Robin McKelvie weighs in on Glasgow's newest whisky distillery
In my first blog for the Clydeside Distillery, I shared how my passionate love for whisky first distilled within me. Now it’s time to zoom in on the River Clyde, that hallowed historic waterway that once launched so many of the world’s great ships. Today a deeply historic building here has been reborn as home to the city’s new whisky distillery, as the water of life returns to the banks of Glasgow’s lifeblood river. Welcome to the Clydeside Distillery.
Glasgow was once a hotbed of whisky production.
I’d heard a lot of chatter about this new whisky distillery taking shape on the old Queen’s Dock. Glasgow was once a hotbed of whisky production, but over the years most of it moved out of town as the Highlands and Islands became synonymous with single malt whisky production. Whisky lovers were often bemused that they couldn’t find a distillery conjuring up malts in Scotland’s largest city.
The historic Pumphouse, originally built in 1877, has been transformed and is now home to The Clydeside Distillery.
I was delighted then to find myself approaching this brand-new distillery right on the banks of the River Clyde. Some distilleries are quite brutal, functional buildings. Not this romantic gem. It was a case of love at first sight as the old historic pump house eased out of the morning mists and I caught sight of her elegant stills gazing out across the water through its floor to ceiling windows.
The entrance is bathed in light and I was welcomed with a beaming smile.
Delving inside, many distilleries can be quite poky affairs, as you are corralled around buildings that were never big enough for a reasonable level of production, nevermind receiving visitors. Not so here. The entrance is bathed in light and I was welcomed with a beaming smile at their light and airy shop, which opens up on to their equally tempting café.
The food at The Clydeside Café features freshly prepared, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, showcasing regional specialities.
They have a world-class range OF WHISKIES from all over Scotland.
Their first single malts may be a few years off – the precious spirit must be matured for at least three years in oak barrels for it to become Scotch – but already the shop tempts with myriad fantastic whiskies. They have a world-class range from all over Scotland. I could have spent a fortune here on some truly top-notch whisky, but I settled on my first visit for examining the labels and dreaming of distant isles and remote Highland glens.
The Clydeside Whisky Shop stocks a large range of Scotland's finest single malts.
It’s a lovely touch too that you can also label your own whisky in the Clydeside Distillery shop. There are three single malts to choose from, which are handily Lowland, Highland and Islay, so everyone can easily get an idea of what style of whisky to expect. There are different types of stylish labels to choose from too. You fill in your chosen label and then it is pressed on to the bottle and away you go with your own personalised souvenir or unique present for the lucky whisky drinker in your life.
A guest labelling their own bottle of whisky
Swirled together the shop and cafE are worth visiting for alone
I mentioned the café in my last blog, which you can read here, and I really do rate their gorgeous tasting platter of Scottish produce. Swirled together the shop and café are worth visiting for alone, but I recommend discovering more by taking one of their dedicated tours. These give you the chance to really venture behind the scenes and explore this grand historic dame.
The Clydeside Taste of Scotland sharing platter
Even the approach to the start of the tour is drenched in whisky drama as you walk through a room stocked with rare bottlings that you can buy for a real treat. Then it is time to start your education with the self-guided Dockside Story. This looks into the origins of uisge beatha, or the water of life. It also offers insights into the golden age of Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry and the city’s emergence as the Second City of Empire. Animations bring life to what is already a colourful story.
learn how the whisky is conjured up using traditional methods and skills that have been passed down through the generations
Then it is on to the working parts of the Clydeside Distillery. Here you learn how the whisky is conjured up using traditional methods and skills that have been passed down through the generations. You can see where the grist is added to the mash tun and where the yeast is hand pitched into the washbacks. The highlight of the whole tour for me is that stillroom. It is here that the epic magic happens as the spirit is created in a brace of gleaming stills. You learn how important the fine art of cutting to the heart of the fresh run is.
The Clydeside Distillery's contemporary Still House overlooks the River Clyde.
The tour culminates in time-honoured Scottish tradition, of course, with a whisky tasting. Not just one dram at that as you get to savour a trio of fine single malts in their ‘Three Wee Drams’ selection in the atmospheric tasting room. I’ll leave you to discover what they are. Half the fun is talking through all the options and guessing!
If you want to dig even deeper into the Clydeside Distillery and its developing story then I recommend taking the Queen’s Dock Tour, which you can book for parties of up to six guests. These bespoke tours include the Dockside Story and distillery tour, but also the unique chance to meet the stillmen charged with conjuring up the whisky magic. Another great option is the tastings in the Bijou Blender’s Room, where you can sample whiskies in exclusive company with great views of the Clyde.
You can even try some of their new make spirit, which gives you a real insight into how the eventual malt will taste.
When I announced I would be blogging for the Clydeside Distillery to my friends, who know all about my love of the water of life, they described it as a ‘busman’s holiday’. I couldn’t agree more and the truth of that was proven recently when I had a couple of hours in Glasgow to kill and popped in as a paying punter to enjoy that platter in the café. I also picked up the quality bottle of malt I eyed up right back on my first visit! You can even try some of their new make spirit, which gives you a real insight into how the eventual malt will taste. I’m not going to tell you what it’s like in this blog as I want to leave it as a surprise. Don’t worry, it will be another pleasant one!
The Clydeside Distillery's New Make Spirit
Pop down to the Clyde today and you’ll be tempted too as you learn more about how whisky is made and see that in action. You can also learn how this dramatic building fits into the fabric of the city and choose between buying a bottle in the shop or lunch in the café. Why not enjoy both? You can even leave with your own uniquely labelled bottle of whisky.
Stayed tuned for my next couple of blogs later this year. I’ve got some ideas of what they might be about, but I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on what I should cover too. Until then, slàinte!
Book your own tour of The Clydeside Distillery here.