Dylan Wren clearly remembers the day his passion for whisky began – on a rare day off back in the 1980s, he drove more than 200 miles from Renfrewshire to Tain, north of Inverness, to visit the Glenmorangie distillery. There he bought two bottles, one 15 years old and the other an 18-year-old – the latter still unopened to this day.
“My collection has grown every year since,” says Dylan, the owner of the Glenesk Hotel in Angus. “When my wife Alena and I bought the Glenesk Hotel in 2012, a centrepiece of the refurbishment plan was to create the malt bar and it’s now one of the largest whisky collections anywhere in the UK.”
While Dylan’s own personal stock tops 2,500 bottles, the bar itself offers 1,031 different types of whisky (as well as 200 gins, 80 rums, 70 vodkas and a large selection of bottled ales) – a distinction that recently earned him a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records.
The whiskies include malts from every working distillery in Scotland with more than 600 available as a nip, including a 50-year-old bottle of Speyside and the bar’s most expensive £25-year-old Lagavulin, with a not-to-be-sniffed at price tag of £248 a dram.
“For me, it’s like collecting part of history,” says Dylan.
“We have several bottles and varieties that are no longer in production; once it’s gone, it’s gone. The whisky collection we have preserves and celebrates that important local and national heritage.”
His own personal favourites include that first bottle of 18-year-old Glenmorangie he ever bought. “It reminds me of my first visit to the Highlands where I instantly fell in love with Scotland,” he smiles.
Then there’s the 15-year-old Glencadam which he had never tasted before arriving in Edzell; the 30-year-old Fettercairn which he reckons captures the whole imagination of a whisky; a 12-year old Glendronoch, a heavy sherry cask introduced to him by the hotel’s bar manager and resident whisky expert, Nick ‘Whisky Wikipedia’ Campbell; and the Glenesk: “It is no longer in production and we are holding on to this part of local history within the hotel from Glenesk Maltings at Hillside,” says Dylan.
Every single item is monitored and listed meticulously, including measures, and gives the team an instant stock quantity – even the ones on display are itemised.
“There’s a lot of CCTV as you can imagine but, from a logistical perspective, it’s actually very easy to maintain. We photograph a frame and work across the glass cabinets six to eight bottles’ width at a time, which is then saved electronically,” he explains.
“It’s a continual challenge to find storage for display and we are always looking at ways to extend the display space further.”
So would Dylan ever consider selling any of them?
“The simple answer is no,” he says firmly. “If you sell one then it becomes a slippery slope: where would you stop? We do keep a range of malts for guests and visitors to drink, but to take a bottle out of the display would be unthinkable.”
Dylan hopes to introduce a special Glencadam bar within the Glenesk Hotel to showcase their entire product range, along with the sister distillery Tomintoul, not to mention discussions about creating their own label working with Glencadam in Brechin.
Watch this space!
www.gleneskhotel.com or call 01356 647333.