Glen Grant distillery

Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

John Grant increased the original pair of stills to a quartet in the late 19th century. A new stillhouse with a further two were added in 1973 and another four installed there in 1977. In 1983, the old stillhouse was closed and two larger stills were put into the new stillhouse, giving the current complement of eight.

Heating has been equally convoluted. Everything was coal-fired until 1973, when gas was brought in to run the new stills. In 1983 however, all the wash stills were converted back to coal while the spirit side switched to steam. Today all are indirect fired. The effect? Hard to say, but there is some greater weight in older bottlings that suggests the effects of flame did have an influence on character. Certainly peat was used into the early 70s.

The main driver of lightness however is the shape of the stills which have almost square boil bulbs (reminiscent of a WWII German soldier’s helmet) which increase copper surface significantly. They are also fitted with purifying chambers in the lyne arm which act as a pre-condenser, refluxing back heavy elements which are carried down a purifier pipe into the body of the still. Today most of the make is aged in ex-Bourbon and refill casks which accentuate this delicacy. The ex-Sherry casks which defined Glen Grant for many years are rarely seen at the distillery these days but remain the signature of the bottlings from Gordon & MacPhail. 

  • Region
    Speyside
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status
    Working

Glen Grant History

Though it might seem self-aggrandising to name a valley after yourself, John and James Grant were men of substance. John, though a respected landowner, is suspected to have had some ‘previous’ when it came to whisky making at the start of the 19th century. His brother James however was a pillar of the community. An engineer by trade, who became Lord Provost [mayor] of Elgin. The brothers joined to build what was then a massive distillery in 1839. They were also far-sighted enough to realise that large-scale whisky production would flounder if transport links were not established. It was thanks to them (James in particular) that a rail line was built from Lossiemouth to Elgin, while in 1858 they paid personally for the extension of the route south to their base in Rothes.

The estate around Glen Grant House continued to grow throughout the century eventually comprising a huge greenhouse complex and extensive formal gardens. Much of its splendour is thanks to the entrepreneurial actions of John’s son (also John, but best known as ‘The Major’) who took charge of the business in 1872.

A diminutive man who loved shooting large beasts in Africa, small birds and deer in Scotland and catching salmon in the Spey, he installed the first electric light seen in the area powered by turbines in the distillery, and is claimed to have had the first motor car in the Highlands.

A dilettante? Not really for outwith his extra-curricular pleasures, The Major was an engineer like his uncle who deliberately designed a distillery which was different to others. It was he who installed the purifier pipes, designed the look and shape of the stills, and who had the foresight to start exporting.

In 1898, with demand rising, The Major built a second distillery across the road from Glen Grant but like so many constructed at this time it closed soon after (in 1902). Its maltings – which are claimed to have been the first pneumatic malting drums in the Highlands continued to supply the needs of its sister plant.

Originally called Glen Grant No. 2, it was renamed Caperdonich when it re-opened in 1965. New make was run across from the stillhouse to Glen Grant via a pipe which spanned the thoroughfare.

Although identical in design to the original and run in the same fashion, ‘Caper’ never made the same character as its sister. Sadly, it closed in 2002 and the site was bulldozed to make way for the ever-expanding Forsyth’s coppersmiths. Independent bottlings are relatively common and, somewhat inevitably, now that it has gone people have woken up to how good it actually was.

Glen Grant itself was one of the first whisky brands. You could find Glen Grant in Africa, Australia and the US in the late 19th century, a brand before the term had been invented.

In 1952, George Mackessack (The Major’s grandson) merged with the Smith Grants of The Glenlivet and in 1970 the firm joined with Longmorn/Benriach. Eight years later, Seagram bought them all which ended the family involvement.

When Pernod Ricard took over Seagram’s whisky arm in 2001, Glen Grant was deemed legally surplus and in 2006 it was snapped up by Gruppo Campari. This is appropriate, as Glen Grant was the largest selling whisky (including blends) in the 1960s and the county remains the malt’s most significant market. With the Italian market focussing on young, light expressions, older bottlings have long been handled by Gordon & MacPhail.

Today, Glen Grant is still run by master distiller Dennis Malcolm who was born at the distillery in 1946 and started working there in 1961.

Timeline

  • 1839 John and James Grant join forces to build the enormous Glen Grant distillery
  • 1872 John Grant's son, 'The Major', takes over the distillery operation
  • 1898 The Major builds a second distillery across from Glen Grant (now known as Caperdonich), but flounders four years later
  • 1952 George Mackessack merged the distillery with George & JG. Smith, forming The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distillers
  • 1970 The group merges with Hill Thompson & Co and Longmorn-Glenlivet to form The Glenlivet Distillers
  • 1973 Glen Grant's stills are increased from four to six
  • 1977 Seagrams buys the distillery, increasing the stills once again to 10
  • 2001 Pernod Ricard acquires the Chivas group
  • 2006 Italy's Gruppo Campari buys Glen Grant for €115m
  • 2007 One year into Campari's ownership the brand receives a revamp

Glen Grant Facts

  • Capacity (mlpa) i
    6.2
  • Condenser Type i
    Shell and tube
  • Fermentation Time i
    48hrs
  • Filling Strength i
    63.5%
  • Grist Weight (t) i
    12.28
  • Malt Specification i
    Less than 1ppm
  • Malt Supplier i
    Various
  • Mash Tun Type i
    Semi Lauter
  • New-make Strength i
    68%
  • Spirit Still Charge (l) i
    10,000
  • Spirit Still Shape i
    Traditional with purifiers
  • Spirit Still Size (l) i
    11,547
  • Stills i
    8
  • Warehousing i
    Traditional dunnage and racked
  • Wash Still Charge (l) i
    15,000
  • Wash Still Shape i
    Traditional with unique boil ball and purifiers
  • Wash Still Size (l) i
    22,730
  • Washback Charge (l) i
    60,000
  • Washback Size (l) i
    90,000
  • Washback Type i
    Wood
  • Washbacks i
    10
  • Water Source i
    Private Springs and Black Burn
  • Wort Clarity i
    Clear
  • Yeast Type i
    Mauri

Owners

Parent company

Current owner

  • Glen Grant Distillery Limited

Previous owners

Contact

Address
Glen Grant Distillery
Elgin Road
Rothes
Moray
AB38 7BS
United Kingdom
Website
Visit Website
Phone
+44 1340 832118
Email
Send Email
Visitor Opening Hours
Monday
9.30am to 5pm
Tuesday
9.30am to 5pm
Wednesday
9.30am to 5pm
Thursday
9.30am to 5pm
Friday
9.30am to 5pm
Saturday
9.30am to 5pm
Sunday
10am to 5pm

Map

See also

  • Glen Spey Glen Spey Glen Spey Distillery & brand

    Glen Spey

    Rarely seen Rothes single malt.

  • Glenrothes Glenrothes Glenrothes Distillery & brand

    Glenrothes

    Speyside vintage-focused distillery.

  • Speyburn Speyburn Speyburn Distillery & brand

    Speyburn

    A little-known but top-selling malt.

  • Caperdonich Caperdonich Caperdonich Distillery & brand

    Caperdonich

    Built across the road from Glen Grant.

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