The Glen Moray story: told by Master Distiller, Graham Coull
Glen Moray Master Distiller Graham Coull was recently crowned Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Ambassador, praised for his work in promoting Speyside whiskies at home and abroad, and also for working to benefit the local community around Glen Moray’s distillery in Elgin. The accolade, awarded at the annual celebration of Scotland’s national drink on April 26, was another reason for Glen Moray to celebrate in 2017, its 120th anniversary year. We asked Coull to tell us more about the Distillery’s history, and himself…
I was born in Elgin, Speyside less than a mile from Glen Moray Distillery itself. After studying Chemistry in Edinburgh, I returned to Speyside in 1994 to work in the whisky industry. In 2005 I became only the 5th Master Distiller in the 120- year history of Glen Moray and my role is not only to build on the traditions and craft laid down by my predecessors but also to impart my own character and influence on Glen Moray. My role is wide and varied but in simple terms I look after the spirit from the day it is born until the day it is ready to leave the Glen Moray warehouse after years of maturation.
This year is the 120th anniversary of Glen Moray. What is being done to celebrate this?
The 120th Birthday of the Distillery takes place on the 13th September 2017 but we have started celebrating early! The Distillery played a large part recently in the success of the recent 2017 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival hosting many birthday themed events. The Distillery also hosted the prestigious Opening dinner at which I was presented the ‘Speyside Ambassador of the Year 2017’ award. The award recognises the contribution made by Glen Moray Distillery and myself both locally and globally in promoting whisky and Speyside in general. It was fitting to receive the award in what is a memorable year for the Distillery.
To mark the 120th year I have also released a limited-edition Glen Moray called ‘The Mastery’. It has been a great privilege to create a unique blend of different aged Glen Moray’s which include vintages from four different decades. ‘The Mastery’ for me celebrates not only the traditions and skilled craftsmanship at Glen Moray but also the long history of innovation.
How is demand for whisky evolving (in terms of taste, on the one hand, and geographic demand on the other)?
The Whisky industry cannot be complacent and rest on its laurels because competition is growing from other spirits. Today’s whisky drinker is looking for choice and variety. That is why we need to be innovative but still be true to the character of the Distillery. I have currently created nine different expressions. Five of them are within the Elgin Classic range and include Sherry, Port and Chardonnay nishes plus a Peated expression. The older Heritage range consists of a 12yo, 15yo & 18yo and the Vintage expression is a 25yo Portwood finish. I am working carefully to extend the range looking for different flavour profiles to offer something different. Existing markets are evolving and new markets are emerging but the one thing they all have in common is that they are all looking for something slightly different.
How are you “innovating”, going forward in time?
Glen Moray has a long history of innovation and it was one of the first Distilleries to experiment with wine casks many years ago. I am continuing the tradition by experimenting with different ages in a variety of different casks. The permutations are limitless but my role in the experimentation is to bring the best out of the Glen Moray spirit and the wood flavours. The relationship between the two takes time to develop but I promise the results are worth waiting for.
Photo: Graham Coull, Master Distiller, Glen Moray