Welcoming our Artists in Residence

21 July 2013

By Ian Millar

This past week saw me spend some time with our Artists in Residence, as I do every year. Now in its 12th year, the program is one of the most exciting and unique things we do outside of whisky making. Every summer, we host established and up-and-coming artists from across the Globe at our Distillery for the summer. At the end of the residency, they leave behind some of the art they create – in fact, next time you visit us, be on the look out in the grounds, we often like to display our artists’ work for all to see. 

Ian Millar and our 2013 Artists at the Robbie Dhu spring

Alex Frost - The Connoisseurs Lake

Our Distillery is alive with history, heritage, story and memories and we like to ensure our artists are fully immersed in the story of our whiskies, the process and of course the story of our founder. No matter what medium they choose to work in, or what they focus on as inspiration, one thing unites them – our story! As they are tasked with interpreting this into visual, audio and mixed media stories that are shared far and wide, it’s important to me that they get the full VIP tour and treatment.

We started the tour right at the source – the Robbie Dhu spring. As you can imagine, water is incredibly important to the whisky-making process. Our location here in Dufftown was chosen specifically by our founder William Grant in the late 1800’s for its position in the valley and its water-source. 

William bought the land surrounding the Robbie Dhu spring to protect its purity. In fact he bought more land than he could realistically afford, but it was incredibly important. We’re actually one of the only Distilleries left to use a single source of water throughout the entire process.

Next we took a trip into Dufftown to see the house William Grant was born in, a trip to Balvenie House (where William lived most of his later years) and then back to the Distillery for a full tour. We start in the Mash House to see where the process begins, then on to the Mash Room where our tuns are kept, next to the famous Still House where we distil the liquid and finally, our atmospheric warehouses.

To complete the day, we couldn’t go without sampling a wee dram or two… Everybody has his or her favourite, of course. What do you think the most popular expression was amongst our artists? 


The artists enjoy a tasting, led by Ian Millar

I am always warmed to see how those who are new to whisky respond during a tasting – most of the time (and especially once you have an appreciation of the incredibly intricate and timely process) people are amazed at how much they enjoy a dram – our artists were no exception. Much like art, interpretation of the flavours and notes can be very personal and subjective – the artists were of course incredibly creative in their descriptions of the liquid - inspired by the spirit, indeed!