Prominently displayed at the Glen Grant distillery in Rothes, Speyside, is a tartan waistcoat that has seen better days. It belonged a former illicit distiller and smuggler, James Grant, who in 1820, led the famous ‘Raid on Elgin’, that last of the highland clan uprisings. But fortunately for him, for Rothes and for posterity, James together with his brother John, had the foresight to see the future for whisky. So in 1840 they founded the licensed distillery.
The location was perfect; the river Spey flowed a little way to the south, nearby was the port of Lossiemouth and all around were fertile plains growing some of the world’s finest barley. But the brothers were by now not only experienced malt whisky producers, but had a lively interest in wider industry and the era’s burgeoning technology. The upshot was that 10 years later, James was the principal behind the Morayshire Railway Company, which linked the port to Elgin, thus facilitating the arrival of materials and the shipping of whisky. One of the earliest locomotives on the line was named Glen Grant, an early example of mobile advertising.
When John’s nephew, ‘Major’ James, assumed control, the rush to modernity continued; the distillery was the first to be lit by electric light, self-generated at that. Water-cooling purifiers were introduced, along with elongated still necks which captured only for the finest vapours for condensation.
The Major was a great traveller and collector, and today, the distillery’s celebrated 22-acre garden owes much to his original plantings of the plants and fruits he brought back from then exotic lands.
Glen Grant’s long-serving Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm was born in the distillery grounds and was the 3rd generation of his family to work for the company. He oversaw expansion and an export drive that today sees the brand a major player in the world malt market. Now owned by the Campari group, the distillery’s four spirit stills can produce almost 6 million litres annually of a typically biscuity Speyside but with a decidedly fruity twist.