Tain, Scotland: Highlands Region
For some reason, when I read about the employees of Glenmorangie Distillery (pronounced to rhyme with “orangey”), I feel like I’ve been transported to Middle Earth. I can hear Gandalf’s voice in my ear, telling me about the legendary Sixteen Men Of Tain, who toil away around the clock to produce a preshussss amber gold liquid coveted by people around the globe….
Since the distillery’s inception, in 1843, it has employed sixteen men (from the neighbouring town of Tain) to produce its fine single malt whisky. Note, not the same sixteen men for over 150 years. That would be a bit scary. Whisky is the water of life and all, but such longevity might just be taking things a bit too far. No, the individual men may come and go, but the Sixteen Men of Tain remain steadfastly sixteen. Otherwise, they’d have to have a new legend… the Seventeen Men Of Tain, perhaps? Or, the Sixteen Men Of Tain, plus Hamish? And Calum and Rob? Nope, doesn’t work. Sixteen shalt be the number of men, and the number of the men shall be sixteen. No more, no less.
Thankfully, technology has increased in line with Glenmorangie’s output, thereby allowing sixteen men to actually cope with producing about 10 million bottles of whisky per year. The distillery’s product is currently the best selling single malt in the UK, and also gaining rapidly in popularity with the rest of the world. It may be the “glen of tranquility”, but it’s certainly not still. Quite the hive of activity, it is!
The distillery’s main product is its single malt. In fact, the distillery is unique in selling pretty much all its output as single malt, compared to other distilleries, where up to 95% of the whisky is often used for blends. At Glenmorangie, only a small percentage of output goes into the blends Bailie Nicol Jarvie and Highland Queen.
The whisky produced here is light, and quite a good introduction to drinking whisky for people new to the spirit. This lightness is to a large extent attributable to the distillery’s unique stills, the tallest in Scotland at 5.14 metres (16 feet 10¼ inches). The original stills were bought second-hand from a gin distillery when Glenmorangie started production in 1843, and subsequent replacements have been made to exactly match their shape to ensure consistency in the taste of the product. All distilleries design replacement stills with such care and attention, even sometimes to the point of replicating dents!
The distillery takes possibly the most care I’ve ever heard of over the casks that it uses to mature its whiskies, starting right from ensuring that the trees grow to specification. Yes, folks, Glenmorangie actually owns a forest. Said forest is situated in the USA, and the barrels produced here are first leased to Heaven Hill Distillery for use in their bourbon production, before being passed on to Glenmorangie itself for use with the whisky.
Their focus on the part that the casks play in the flavour of the whisky has led the distillery to experiment with “finishing” their whiskies – in other words, placing the whisky into sherry, port or madeira casks for the final year or two of maturation. Other distilleries have since taken on this practice, but it is Glenmorangie who pioneered it, and who continue to conduct experiments using a wide range of other casks.
Along with the stills and the casks, Glenmorangie’s water is an important ingredient in the production process, as it is for all distilleries. Glenmorangie has perhaps had more trouble than other distilleries, however, when it comes to protecting their water source, Tarlogie Springs. In the 1980s, the land surrounding the spring was almost sold to developers by the local laird who owned it. To save their water source, the distillery bought the 650 acres themselves. Now that’s what I call solving the problem!
General Tasting Notes
After reading all about the Glenmorangie distillery, we bet you’re curious to taste their whisky – click here to buy a bottle of Glenmorangie now!
Distillery Contact Information
Address: Tain, Ross-shire, IV19 1PZ
Tel: +44 (0)1862 89 2477
Fax: +44 (0)1862 89 4371
Tours: Open all year, with restricted hours in winter. Closed over the festive period.
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