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Bladnoch Distillery (Wigtown)

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Bladnoch Distillery / Bladnoch / Wigtown / Scotland / DG8 9AB / Tel: (01988) 402605.

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      10.08.2007 22:06
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      An interesting insight into the production of whisky.

      During our trip to Scotland in June this year we went out on a few day trips. One of these was to a distillery nearby. Over the past couple of years we have visited quite a few different breweries, so we thought it would be nice to go to distillery to see the difference between producing beer and whisky. The area we were staying in, Dumfries and Galloway, isn’t as well known for whisky making as other areas in Scotland, but we did find one this far south. The particular distillery we ended up in was Bladnoch.

      ~~~WHERE IS BLADNOCH DISTILLERY?

      Bladnoch is located by the side of the River Bladnoch, the Dumfries and Galloway area of Scotland. As I mentioned before it is southern most producer of whisky in Scotland. If you are traveling there by road, from Dumfries or Stranraer, you need to turn off of the A75 at the roundabout at Newton Stewart and join the A714 towards Wigtown (the Book Town of the area) for around 6 miles. At this point you will see a sign for the distillery and this will take you to a right turn. About two miles on you will see a pub on the corner called the Bladnoch Arms. The distillery is just opposite and has a car park in front.

      Unfortunately we did try to get there by public transport from Kirkcudbright (where we were based) but the journey involved several buses and a time schedule of military proportions, so this was one of the rare occasions where our poor driving companion offered to take the car.

      ~~~USEFUL INFORMATION.

      The distillery and gift shop opens Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. There are tours available all through the day. The next tour is chalked on a board as you enter the gift shop. We were really lucky because the lady on the counter told us that a tour was just about to get going as we walked in so we could go in straight away. Tours take about 45 minutes so if you don’t drop as lucky as we did you can browse around the gift shop until the next one. We simply handed over the fee though and headed straight off without any waiting at all – result! The tour costs £3.00 each and includes a guided history tour of the distillery and how whisky is made and a generous taster of the end result.

      ~~~WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

      The distillery is housed in a lovely slate and stone structure which dates from 1817. The visitor centre and gift shop are free to enter and you are not obliged to go on the tour. You can freely browse in the shop and walk out into the gardens on the bank of the river – here there are some picnic tables and the scenery is lovely too.

      The gift shop sells more than just the Bladnoch whisky range. There are some local crafts that are rather nice (including jewelry), along with soft toys, clothing, postcards, fridge magnets and a range of woolen goods produced locally too. It is really the whisky and whisky related products that people come to Bladnoch for. The whisky isn’t cheap by any means, but cheaper than we found it in the local shops – the 75cl bottles were from around £40, but there were miniature bottles and chutneys, jams, etc, made using the whisky. There was also some rather nice glassware, gift packs with whisky glasses and other related gifts.

      The tour itself was well worth the money. Our guide was young, bright and lively. She explained everything in a concise and interested way, giving enough information to enlighten us without being boring or full of too many facts and figures. She was knowledgeable, yet still managed to inject humour and a personal touch to the tour – I liked the fact that she seemed genuinely proud of the business and still seemed to have fun while showing people around – despite that she had probably delivered the same speech to countless folks on countless tours. We saw the whole distillation process, from the water coming from the nearby river, right through to the whisky produced at the end. The highlight was undoubtedly the promise of the sample of whisky at the end, but the whole tour was just about the right length not to become tedious.

      Do bear in mind though that this is a working distillery. If you are intending to do the tour make sure you have some reasonably sturdy shoes on because there is some climbing up metal stairs involved. Some of the floors are also quite rough and there could be wet areas that are slippy too. If you aren’t keen on heights you should note that some of the higher floors have metal grid type surfaces that you can easily see through – there is quite a long way down because some of the barrels and fermenting vessels are huge! Even though it was a sunny day when we went the storage areas, with the barrels that the whisky is aged are in, can be pretty chilly, so I would also advise that you have an extra layer of clothing with you just in case.

      Apart from the tasting in the “Dramming Room” the highlights of the tour for me were the high pagoda tower that the barley was once malted in, the huge copper pots, the Customs and Excise room (with the lockable spirit safe) and the storage areas (with the different casks used to age and flavour the whiskies to give them a unique taste). It was in the storage area that we learned about the “Angels’ Share” - A certain amount of whisky in each barrel evaporates through the wood. This is known as the angels' share. Distillers expect that roughly two per cent of each barrel is lost this way, most of which is alcohol. Scientists prefer to say this is because of the natural breathability of wooden casks, but distillers prefer to attribute it to supernatural reasons and say that the angels have had their bit of the whisky!

      ~~~FINAL THOUGHTS.

      We had a great couple of hours at Bladnoch Distillery. I thought that the price of the tour was excellent value. The generous dram of whisky was worth the three quid alone and the tour was one of the best we have been on. It surprised me to see how similar the first parts of the distilling process are to brewing beer, yet there were enough differences as the distilling progressed to warrant a tour around. We had wondered if we would be bored after several brewery trips, but we needn’t have worried.

      All the staff at the visitor centre were pleasant, knowledgeable and helped to make our visit enjoyable. All questions were answered thoroughly and a genuine interest was shown in where we were from and whether we were having a good time. None of them just seemed to be going through the motions; they were all (or seemed to be) happy in their work and proud of their product. This was very refreshing to see and gave the place a happy atmosphere. It seemed to be a great place for local people to work and the function room (which was the old cask filling store) is now the venue for various local events and wedding receptions (the riverside would be a great setting for your wedding photos too) – a bit like the local community centre.

      I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Bladnoch Distillery. It is an excellent place to learn about the art of distilling some rather wonderful whiskies – the ones produced in bourbon and sherry casks were especially nice by the way!


      ~~~DISTILLERY INFORMATION.

      Bladnoch Distillery
      Bladnoch
      Wigtown
      Scotland
      DG8 9AB

      Visitor Centre: (01988) 402605 Distillery: (01988) 402235
      http://www.bladnoch.co.uk/index.htm

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    • Product Details

      Situated on the banks of the River Bladnoch, the Distillery and Visitors Centre has one of the best Gift Shops in the area with examples of local crafts, good quality Scottish woollen goods and all at attractive prices. Single malt Scotch whisky distillery in south west Scotland. The distillery was founded by John and Thomas McClelland in 1817 and during the period 1823 - 1826 produced 28,956 gallons of whisky, an average of 7,239 gallons per annum, and in the year 1826 - 1827 this had risen to 9,792 gallons.