Glen Moray was founded in 1897, on the crest of a boom across the whisky industry and whilst this demand came to a shuddering halt only a couple of years later, the distillery has endured the test of time. The site itself was originally home to the West Brewery that dated from 1828 and was rebuilt to establish Glen Moray.
This new distillery managed to cope with the Pattison Crisis until 1910 when it was forced to close for the following decade. The economic conditions and war restrictions meant that when it did re-emerge in 1920, it was with a new owner in the form of MacDonald & Muir, who were part owners in Glenmorangie near Tain and from historical accounts preferred Glen Moray over Aberlour distillery. It wasn’t until 1923 when production commenced again at the site and remained in production thereafter except for 1932. It seems to have had an uneventful history until 1958 when refurbishment takes place at the site, mainly resulting in the removal of the traditional floor maltings in favour of the Saladin box. This device was very much a large room sized box where the turning of malt was automated and for its owners brought cost savings.
By the time of the 1970’s with whisky demand rising, the Saladin box was decommissioned in 1978 in favour of centralised malting that today dominates the industry. The following year the number of stills was doubled to 4 and then the attention of the owners (now renamed Glenmorangie plc) drifted towards their namesake and iconic brand. Even back then, Glen Moray was more of a workhorse for blends and not focused on pursuing a visible single malt presence. Its fate was sealed with its parent company was purchased by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey in 2004. Thereafter some single malts were released including a 30-year-old expression, but in 2008, Glen Moray was sold to La Martiniquaise where it remains to this day.
The change in ownership has been beneficial for Glen Moray which now offers a serious commitment to establishing itself as a single malt whilst also supporting blends such as the internationally popular Label 5, Glen Turner and Sir Edward’s. This explains the recent investment at the sizeable site, where Glen Moray can count upon 9 stills and 14 washbacks, with room for further extension potentially increasing its current capacity of an already impressive 5.7 million litres nearer to 9 million. The reason for such investment is the continued success of its Glen Moray Classic range which includes peated, port and sherry expressions. Widespread distribution means that in most retailers you’ll see representation from the distillery on the shelves and often at a price circa £20 that is very attractive to enthusiasts or those who normally purchase blends.
Whilst these whiskies lack an age statement this is reflected by the pricing and traditional presentation. The whisky lends itself well to a variety of finishes and is continues to be well made and is viewed as a solid, affordable example of a single malt. The distillery also supports a variety of age statements commencing with the 12-year-old and rising to a 25-year-old expression. Various special editions have been released and visitors to the distillery can select from a well-priced bottle your own expression; often matured in a unique cask not readily available within the core range.
In 2017 to celebrate its 120th anniversary, Glen Moray launched its first whisky pitched at the luxury end of the market in the form of the Mastery. This limited edition uses content distilled in the 1970s and decades thereafter, which have been married together in sherry butts and port pipes before being reassembled into specially designed decanters with a price tag of £800. It’s a celebration but one that is priced out with Glen Moray’s normal target market so it’ll be interesting to see how it fares, but the distillery itself continues to be a success. Of particular note is the annual distillery barbecue that is held as part of the Spirit of Speyside festival onsite during April. It’s a team effort with distillery workers and management ensuring that visitors have a great evening in a converted warehouse with live music and a Glen Moray bar.