Glen Grant has been around since 1840, when it was established by James and John Grant. These brothers have a charismatic history, as James Grant in 1820 was the leader of the last recorded clan uprising in Scotland. Historical records show that he gathered his clansmen that numbered over 700, and marched to Elgin too free their then captive clan chief.
The brothers’ colourful background also involved smuggling and familiarity with illicit distilling. The option to go legitimate with the introduction of the Excise Act in the 1823 attracted many from a variety of backgrounds. For the Grant duo, they teamed up with the Walker brothers at the Dandaleith distillery, which has been lost to time. What we do know is that when their lease ended in the 1830’s, both families continued to pursue business opportunities in whisky. The Walkers moved onto Linkwood distillery, while The Grant’s founded Glen Grant in an area they selected due to the water source and abundance of barley with access to coastal ports. This was just prior to the finalisation of the Great North of Scotland railway that arrived in 1845, and a subsequent Morayshire branch that connected the town of Rothes to the network being granted in 1856 but not fully integrated until 1881.
Both brothers passed away by 1872 and the reigns were handed to James Junior, who is more commonly known today as The Major. A forward thinking individual, with an appetite for travel and exploration, the Major brought these qualities to Glen Grant. Unsurprisingly he was the first person to own a car in the region, despite the lack of consistent roads and introduced electric lighting to the distillery, thereby minimising the fire hazard that continued to plague the industry. Whilst some of these features have been lost to time, he did decide on the tall and slender style of stills that Glen Grant utilises to this day and the use of purifiers. Arguably his most visual legacy is the cultivated gardens and walks that surround Glen Grant today and provide a unique setting for any visitors to its well-appointed centre.
James in 1897 decided rather than expanding the existing site to cope with demand, the creation of a Glen Grant Number 2 distillery was a better option. Situated across the road, this new distillery was mothballed after a short period of production due to the harsh economic conditions following the Pattison’s Crisis in 1902. The distillery is now more commonly known as Caperdonich and has its own specific distillery page at Abbey Whisky.
Ownership passed to another family descendent in 1931, until 1953, when the Grant Company merges with another Speyside powerhouse forming the Glenlivet and Glen Grant Distillers Limited. A further merger takes place in 1972, which is soon followed by a still house expansion in 1973 and a further increase in 1977, following a takeover by Seagram’s. Today, Glen Grant relies on 4 sets of stills that produce just over 6 million litres annually. The distillery is then acquired by Italian company Campari in 2006 for 115 million Euros, mainly due to its popularity in its domestic market, where today it remains the largest selling single malt whisky.
Glen Grant traditionally is a light whisky with plenty of character thanks to the reflux delivered by shape of its stills. This helps define its character and approachability, with the core range featuring a variety of releases all united by an affordable price point. The No Age Statement Major’s Reserve is your initial gateway to the range and is perfectly light, pleasant and easily drinkable. Age statements at 5, 10, 12 and 18 years are available with some being for export markets only. It’s an often overlooked brand that has a traditional appearance, with some excellent whiskies; particularly those involving sherry casks that work so well with the distillate. Glen Grant also possesses a sizeable inventory of casks from all vintages so it is able to bottle some advanced ages including a 50-year-old and a 43-year-old for specific export markets in recent years.
The distillery hit the headlines in 2017, by being the first Scottish whisky to appear in Jim Murray’s World Whiskies of the year shortlist, where it was the runner-up overall with its 18-year-old expression.