Glenkinchie Distillery is one of the lesser known lowland distilleries in Scotland. I visited there in 1985, with John. John was a lover of malt whiskey; he was very knowledgable about malt whiskey and he also had a large number of books on malt whiskey, which I inherited. Shame really since I have never liked malt whiskey and these days never drink alcohol anyway. John loved to try, and buy, all sorts of single malts; he wasn’t interested in blended whiskey. It didn’t matter whether it was from the Highlands, Lowlands, Western Isles, Speyside or Morayside, Orkney or Shetland; it was an interest, a bit like tea towels for me. One thing about distilleries is that they usually have a tea towel (and I have many). Whenever we travelled in Scotland, if there was a distillery nearby, we went. John went to find out about the particular whiskey, the flavour, the ages and, of course, to have a taste. I loved the history, having a tour and, of course, buying the tea towel. If we visited a distillery we always did a tour and John usually had a ‘tasting’. At that time I was still driving, so I drove back to the hotel. John always bought a bottle of whiskey. Back in 1985, the tour and a quick taste was free; these days it is ‘big business’ with Visitor Centres, formal tastings and a paid tour. Don’t look too close at my tea towel of Glenkinchie Distillery, it has a lot of stains, tea stains; that’s the problem with such a large expanse of white material on the tea towel, with only a small picture of the distillery in the centre, too much room for accidents.
Glenkinchie Distillery was a great place to visit when we were in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival; it is only 15 miles from Edinburgh. Today, I understand, there is a minibus that runs from Edinburgh for visitors; in 1985, we had to drive around the countryside, looking for the Distillery, getting lost, no sat navs. Glenkinchie’s proximity to Edinburgh meant that it is often called the ‘Edinburgh Malt’. The history of Glenkinchie Distillery is similar to that of many distilleries – it started in 1837, went bankrupt in 1853 and the site became a sawmill. It was restarted, as a distillery, in 1881. In 1969, it stopped malting its own grain. Eventually, the malting floors became a Museum of Malt Whiskey which included a model of the distillery. Glenkinchie Distillery is now owned by a multi-national company but still manages to keep its own identity. I loved Glenkinchie Distillery because it felt small and embedded in the local area; it didn’t do lots of whiskies of different ages; it stuck to what it did best and John certainly loved its product. One thing I love about a distillery is that smell; you can smell it as you approach, it pervades the air and gets stronger as you go inside. But I also love the setting of this distillery by the burn, the majestic building in an unlikely setting, the sense of history, of the past, of tradition and culture.
It is more than 30 years since I visited Glenkinchie Distillery and I hope it isn’t too different from how I remember it, because it was a lovely day out. The tea towel has worn well.
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum