07 September 2021
Glenkinchie is only a 30 minute drive from Edinburgh, during which you will see the gently undulating fertile farm land of the prosperous East Lothian countryside. This is barley country, and has been for two-thousand years. Some of the best cereals in the UK are still grown near Glenkinchie, Robert Burns once described the land of East Lothian as “the most glorious corn country I have ever seen.”
Some of the buildings at Glenkinchie date back to boom time period of the 1890’s, even though operations go back as far as 1825 when the land belonged to the Norman family, de Quincey - hence ‘Kinchie’. Besides the agriculture that no doubt made Glenkinchie a model of self-sufficiency, there’s reasons inside the distillery that warrant a special trip for a first timer too.
Glenkinchie recently underwent a significant refurbishment and extension, creating an all new visitors centre. But it's the older parts of the distillery that we find more interesting.
The old malting floors were decommissioned in the 1968 and have been tastefully converted in to a visitors museum, the only one of its kind that we know of, complete with not-at-all-miniature model of a working distillery filled with a small army of tiny workers.
For the antique lovers out there, there's the fully intact Porteus grist elevator that was once used to transfer ground malt from the mill in to the mash tun. This particular beauty was even a feature when the great whisky writer Alfred Barnard visited the distillery in the 1880’s.
There’s something here for the statisticians too: Glenkinchie has the largest wash still in all of Scotland, and weighing in at 30,963 litres. The still was actually replaced in 2008 at which point the whole roof needed to be removed and the new still lowered in by crane.
Despite the typical double distillation process that takes place here, the gigantic proportions of the lantern shaped stills does mean greater copper contact, more reflux and a lighter, more Lowland-y spirit. However, this is tempered by a very steep descending lyne arm that sweeps volatiles down in to massive cast iron worm tub containing an unusual rectangular coil, as opposed to the standard tube configuration - which should please the worm tub fetishists as well.
When all is said and done the new make at Glenkinchie is light and dry on the palate, yet pungent and sulphury on the nose. The sulphur acts like a reinforced safety blanket against the impending wooden onslaught, taking the brunt of the oak impact on the chin and then allowing the softer notes of the spirit to shine through as maturation drags on.
Only 250,000 bottles of Glenkinchie single malt are sold in a year and, given the fourteen 9 ton mashes that occur every week, along with the big stills, this means that the production quota for malt bottling for the year is completed in less than three weeks. That malt won’t see the light of day for at least another 12 years mind you. The rest will of course be used to fill quotas in one of Diageo’s many blends, where this Lowland malt tips the scale towards a lighter, more fragrant direction.
Glenkinchie Distillers Edition is matured for around 10 years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to ex-amontillado sherry casks for a further 2 years. This finishing process introduces soft, dried orchard fruits on to that sweet and grassy Glenkinchie canvass.
We think this whisky is awesome when paired with sweet things, like white chocolate, creme brûlée and vanilla ice cream!