Earlier this month, the IG Wines team set off on a whirlwind trip to one of the foremost ‘challenger’ distilleries in the single malt Scotch whisky game; The Glenturret. Landing in Edinburgh, we drove through the autumnal Perthshire countryside and arrived at this historic distillery. Following a tour and a unique tasting in their Michelin-starred restaurant, the IG Wines team are convinced that this is the distillery you need on your radar. The Glenturret (recently acquired by The Lalique group through an irrefusable offer to the previous owners, The Edrington Group – owners of The Macallan) is set to become the greatest boutique distillery in Scotland. Read on to find out about the handcrafted nature of The Glenturret and why it is one of Scotland – if not the world’s – greatest whisky distilleries.
From Water to Whisky
Nestled among Perthshire’s 200,000 acres of woodlands, which include more champion trees than anywhere else in the UK, one finds The Glenturret Distillery in its original location on the edge of the historic town of Crieff. As Scotland’s oldest working distillery dating back to 1763, The Glenturret’s unrivalled pedigree as well as the delightfully subtle and refined fruity flavours of its single malts are revered in the world of Scotch whisky. Whilst The Glenturret continues to uphold the artisanal traditions of their distilling forefathers creating their whisky entirely by hand in exclusive small batches, its purchase by The Lalique Group and Hansjorg Wyss in 2019 brought a sense of renewal and promise for the future at the distillery.
“The Glenturret Distillery is said to be one of the oldest in Scotland… It covers three acres of ground, is built principally of stone, and is divided into three separate ranges of buildings.” – Alfred Barnard, British Brewing & Distilling Historian
The Glenturret was previously part of the Edrington Group whose plethora of brands include The Macallan, Highland Park and The Glenrothes. Producing a little over 300,000 litres a year, The Glenturret is boutique in size when compared to the other grandee distilleries whose litres of production rise into the millions. In this respect, The Glenturret shares some attributes with smaller wine producers like those one may find in Burgundy. The Glenturret is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland with only a mere 7 people making up the distilling team, and with limited input from modern machinery and technology, this distillery is one of the rising stars of single malt Scotch whisky. With no stock on the market and allocations extremely sought after, handcrafted whisky such as The Glenturret is increasingly hard to come by.
The Glenturret Trinity
The trickling Barvick Burn that meanders past the distillery has its origins at the top of the Munro, Ben Chonzie, and flows down from Loch Turret. It is an auditory reminder for any visitor of the integral role Scottish water plays in the creation of all whiskies at The Glenturret. In addition to the all important trio of ingredients needed to perfect Scotch whisky, The Glenturret adhere to their own trinity that underpins every aspect of the distillery; provenance, prowess and passion. With an extraordinary origin dating back to 1763, The Glenturret are rightly proud of their long history of distilling and as such, each bottle of The Glenturret’s core range bears a crest inspired by the original Murray of Ochtertyre coat of arms.
The Glenturret’s second pillar in their trinity – their traditional prowess in handcrafted whisky making – shines through in every golden drop of their whisky (quite literally when the distinctive Lalique glass bottles are illuminated in the distillery’s restaurant). Whilst many distilleries have automated and introduced various computerised sections in their distilling process, The Glenturret have remained almost entirely faithful to the traditional production of whisky. An unusually slow distillation through their hand-beaten copper stills helps to create the unique character of The Glenturret.
The final aspect of The Glenturret trinity is their enduring enthusiasm to bring whisky lovers moments to treasure, whether that be whilst enjoying a dram of their single malt or on a visit to the distillery itself. On our part, from the moment we arrived at the unassuming, traditional, whitewashed building, The Glenturret team, the environment of the distillery itself, as well as the impressive range of whiskies we sampled, ensured our time there was not to be forgotten.
A Traditional Approach to the Modern Era
Since 2019, The Glenturret has been jointly owned by The Lalique Group and Hansjorg Wyss; a partnership which has proved invaluable for the distillery. The Lalique Group has helped to create a truly exceptional, modern take on Scotch whisky production. In redesigning the bottles of The Glenturret’s core range (Triple Wood, 10 Years Old Peat Smoked, 12 Years Old, 15 Years Old, 25 Years Old and 30 Years Old), there was a break with convention in the world of single malts. The Glenturret’s new glass bottles with rectangular profiles and delicate grooves on the sides are topped with bespoke oak caps, making them stand out against any standard whisky bottle on the shelf.
Most recently, on 5th October 2023, The Glenturret set a new auction record of £125,000 for The Glenturret Enduring Spirit at the prestigious Distillers One of One Charity Auction. Consisting of four Lalique crystal decanters, each whisky signifies a part in The Glenturret legacy: Decanter #1 was distilled in 1986 and bottled in 2023, at 36 years old; Decanter #2 was distilled in 1978 and bottled in 2023, at 44 years old; Decanter #3 was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2023, at 32 years old; and finally Decanter #4 was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2023 at 25 years old.
Whilst the distillery holds many accolades for their whisky, The Glenturret has recently gained renown in the culinary world too. In 2019 The Glenturret Lalique restaurant opened its doors, delighting guests – and inspectors – so much that after a mere 7 months of service they were awarded with a Michelin Star. The restaurant champions local Scottish produce whilst adeptly creating modern and precise dishes. In addition, through The Lalique Group’s joint ownership of The Glenturret, one has the chance to view (and buy) some of Lalique’s most exquisite glasswork and designs at the distillery’s Lalique Boutique.
Key Moments for Scotland’s Oldest Working Distillery
- Originally owned by Sir Patrick Murray of Ochtertyre, The Thurot Distillery – the earliest known name for The Glenturret – is mentioned in the purchase records of the Barony of Ochtertyre as far back as 1763.
- In 1825 the distillery (known by this time as The Hosh Distillery), was granted rights to use Loch Turret as its water source. This precious resource is still used by The Glenturret to make their single malt today.
- In 1873 the distillery was bought by Thomas Stewart who renamed it to The Glenturret Distillery.
- After a period of silence following a downturn in the fortunes of the Scotch Whisky industry at the start of the 20th century, James Fairlie revived The Glenturret.
- In 2019, The Glenturret was purchased in a joint venture by The Lalique Group and Hansjorg Wyss.
- The Lalique restaurant opened in 2021 and receives a Michelin star after only 7 months. The Glenturret is the first distillery in the world to achieve this feat.
- In 2023, The Glenturret became Butterfly Mark Certified, ensuring the distillery’s sustainable use of natural resources for generations to come.