Edrington’s recent decision to end the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery near Crieff and sell the distillery reflects the whisky industry’s years-long push to increase the output of single malts and market them as widely and extensively as they can.
Only a month or two earlier, Edrington had opened the vast new, multi-million pound, futuristic Macallan distillery on Speyside, vastly increasing output of that revered malt. And in recent years their other most noted distillery, on Orkney, has multiplied many-fold its expressions of Highland Park. Edrington also have a major share in the North British grain distillery in Edinburgh, which provides much of the grain whisky used in their big-selling Famous Grouse.
I have visited Glenturret three times, once wearing my journalist’s hat and twice as a plain tourist, and I always felt the tour was like watching two films side by side at the same time.
One was about a small, delightfully old-fashioned, low-output malt distillery, the other about Scotland’s most popular blended whisky, with all sorts of special effects, including eye-catching antics by a vast on-screen grouse. However, the tour was a big hit with tourists, they got their money’s worth and the Experience has deservedly been one of Perthshire’s top visitor attractions for many years.
Which prompts the question, why is Edrington selling Glenturret? I suspect the answer is it’s too small and on a cramped site. It would be difficult to enlarge without a big upheaval that would make tours difficult if not impossible. The alternative would be close the distillery for months if not years until the work was complete. Neither option is attractive.
However, with the sun shining brightly on the Scotch whisky industry, a small or craft distillery firm would welcome Glenturret into their portfolio, especially as Edrington would remain a strong customer for Glenturret as a component malt in The Famous Grouse. Yet whoever buys the distillery will find they have a hard act to follow on the tourism front.
Edrington are also selling the Cutty Sark brand, only acquired a few years ago, and will focus their efforts on Famous Grouse, Brugal rum, The Macallan, Highland Park and The Glenrothes. However, they have made no hint about setting up The Famous Grouse Experience elsewhere…