Glenkinchie is a Scotch single malt distillery located in the Lowlands region, near to Edinburgh. It is often called 'the garden distillery' due to its position in East Lothian, which is known as Scotland's garden county. Glenkinchie has long been associated with the famous Johnnie Walker blend. This has been acknowledged as the distillery was chosen to be the Lowland representative for Diageo's Four Corners of Scotland, which meant a major revamp to create a world class visitor experience.
Glenkinchie's whiskies are known for their elegant, floral and grassy style with delicate tasting notes of wildflowers, cereals and lemon zest. This light and sweet yet expressive malt spirit gives an uplifting and vibrant element to the palate when added to a blend.
The core range is small and consists of two bottlings - the 12 year old and Distiller's Edition, a whisky of similar age that has been finished in ex-Amontillado sherry casks. These are occasionally joined by limited edition bottlings and distillery exclusives. Two recent ones include the 16 years old Four Corners of Scotland and a collaborative release with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Glenkinchie is equipped with a Porteus mill and this feeds a nine tonne stainless steel mash tun. The distillery currently operates 10 mashes per week over a five day period. There are six wooden washbacks made of Oregon pine, the oldest of which is 65 years old. The youngest was installed in the year 2020. The fermentation times vary but average at around 75 hours.
The two stills, which date from the 1960s, are some of the largest in Scotland by volume. The wash still's charge of 21,000 litres is the biggest of any still in mainland Scotland. Glenkinchie is one of the few Scottish distilleries to use worm tub condensers. This traditional piece of equipment has the copper lyne arm of the still coiling down through a large vat of cold water, which condenses the alcohol vapour to liquid. The annual production capacity is 2.5 million litres.
Glenkinchie was founded and licensed in 1837 by two brothers - John and George Rate. It had originally become a distillery in 1825, named as Milton. The brothers had set up the equipment in their farm buildings. They operated Glenkinchie until 1853 when they sold to a local farmer. He converted and ran the site as a sawmill and woodcutting business for 25 years.
Distilling was restarted in 1878 by a consortium from Edinburgh and the Glenkinchie Distillery Co. was founded shortly after. The first documented link with the Johnnie Walker brand came in 1894. John Walker & Sons began regularly purchasing casks of Glenkinchie for use in their blends. In 1914 Glenkinchie was one of the founding members of Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD), along with four other Lowland distilleries.
The current owners are Diageo, who have evolved out of SMD over the years. They have been responsible for establishing Glenkinchie as a single malt brand in its own right. The now extinct 10 years old expression was a founding member of the Classic Malts range, representing the Lowlands. The new Four Corners of Scotland visitor experience also shows Glenkinchie as the Lowlands home of Johnnie Walker. The close proximity to Edinburgh attracts many daytrippers, with a bus running regularly from the city centre.