now two-man operator team will then be downsized to only one. The discussion if this is something necessary is something we will skip at this point, but we think it is fair to say that the operators now know the sounds and quirks of each of the machines and how to react to these bangs, clinks and hisses. Replacing this with blinking lights on a computer screen that tells you what button to push to make a certain light green again, takes away “some” of the craft behind making the whisky. The balanced set-up of the Auchroisk distillery was model for the Roseisle distillery, one we could not get tickets for this time, but surely one we want to visit when again in Speyside, during the festival. After an interesting tour we had a taste of two expressions of Auchroisk, with the 30 year old expression being one of them.

Done with the Auchroisk distillery, but far from done with touring distilleries in general, we had planned a trip to the Glen Moray distillery. Because we had miserably failed our planning in 2012, we had skipped a tour there and we felt it was long overdue to get back there and make it happen, continuing on the B9103, untill we reached the A96, that sent us through a busy Elgin, where in the midst of a rural area, the Glen Moray distillery can be found. They serve great lunches at the bar in the visitor’s centre, so we took this opportunity to indulge ourselves with a nice sandwich and a good cup of tea.

Glen Moray is a tightly packed distillery which is – as many other distilleries – upping production to meet demand, which again is something that is frowned upon by some. Glen Moray produces an undefined amount of spirit that is sold to blenders, leaving a smaller portion of their product to mature for their own single malts. Presently the “own” maturing spirit is stored in traditional dunnage type warehousing, where the “other” spirit is palletized, because of the belief that the traditional storing has different (better) maturation results as the industrial method. During 2014, an extensive renovation will ultimately double the production capacity of the distillery.

After some chatting and shopping, we took some pictures of the outside of the place and drove down via the A941, back to the house to freshen up for the last supper of the festival, a Whisky & Venison dinner at the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour, where we had stayed a couple of nights during our trip in 2012. Since then, the new owners had changed the place from a dusty hunting lodge into a fresh and modern, Victorian mansion you expect it to be from an outside glance. 

The supper at the Dowans was a worthy conclusion of our festival week, where we have had a great time with wonderful old acquaintances, fantastic new friends, great anonymous people and an atmosphere to completely fall in love with – something we both agreed to and happily and knowingly let us overcome. If time and budget permits, we will be back next year and the year following, and make it a tradition to find a “closed” distillery or two to add to our list, besides the remainder of the extensive (think 400+ events) programme that has many events to offer to whisky enthusiasts of any drinking-level coming from anywhere around the world.
We continued our journey in the Speyside region for another week, where we visited some more distilleries, found ourselves in an emotional roller-coaster ride and created memories that will last us a lifetime.

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