The Clydeside Distillery - Glasgow
About the Clydeside Distillery
Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the first visitors at the new Clydeside Whisky Distillery which has just opened in Glasgow and offers tours, a shop, a cafe and of course a chance to sample a few drams. It is one of the first malt distilleries to be built in Glasgow for over a century.
Situated on the banks of the River Clyde just along from other popular city attractions including The Riverside Museum and the SSE Hydro, it forms part of an ongoing regeneration of the area. The Clydeside Distillery is housed in the characterful Old Pump House with a contemporary glass extension occupied by two giant copper stills. The building itself is a perfect representation of the old and new connections that tie the location, owners, production methods and Glasgow's whisky heritage together.
The distillery is able to produce up to 500,000 litres of spirit each year although you will have to wait several years until its first lowland malt will be ready for release. If you are in Glasgow and want to find out more about Scotch Whisky then this is a must visit. Whisky aficionados may be more interested in the history of Clydeside along with the growing revival of uisge beatha in the city.
Dating back to 1877, The Pump House with its distinctive clock tower that now houses Clydeside Distillery is situated at the historic Queen's Dock on the River Clyde. It is by no coincidence that this location was chosen as the latest venture in the very impressive Morrison family whisky portfolio,
The distillery chairman, Tim Morrison, is the great grandson of John Morrison who originally built the dock in 1836. John Morrison later partnered with Thomas Mason to form Morrison and Mason, a civil engineering and building firm that was responsible for building some of the most significant and notable structures in the city including Glasgow City Chambers.
The Pump House was originally designed to provide hydraulic power to operate the swing bridge servicing the commercial dock which witnessed the export of whisky with ships destined for all continents of the world.
Glasgow was once significantly involved in the production of whisky in Scotland and home to countless whisky distilleries with associated blending houses, bonded warehouses, bottling plants and cooperages, although very little evidence of this remains.
The history of the production and export of whisky in the city is told through a short film and self guided tour at the Clydeside Distillery.
Have you ever wondered how Scotch whisky is actually made? Malt whisky is one of the iconic brands associated with Scotland and provides a great contribution to the economy. If you have ever wondered how it is made, the process is fairly simple although the factors that provide the variation in the taste of the final product are a little more complex.
The history and future of Scotch whisky is a fascinating one, however this guide is only designed to provide a basic understanding of the making of this globally recognised product. There is a wealth of information out there if you want to find out more or visit one of the many distilleries up and down the country that provide tours behind the scenes.
Where the magic happens! There are currently over 100 whisky distilleries in Scotland and the country is divided into 6 whisky regions with each region having general distinctive characteristics in flavour although there are exceptions. The main regions are Campbeltown, Islay, Lowlands, Highlands. Speyside and the Islands.
Believe it or not, there are only ever 3 ingredients that make up single malt Scotch whisky, malted barley, water and yeast. The variations in flavour are down to the production process and the skill of the Master Distiller
The first step of the process is called malting. Barley is soaked in water and then the seeds are allowed to germinate, during germination enzymes turn the starch within the barley into soluble sugars. Germination is stopped by drying the barley in a kiln oven and peat might be burned at this stage to give the distinctive smoky flavour found in some whiskies.
Only a handful of distilleries in Scotland still have malting floors, where the barley grains are spread out and turned by hand as they dry out and germinate, most distilleries now use drying drums.
WARNING: Reading this blog may make you want to (1) immediately book a trip to Islay with Scottish Routes (2) crack open a bottle of Scotch (3) both of the above!
Whisky, Uisge Beatha, Amber Nectar, Liquid Gold
Whatever you call it, every variety of this Scottish aqua vitae all derives from three main ingredients, malted barley, yeast and water. So simple yet so complicated as any whisky lover will tell you.
There are many subtle factors that contribute to the unique character of each bottling and regional differences in Scotch Whisky are obvious even to the untrained palate with the peaty notes of Islay drams among the most revered. This little west coast island is home to 8 distilleries, famed around the world for the quality of their product and responsible for countless whisky pilgrims descending on it’s shores.
My own love affair with Scotland's national drink started with a seasonal job in a Highland whisky shop where, despite being a whisky virgin, i was given responsibility of selling a very fine range of malts and blends to aficionados and novices alike. My first few weeks involved being thrown in at the deep end of an amber tinted pool and reading my way through a pile of books with daily knowledge quizzes. My education was more than just theoretical though and involved ALOT of sampling and after hours drinking, oops I mean training sessions!
One thing that I didn't get to do was visit the distilleries that produced the hundreds of bottles that I became an expert at drinking and selling, so when Scottish Routes invited me to experience their 4 Day Islay Whisky Tour I immediately dropped all other plans and packed my bags!
There are 8 distilleries on Islay and the tour takes you on very different experiences around 6 of them, namely Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Kilchoman and Bruichladdich. If that doesn't sound enough of a dream come true, then a bonus visit to Deanston Distillery en-route will ensure that the mood is set before you even have time to toast your fellow whisky devotees!
DAY 1 - Highlights
The tour normally starts from Edinburgh although Glasgow pickups can be arranged if required and this is where I boarded and began my journey into the fascinating world of Scotch a short time later at Deanston Distillery in the village of Doune. Joining up with the rest of my international group we dipped our first toe into the malted world of whisky production during a tour of this former cotton mill. I quickly learned that being on a whisky tour in Scotland means that drinking Scotch at any time of day is not only considered sociable but compulsory and certainly no-one on the trip was complaining when we were offered our first drams at what others may still consider 'breakfast' time.
Although Day 1 is essentially a travelling day, the first port of call at Deanston Distillery is followed by several scenic stops to break up the journey with a relaxed lunch at Oban, famed for it's seafood and with enough time to pop in to Oban distillery if you would like to sample the local dram.
For me, a chance to stretch the legs at arguably one of the most historically rich sites in Scotland was a real treat. Kilmartin Glen is home to over 350 ancient monuments within a 6 mile radius and we had the opportunity to explore a few of them before boarding the bus for the evening ferry.
The ferry journey is a relaxing 2 hours and with a malt of the month being served on board in double measure at a bargain price your Islay whisky journey officially starts as you cross the water!
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