I booked this tour online; throughout the booking process the price shows the price as £22.5 until you get right to the end and suddenly a 4% bookign fee (90p) is added. While this isn't a significant increase, it is somewhat underhand to only show this at the end. Of all the distillery websites I've used, this is the only time I can remember this happening.
The satnav got me to the estate entrance fine and there was plenty of parking. I was a few minutes early to arrive and checked in straightaway, only to be told the tour would be starting 15 minutes after the scheduled time.
The distillery is a modern building, which unfortunately means lots and lots of hard surfaces with no noise dampening and with music playing loudly. I'd say in the background, but there was nothing background about it as I had to ask the lady checking me in to repeat herself several times as I couldn't hear what she was saying.
The room you're in is the bar where they give you a menu on entry as they want you buying drinks (and also where there was a 15 minute delay to the start time). Unfortunately, like many other distilleries, the only seating is on benches which, as I have a bad back, I can't sit on without ending up in pain. Bearing in mind that the tour and G&T masterclass takes two hours, which I was going to be standing the entire time for, I went and sat in the car for 20 minutes.
There was 26 people on the tour which starts with an introduction to the distillery and it's founding; fortunately the music was off, but with so many people present there is a fair bit of background noise. Then we were marshalled outside, while those with drinks were given plastic cups to decant them into. This was the first time that it became apparent that such a large group was going to be problematic as it took several minutes to get everyone sorted out.
The tour moves through to distillery where you here about the making of gin. This is a well covered topic where you are given an opportunity to look into still and smell the aromas remaining. However, there is so many people on the tour that it takes several minutes for the group to cycle past, exacabated by people stopping to chat to their friends or just not moving out of the way.
With a bit more explanation of the process, you're given two small glasses to smell/taste which are of the heads and tails. this was done in two separate servings which, because of 26 people, took quite a bit of time.
We then heard about the whiskey making, which was the part I in which I was most interested. This covered a description of the full process which stood with the wash backs behind us and the pot stills ahead.
We then returned to the visitor centre for the gin masterclass. Glasses containing gin were set up on the tables waiting. While hearing about the visual appearence of gin and looking at the light through it as well as sampling some, we also had the opportunity to smell some botanicals which were on the table in kilner jars. It seems that the tables not only had different botanicals, but some tables only had three or four while others had seven or eight.
While the guide was talking us through the tasting, there was sufficent background noise fromnthe large group to make hearing difficult.
The idea behind the "G&T Masterclass" is that you get told how to make the perfect gin and tonic; to assist with this they asked for two volunteers who went up to the bar.
The volunteers were guided through the process of making the gin and tonics, including why to use a lot of ice, how to pour the tonic into the glass and how to stir it effectively.
Everyone else was then invited to the bar to do the same; remember 26 people and only three positions at the bar, so again there was a long wait for everyone to make their gin and tonic. While we were doing this, the loud music was turned on again.
The glass containing your G&T is yours to keep, but comes unboxed. I enquired about this as I was flying hom on Rynair and the glass would have to go into my suitcase in the hold. They were very helpful in sorting me out some bubble wrap and wrappe dthe glass for me (it has a long stem so didn;t expect it to survive, but it did.
The tour is a good one, with the information well presented, but there was too many people on it that everything took a long time. Photography is not allowed in the distillery which I knew in advance so left the camera in the car.