The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, has forged a partnership with one of the world’s newest distilleries and one that boasts a title of its own as the most northerly distillery in the world.
The Famous Grouse Experience has been giving the team at Norwegian-based distillery Aurora Spirit, located around 350 kilometres north of the arctic circle near the city of Tromso, an insight into how to run a successful whisky visitor attraction and produce small batch whisky on site.
The small Crieff distillery and craft distillers Aurora Spirit, who produce whisky, gin, vodka and aquavit under the name Bivrost®, have been swapping skills, ideas and successes since meeting in early 2015 when Aurora Spirit Directors visited The Famous Grouse Experience on a fact-finding mission.
In a case of old meets new, the two distilleries couldn’t be more different in their distilling process with Glenturret whisky made entirely by hand and Aurora Spirit using the latest technology. However, their passion for small, craft produce and offering visitors a world-class experience are very much the same.
Their partnership has since gone from strength to strength and The Famous Grouse Experience Operations Manager, Lesley Williamson, and Distillery Manager, Neil Cameron, are looking forward to a trip to the arctic-distillers early next year for their official opening.
Lesley Williamson, Operations Manager at The Famous Grouse Experience, visited Tromso in January 2015 on a trip organised as part of the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions and Aurora Spirit’s key investors. She commented:
“It has been wonderful working with the team from Aurora Spirit and we’re excited to develop this special partnership, continuing to work together to share our skills and passion. Having visited Tromso last year, when the conditions were at some of the toughest, I’ve seen first-hand how different their distillery is to ours and the challenges they face.”
The team at the small Norwegian distillery were impressed with how The Famous Grouse Experience and Glenturret Distillery work as both a working distillery and visitor attraction. Colin Houston, one of the founders of Aurora Spirit, spoke of why his team contacted the top Scottish attraction.
“Having grown up in Oban, the whisky industry has always been close to my heart and I had met with Lesley at The Famous Grouse Experience prior to Aurora Spirit’s founding. When we began, we wanted to gain an insight not only into the whisky making process but also how to incorporate a successful visitor experience centre too. Our distillery is set in the most beautiful location, with magnificent displays of the aurora borealis overhead in the winter and the midnight sun in summer, and we offer visitors a whole host of unique experiences that make the most of our fantastic location.”
AuroraSpirit is situated on a peninsula overlooking Lyngen Fjord on the site of an old underground NATO base that once tracked Russian submarines coming over the top of Norway. The water for their whisky comes from glaciers and their casks are stored in long tunnels drilled into the hillside and underground chambers.
“We’ve got some of the most advanced technology in our distillery but we want to maintain some traditional aspects of whisky production so it is a sort of fusion, an exciting experimental journey. There’s no more traditional way of making whisky than the way they make it at Glenturret so it really has been a fantastic opportunity for us to come over and share skills with the team there. We can’t wait to welcome Lesley and Neil across to see how Aurora Spirit has progressed since our first meeting.”
The five Glenturret stillmen welcomed head distiller at Aurora Spirit, Gjermund Stensrud, for a week of work experience. As a brewer by trade, he wanted to learn about the traditional craft of whisky distilling and what better place to learn than at a distillery that still makes the whisky by hand.
Neil Cameron, Glenturret Distillery Manager, commented:
“It was wonderful to welcome along Gjermund for a week to show him the ropes of our traditional whisky processes here at Glenturret. Although it is very different in their distillery in Norway, it is important to know the skills and have the knowledge of the techniques which date back to when whisky was first produced. We’re delighted to hear they’ve just produced their first run of whisky and look forward to seeing the outcome in three years’ time.
“Whilst there’s no computers here at Glenturret and I’m used to the traditional distilling process, I can’t wait to take a trip across to Tromso early next year to see how they make whisky in their beautiful, and quite challenging, surroundings!”