In 2019, The Glenturret, in Crieff, became the property of luxury goods specialist Lalique Group and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. The small distillery, with 260 years of history, was once the home of blend The Famous Grouse. Now, the new owners are championing The Glenturret and its single malts.
Distillery manager Ian Renwick talks to Lucy Britner about ownership, Scottish barley and distillery cats
How did you come to work at The Glenturret?
I started work at a local engineering company in January 1986 and we did maintenance at the distillery. At that point, it was owned by the Fairlie family, before Highland Distillers – which went on to become Edrington. So, I was out at the distillery three or four times a week, for 10 years. Then I joined the distillery in 1996 doing maintenance and production. Eventually, I moved solely into production, but the roles are similar – process driven.
What have been the biggest changes over the past 36 years?
Ownership – and the way the distillery has been viewed. Malts in general were not that big back in the ‘80s. Blends were a big thing. With Edrington, we were the Famous Grouse Experience for a long time – but it had other, bigger distilleries like Macallan, Highland Park and The Glenrothes. We are small and niche.
When we were taken over a couple of years ago, it completely changed. We had a strong foundation with Edrington and now we’re out there as The Glenturret. We’ve got 260 years of history but we’re like the new kid on the block at whisky festivals.
Are there plans to increase production?
It’s not the main goal at the moment. We need to be true to what we are, and we’ve got a really good brand. We produce around 200,000 litres a year, but all of that is for single malt – we’re not selling anything for blending. We do the odd little swap with other distilleries but that’s like 10 casks a year.
The distillery was sold as capable of producing 500,000 litres without making any changes – you’d need a good tailwind and no breakdowns – but on paper it’s possible.
Tell us about the new mash tun.
It’s really about the sustainability side of things. The old one you had to mix by hand with a big stick. Now we use much less water and less energy. The great thing about the new owners is that when you get them in the room it’s like an episode of Dragons’ Den, but they are able to make decisions quickly.
Is it true you only use Scottish barley?
We use all Scottish barley and we have done for quite some time. More than 50% of our barley is grown within about 12 miles from here, but you have to be careful if you have a bad season in the local area – you have to hedge your bets a little bit. I think distilleries have a new appreciation for barley and that will evolve.
What does your typical day look like?
I usually start by walking around and making sure everything is okay in production and everyone is happy. There is a lot of compliance – I could spend an entire day doing an audit. When we changed the mash tun, for example, we had more than 100 documents to change. There’s a lot of whisky development going on – that takes a lot of time. I’m also concentrating on barley for the year, the price and specification.
Tell us about Glen and Turret, the cats.
They used to catch mice but now they work for the marketing department. We don’t really have mice anymore, so they are now social media stars. You can usually find them asleep under the still – or sprawled across a £5,000 Lalique chair.