William Grant & Sons | Glenfiddich & Balvenie Distilleries – Master’s Distillery Visit

I was very honoured to be hosted by William Grant & Sons on my seventh distillery visit during my Year as Master to mark our 350th Anniversary to celebrate the product, people and businesses of our Liverymen all over the country.

Family owned and run since 1887, this took us on tours of the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries.

Grant’s brands are currently in 200 markets around the world, in 50 locations and over 2,500 employees. This spotless site and the stunning scenery surrounding it, the 46 warehouses camouflaged behind the canvass of hills bushes and trees, gives little clue to the hive of activity that runs, 24 hours a day by the teams of dedicated, passionate people at Dufftown.

L–R Alison Holdom (the Mistress), The Master, Anne Kane and Beth Finnigan (Aberdeen Foyer), Liveryman Grant Gordon, Chair, The Distillers’ Charity and Grant family member

I’m also taking the opportunity to promote our charitable work, not just our 350th Anniversary Appeal this year, but also to meet and talk to some of the Charities who we have supported as a direct result of the funding made possible from last year’s One of One Auction.

On all my visits to Scotland, I’ve been truly heart-warmed to have heard how impact of our funding from last year’s One of One Auction has already made a significant difference to the charities we have supported with the money raised for our Youth Action Fund. This visit was no different. It was a pleasure to have met Anne and Beth from Aberdeen Foyer, a charity which exists to support people in the North East of Scotland towards independent living, learning and employment support, training, counselling and health improvement initiatives to young people and adults.

Our Immediate Past Master, Jonathan Driver, shared his wealth of knowledge, gained over nearly forty years in the whisky industry and who, since 2017, has been Managing Director for Private Client sales at William Grant & Sons. I’m extremely grateful to Jonathan for his time spent and producing some very special whisky indeed for our tasting – six in all, but these were my own personal favourites.

The day’s comedy moment came when I was given the chance at the Balvenie maltings to demonstrate turning malt and learning that this was how the legend of monkey shoulder was born!

Many of you reading this may know, but I learned that malt shovelling is an arduous and demanding task, especially in +30 degree heat, which it was on the day we visited. I was pleased to have had the chance to turn malt but how a genuine maltmen cope over a number of hours left me in deep admiration of them.

Our visit culminated in a fabulous dinner on Tuesday night where Grant, his wife Brigitte, Vicki, Jonathan, Alison and I were joined by Liverymen Damian Riley-Smith and Richard Forsyth and their wives Pippa and Heather.

The presentation to me of a personalised boxed single malt from the Glenfiddich Rare Collection Anniversary Vintage was as wonderful as unexpected. I shall treasure it and the evening.

Special thanks in particular must go to Liveryman Vicki Rimell who arranged the whole trip for Alison and I so brilliantly – thank you Vicki!

Finally, to Jonathan Driver and the Grant family for such generous hospitality and especially to our Chair of Distillers’ Charity, Liveryman Grant Gordon – and family member who took time out to guide us around both Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries.

All were incredible hosts, as were our guides who took us through every aspect of the journey of the iconic Glenfiddich and Balvenie brands.

A truly unforgettable trip.

Chris Porter
Master 2021 – 22
July 2022