Note from the Edinbug: I know a lot of people come to Edinburgh to get a grips on whisky or scotch, and it’s true that the city is a fantastic gateway to many Scottish distilleries. The thing is, I don’t know the first thing about whisky, so luckily my pal John has offered to write up a tour of Glenkinche Distillery for the site – I hope you enjoy it!
If you do, be sure to check out his own website, Uisce Beatha (link near the end of this article), for more whisky news.
One of only six active distilleries in the Lowland Whisky region, the Glenkinchie distillery is a popular spot with visitors to Edinburgh being around 15 miles away. While the local LRT bus service runs to the nearby town, the distillery is a further 2.5 mile walk from the bus stop. However, the distillery also runs a shuttle bus service for £20 (including the price of admission) so it might be worth considering if you’re planning on drinking.
The Edinburgh Malt
Glenkinchie is commonly known as the Edinburgh malt, though in truth it is almost 45 minute journey from the city centre. As an active distillery it’s not possible to take photographs of the actual working mash or stills however the malting floor has been turned into a whisky museum featuring a miniature replica of the distillery and a wealth of information on the distillery.
The Distillery Tour
Part of Diagio’s Discovering Distilleries group admission is free to anyone who has visited the any of the other distilleries in the group and signed up to the mailing list though (of course these won’t include the complimentary drams).
The basic tour (which is also included within the cost of the shuttle bus) costs £8 and offers three drams within the price. A ‘Flavours of Scotland’ tour is available at £12 and offers six drams, allowing users to sample the groups Classic Malts range or a number of other whiskies produced by the spirits giant Diageo.
All price points include a complete tour of the distillery from the old malting room (now a museum – as the malted grain is brought in daily), through the mashing rooms, fermentation and the double distillation rooms, ending with a view of the distillery cellar and a trip to the bar.
Ownership of Glenkinchie
Glenkinchie was granted licence to begin producing whisky in 1837, though it seems likely that Glenkinchie was originally known as Milton distillery, which had operated since 1825 ran by the same pair of local farmers John & George Rate. The name Glenkinchie is drawn from Kinchie burn – a tributary of the River Tyne from which the distillery draws its water, the name being an Anglicisation of ‘De Quincy’ the original owners of the farmland.
By the time Glenkinchie was founded in 1837, 115 other licensed distilleries operated in the area and it suffered the same fate as the majority of the others – closing due to the brothers bankruptcy in 1853. It was used as a cowshed until 1881, when the distillery was restored by a consortium of whisky merchants and blenders from Edinburgh and Leith, yet it took a further ten years before whisky production resumed.
Now one of only six remaining lowland distilleries, Glenkinchie formed the Scottish Malt Distillers Group, later becoming United Distilleries and finally Diageo.
Typical to the lowland style, Glenkinchie is an incredibly light malt whisky produced without peat giving a sweet, fruity and accessibly gentle whisky. The majority of Glenkinchie’s production both now and historically is for the creation of blended whiskies – that being a blend of grain whiskies produced in a continuous still and barley whisky produced by batch distillation. Glenkinchie is the main malt in Haig Dimple but can also be found in a variety of other blends, such as Buchanan and Johnny Walker.
The Classic Malts Range
Glenkinchie as a single malt was often overlooked and less widely available until United Distillers (now Diageo) launched their range of 6 classic malts representing the flavours of the respective regions (which you can read more about here): the range includes
- Dalwhinnie – 15 years
- Talisker – 10 years
- Cragganmore – 12 years
- Oban – 14 years
- Lagavulin – 16 years
- Glenkinchie – 12 years
All of which are available to try at the distillery bar. Since the launch of the classic malts range, the visibility and popularity of Glenkinchie has skyrocketed and been followed by more than a few awards – most recently taking the position of Best Lowland Malt Whisky in the 2013 World Whisky Awards.
Taking the Tour
The distillery is well worth a visit if you’ve got a few hours to spare in Edinburgh, though you’ll of course miss half the fun if you choose to drive! The guides are knowledgeable, the museum is worth a visit and your admission cost will get you £3 off the price of a bottle – so why not find out more about the Edinburgh Malt? Full tour details can be found via the Discovering Distilleries website.
The Glenkinche distillery is in Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian EH34 5ET. The 113 bus goes to Pencaitland from Edinburgh city centre, but remember you’ll need to get a shuttle bus to get all the way to the distillery.