I made at least one big mistake when visiting the Glenfiddich visitor centre. Against my better judgement, I didn’t sign up for their premium Connoisseur’s Tour. I convinced myself I didn’t have time (really I was just being mean) and then my friend went and raved about it. So, second hand, I can recommend the £12 experience.But there’s still plenty to see at this Speyside distillery, the originator of the modern tour business, and home to the world’s best-selling single malt. The standard tour is free, but would still represent excellent value if they charged.Naturally, it’s popular – and deservedly so. It was like a United Nations convention round the site on the day of my visit but this didn’t faze the professional guides. There are native-speaking (or, at least, exceptionally fluent) escorts for every language under the sun, so your tour is made in the company of a real person instead of a Sony Walkman.The car park at the distillery has recently been resurfaced. You might not think this matters, but it makes a very professional initial impression and, if like me, you had nearly lost an axle on the previously somewhat agricultural surface it comes as a welcome improvement!The next impression is something of a shock. Right by the car park entrance there is an art gallery. Not just any old art gallery, you should understand, full of tourist orientated tat.No misty Highland glens and stags at bay here, but a full-on modern art gallery, packed with conceptual work from cutting edge artists enjoying Glenfiddich’s Artist in Residence programme.Blink and you could be in SoHo (that’s SoHo, New York, by the way, not its sleazy London cousin).Not being an art critic, I’d better not say any more. Except to mention the orange plastic buckets suspended outside the still house just as you exit the video. It’s certainly a change from the moody glens and traditional values of the film.“Gosh, those fire buckets are high up that wall,” I thought until our guide proudly pointed out the ‘art work.’ Go figure.Meanwhile back on the tour, you get a good look through the distillery, into a warehouse and on to Glenfiddich’s bottling line where we learned about reduction water. I hadn’t thought about that before – everyone puts water into their whisky prior to bottling (yes, all right, except for cask
strength) but only Glenfiddich use the same water they distil with. It must make a difference.After the bottling line there’s a dram in a room full of rather faded Grant relics (the relics, not the family) and that’s your lot. There is a shop but, unusually, you aren’t directed into it. Actually, that’s a welcome surprise, because you can usually get your bottle cheaper in the supermarket.I could have done with a café but they don’t do catering. That’s a missed opportunity, because nearby Dufftown is a gastronomic desert. As regular readers will know, Glenfiddich sponsor our ‘Whisky and Food’ pages so I hoped for something tasty – but ended up with crisps in a
nearby bar.However, that’s a minor grumble. The guides were hinting at big changes to come, starting with the smart new toilets. The Gents is a little cramped but – so I was told – the Ladies has to be seen to be believed. So there you are: Glenfiddich – great loos with an ace bucket attached. Oh, and the distillery is well worth your time, especially for connoisseurs. Contact
Glenfiddich Visitor Centre, Dufftown.
Open all year, weekdays 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
No booking required, except for Connoisseur’s Tour (£12)
Tel: +44 (0)1340 820 373 www.glenfiddich.co.uk