Girvan Distillery Tour

I was lucky enough to be invited by Girvan to a Press Trip and tasting at the Girvan distillery so I jumped at the chance as it's really not very often that anyone gets a chance to see the inner workings of a Grain distillery.

First and foremost lets put this into perspective, Grain distilleries are more like big industrial factories than the quaint malt distilleries that we are all used to visiting, but they still have their own unique charm and back stories also. They are also on a much bigger scale than the Malt distilleries. Lets take Glenfiddich for example, a very big Malt Distillery which produces areound 10Million bulk litres of alochol a year, whereas Girvan is pumping up over 10x that at 110Million bulk litres of alcohol a year, it's on a scale that is very difficult to comprehend.

The original site of Girvan distillery, which opening in 1963 (and was build in only 9 months) is over 400 acres, the current site which also includes the Ailsa Bay malt Distillery is over 700 acres, this is not a small operation at all.

We started the trip by arriving at our hotel and having a tasting with Brand Ambassador Kevin Abrook before a lovely meal and a rest at the hotel.


Kevin, Chris, Greg, Dave, Myself and Craig

The next morning was breakfast then a short trip through the gorgeous ayrshire scenary down to the distillery in Girvan itself, on arrival we were treated to a chat, history and science lesson by Master Distiller John Ross. A lot of the science i still need a bit of time to get my head around but it was great to be able to ask questions and get knowledge from a man with such experience here.


Master Distiller John Ross giving a science lesson

Then we had a tour around the facilities and again went through some interesting facts and figures which are just off the chart in terms of scale. The distillery receives around 130 truck loads of wheat every week, the mill (of which there are 3, 2 for the wheat and one for malt which goes to Ailsa Bay) is a hammer mill which crushes the wheat into a floor like grist with peieces no bigger than 1mm, unlike the malt processes which use the husks as a filter in the mashtun. The main mill will process around 50 tonnes an hour, with the back up mill only able to do 35tonnes (thats massive numbers).

The wash tanks are then charged with the milled wheat and waterto get a liquid level of around 100,000 litres, this is then heated, then cooled before being the yeast is added and it is moved to the fermentation tanks, it was at this point i asked about the draff which is normally taken off for cattle feed from a malt distillery, but this does not happen here and in fact the solids only come out after distillation to be sent for cattle feed, but they contain lots of important nutrients which make great cattle feed.


The 29 Fermentation tanks

There are 29 fermentation tanks which hold the liquid for approx 60 hours, before it is sent off to the Stills, the sheer scale of these is clear to see in the picture above


No. 4 Apps (left) and No. 5 Apps (right)

No.5 Apps is the bigger of the 2 multi-pressure stills on site built in the 1990's No.1 Apps is still operational but is slower and doesn't give off as light a spirit, No.2 and No.3 Apps both no longer exist on site with No.3 Apps having been destroyed in a fire.

These are continuous stills made from stainless steel but which contain copper rods which are sacrificial and replaced regularly as they wear out very quickly to remove sulphurs from the liquid.These stills yet again operate at a level way above traditional pot stills.

The liquid is then normally filled into ex-bourbon casks, with others being used for experimental and family only casks.


The cooper giving us a demonstration

The on site cooperage are responsible for ensuring the cask quality of the vast amount of casks on site and still use the same traditional techniques (although a bit of technology helps also). Interestingly most of the grain whisky held on site is either already, or being moved to palettised upright storage rather then the traditional on side racked storage used for malts.

Overall it was a great experience and although much of the process is the same as malt whisky there is an element of more science in grain production which is not there in malt production, however the mystery and art element still comes through with tweaking at all stages of the process being undertaken by the very skilled staff.

Thanks again to Girvan for the opportunity to explore the distillery and the range of whiskies, this was a great experience. I've also added my notes of the core range below


Girvan 25 Year Old

Girvan 25 Year OldI first tasted the Girvan 25 year Old at Whisky Live back in 2014 but during things like that i tend not to take notes, so being invited by Girvan to a Press Trip and tasting at the Girvan distillery I jumped at the chance.

Girvan 25 Year Old begins to move away from treacle and into a more soft caramel sauce note as the fruits become thicker and more pronounced, the menthol note, also comes out stronger too. A really interesting dram that would fight head to head with many similar aged malts.

Pick up a bottle from specialists like The Whisky Exchange

Thanks again to Girvan for the Official Sample, and Tour experience

 

Soft caramels and butterscotch angel delight, crime brule hints of floral gums with sweet and sour bramley apples and fresh tangerine segments

Sweet caramel, butterscotch, hints of melon, candied orange

Sweet fresh menthol

Bottle Name: Girvan 25 Year Old
Age: 25
ABV: 42.60
Distiller: Girvan
Bottler: Girvan
Type: Single Grain
From: Scotland, Lowland


Girvan 30 Year Old

Girvan 30 Year OldI first tasted the Girvan 30 year Old at Whisky Live back in 2014 but during things like that i tend not to take notes, so being invited by Girvan to a Press Trip and tasting at the Girvan distillery I jumped at the chance.

Girvan 30 Year Old is a real gentleman of an old dram, lots of that caramel again but this time with a chocolate covering, nd the addition of some lovely Butterscotch, more menthol and a hint of spice on the finish, delicious stuff.

Pick up a bottle from specialists like The Whisky Exchange

Thanks again to Girvan for the Official Sample, and Tour experience

 

Lovely chocolate covered caramels, butterscotch angel delight, pear tart tartin, tropical mango and papaya, menthol, light and fresh citrus fruits and lemongrass

Light, fresh, sweet, caramel toffees butterscotch and candied orange with more of the tropical notes from the nose

Sweet and a hint of spice

Bottle Name: Girvan 30 Year Old
Age: 30
ABV: 42.60
Distiller: Girvan
Bottler: Girvan
Type: Single Grain
From: Scotland, Lowland


Girvan No.4 Apps

Girvan No 4 AppsI first tasted the Girvan No. 4 Apps at Whisky Live back in 2014 but during things like that i tend not to take notes, so being invited by Girvan to a Press Trip and tasting at the Girvan distillery I jumped at the chance.

Girvan No. 4 Apps (which actually contains whisky produced in both No.4 Apps and No.5 Apps - they are the names given to the Stills) is a fabulous light fresh fruity dram that is a lovely introduction to whisky for people who haven't had much exposure to it and also great for those who are experienced whisky drinkers as it has enough complexity and flavour to satisfy most palates.

It would also make a really interesting base for some cocktails, probably not enough punch for an old fashioned but a cool summer No.4 Apps and Soda or a No.4 Apps Martini wold go down really well.

Pick up a bottle from specialists like The Whisky Exchange

Thanks again to Girvan for the Official Sample, and Tour experience

 

Light floral / vegetal / herbal notes with sweet pea being the one I get most of, hints of vanilla essence, citrus fruit boiled sweets, some fresh melon, papaya, bramley Apple like bitter orchard fruits

Creamy, buttery, sweet boiled sweets from an old fashioned sweet shop, melon papaya, floral gums, hints of earthy notes coming through also

Sweet floral earthy and gentle

Bottle Name: Girvan No.4 Apps
Age: NAS
ABV: 42.60
Distiller: Girvan
Bottler: Girvan
Type: Single Grain
From: Scotland, Lowland


Girvan Proof Strength

Girvan Proof StrengthI first tasted the Girvan drams at Whisky Live back in 2014 but during things like that i tend not to take notes, so being invited by Girvan to a Press Trip and tasting at the Girvan distillery I jumped at the chance.

Girvan Proof Strength is 100 degrees Proof (UK not the US version) so 57.1% ABV, and is a really lovely fresh dram which packs a punch, lots of the same toffee and fruit notes that go right through the range but this one begins to add menthol, minty and herbal notes into the mix, a really interesting dram.

Pick up a bottle from specialists like The Whisky Exchange

Thanks again to Girvan for the Official Sample, and Tour experience

 

Caramel, toffee pennies, soft centred werthers originals, orange zest and candied orange, hints of floral gums and sweet pea with a gentle minty menthol note

Sweet pea herbal menthol candied orange and orange zest a hint of oriental spices and a touch of caramel

Big, sweet, herbal, menthol

Bottle Name: Girvan Proof Strength
Age: NAS
ABV: 57.10
Distiller: Girvan
Bottler: Girvan
Type: Single Grain
From: Scotland, Lowland


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Girvan 30 Year Old
Girvan 25 Year Old
Girvan Proof Strength
Girvan No.4 Apps
Girvan 20 Clan Denny cask 10439 (Douglas Laing)

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