Distillery Focus

In need of good loving (Glen Grant)

Our mystery visitor discovers a melancholy garden at Glen Grant
By Mystery Visitor
I visited Glen Grant on a late summer’s day, keenly anticipating a stroll in the famous gardens (that’s middle age for you).However, though it may be a truism, first impressions do count for a lot. Unfortunately, after parking your car, the first thing you see here is a sign directing you to the visitor centre. Nothing wrong with that, you might think, but this sign is rotting away. One good kick and it would fall over.This kind of thing is a symptom, more important for what it tells you than the thing itself. It is easily fixed – but no-one has bothered.Perhaps it’s because Glen Grant feels unloved. Our tour began with the guide recounting the distillery’s various changes of ownership and then observing, rather dolefully, “and now we’re for sale again” as she outlined the consequence of Pernod’s acquisition of the Allied portfolio.It’s an unavoidable result of globalisation that distilleries such as Glen Grant, with a proud heritage and a long tradition, are reduced to bargaining counters in unseemly corporate haggling.“I’ll swap you a single malt for your New Zealand winery, and that will keep the regulators off our back”, says MegaCorp.“Done,” says Global Drinks Inc and the workers get a new logo on their overalls.Anyway, perhaps that explained the air of genteel decay around the place. I found some more rotten signs, the rustic benches needed maintenance and the gents was in semidarkness for want of a lightbulb. Again, little things easily fixed – but no-one had bothered.The tour itself is free, and you get the choice of a complimentary dram (standard non-age or the 10 year old), and so I shouldn’t really carp. It’s clear and easy to follow and it’s always a pleasure to see a distillery in full production. As well as the distillery there’s a little reception centre/shop, some small but attractive exhibition rooms and a recreation of Major Grant’s study where your dram is served. You are supposed to savour this, surrounded by Victorian knick-knacks, while enjoying a video.Unfortunately, it wasn’t working (“it was yesterday” sighed the guide) and the lights went out just as she was comparing the colour in our drams. They flickered back on after a few moments – perhaps it was the Major expressing his displeasure at the general state of maintenance.So I wandered off into the garden in a sombre mood. Interestingly, in a group of around a dozen visitors, I was the only one to bother.The gardens here were lavishly restored in 1996. Original planting was retained wherever possible, new specimens introduced, paths restored and bridges built.I believe the Major would have been proud and delighted.Certainly, when I first saw it around 1998, it was superb. To get an idea just glimpse at the pictures in the guidebook.Today it’s slipping back. The paths need new gravel, many of the signs are on the brink of collapse, the rustic Dram Pavilion (a thing of beauty all of itself) is draped in spider’s webs and the path above the viewpoint is closed due to its dangerous condition. The grass meadows and borders are clearly on a minimum maintenance regime.Now I’d freely admit that my garden needs work – but then I don’t open it to the public.So here’s a thought for the new owners: ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.The gardens here are on the edge. Acouple of keen workers and some tender loving care would soon effect a huge improvement. Left at this level for another few years and the bill will be a big one. Some ‘shrewd’ accountant in a distant corporate office will decree that it’s not worth the money. The orders will go out to lock the gate and leave the grounds to nature.That would be a great shame. The Glen Grant garden may not sell more whisky but it’s part of the soul and spirit of the place.At the moment though, it’s a garden of melancholy – a metaphor for a grand old brand in limbo.Someone invest in it soon!Glen Grant Distillery & Gardens, Rothes
Tel: +44 (0)1340 832 118
http://www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com
Opening Times:
March 21-October 28
Mon-Sat 10.00-16.00
Sunday 12.30-16.00