The Michelin-Starred Restaurant Inside Scotland's Oldest Working Whisky Distillery

With over 140 malt and grain distilleries dispersed throughout the country, Scotland may well have the world's highest concentration of whisky producers. So when one distillery lays claim to being the oldest of all of them, you know it has a standard to uphold.

Though Glenturret started illegally on a private farm, it obtained an official license in the early 19th century and has been aging barrels ever since. Thurot Distillery, the name of the original site, appears in papers dating back to 1763. While some may argue about the distillery's claim to fame (its history includes owner changes and cessation of production), it has persisted, in no small part due to committed whisky lovers and leaders in Scottish hospitality.

In 1887, the distillery was noted for its unique approach to whisky making, as older, handmade vessels were used in the aging process. Though Prohibition and the temperance movement halted production, barrels waited in warehouses for the right opportunity seeker to come along. In 1957, James Fairlie was the answer, buying the distillery and restarting whisky production with equipment on the grounds. Fairlie went on to create one of Scotland's first distillery visitor centers, establishing the backdrop for a new kind of hospitality experience and laying the foundation for what would eventually become a Michelin-starred setting.

An award-winning evolution

In 2019, luxury French lifestyle company The Lalique Group purchased The Glenturret Distillery and brought additional style and craftsmanship onto the premises. With Chef Mark Donald at the helm, The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant opened in 2021, and the restaurant has managed to secure a Michelin star for its immaculate setting and artful dishes. Donald carries experiences from Edinburgh's The Balmoral, Copenhagen's Noma, and Gleneagles' Andrew Fairlie restaurant to create inventive seasonal tasting menus.

At first, Donald was hesitant about establishing a fine-dining restaurant at the distillery, admitting to Spirits Beacon, "I didn't want to be tied to doing a whisky-pairing course." Yet as shared with Tasting Table, the values and tradition of Glenturret resonated with Donald, and the motto "By Hand and Heart, since 1763" helped convince him to take on the project. A mere seven months after opening, Donald and his team secured Michelin recognition. It marked the first time a restaurant located inside a Scottish distillery earned the award.

Sampling Scottish hospitality

When the restaurant opened, The Glenturret's Managing Director John Laurie gushed to the Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, "The Glenturret has long been home to some of the finest whiskies in the world, and it seems fitting that, with Mark Donald's help we will now be able to provide visitors with an elevated dining experience that reflects the skill, heritage and Scottish heart that goes into producing such exceptional liquids."

Donald forged connections with local and artisanal farmers to source ingredients and sometimes takes his team to the distillery's surroundings to forage ingredients for menu preparations. He is joined by pastry chef Kayleigh Turner who worked alongside the chef at The Balmoral and has taken home accolades including the Scottish Food and Drink Awards' Pastry Chef of the Year.

From Wednesday to Saturday, tasting menus starting at £195 (approximately $240) per diner accommodate both vegetarians and carnivores. Lunch is available at the bar, with a smaller, but still satisfying menu of seasonal plates. Flights of whisky are offered to those who want to taste the libations The Glenturrey has become known for – including drams from reserved archival bottles – and visitors can choose from an award-winning wine list to complement meals.

A textured ambiance

As Michelin notes, the restaurant blends luxury with the everyday. The restaurant itself describes the dining room as an "exclusive jewel box." The space can accommodate only six tables at a time, yet for those who manage to secure a space, a gastronomic affair awaits. Chandeliers and cut crystal from Lalique add elegance to the setting, and tables are set with custom Lalique glass and tableware. Exposed brick reminds diners of the history enveloping the place, and red and blue patterned tartans pay homage to clans who once lived upon the land.

From tasteful details and plates of caviar to beamed ceilings and tattie scones, The Glenturret Lalique presents a textured experience for guests. "We have all sorts of visitors here, we have the person who wants to come in for that fine-dining restaurant experience, but you also have the family who wants to have a bowl of soup and a sandwich. We were very, very careful to do both ... it's a very different style of café experience to what you'd get elsewhere," Glenturret's Global Brand Ambassador told Spirits Beacon. The Glenturret Lalique is certainly one of a kind, with both history and quality to stand on.