Welcome to Rothes Glen

Welcome to Rothes Glen

The publisher and founder of Whisky Magazine explains how he is bringing together 25 years of publishing, drinks and hospitality experience to create the ultimate home for the whisky connoisseur

Travel | 07 Sep 2021 | Issue 176 | By Damian Riley-Smith

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Founding Whisky Magazine, in 1998, and then Whisky Live, in 2000, I have spent almost a quarter of a century bringing the pleasures of whisky into other people’s homes and countries. I have, however, always been harbouring the desire to create the ultimate home for the whisky connoisseur. To achieve this would require the right property in the right place.

The right place to start meant Scotland and, more specifically, Speyside. And the right property meant an iconic building, well known and accessible, with great history, large enough to cater for big parties of guests, and stunning to behold. One such building between Rothes and Elgin had been twinkling at me from the glen-side for decades. Through the trees, tucked away in the lee of the steep hillside, I had often wondered who owned that castle.
Settling in at Rothes Glen

Further research over Christmas 2018 told me the castle was for sale. Known as Rothes Glen, a private home for the past 25 years, and prior to that one of the best-known hotels in the region, my idea to create the home for the whisky connoisseur suddenly came within reach. After a year of research and negotiations, on 1 November 2019 we took ownership of Rothes Glen and the great adventure began.

One of our early discoveries was that Rothes Glen was built by Charles Chree Doig

The key was to fill the house with what a whisky lover would want when staying in the heart of Speyside: a tasting room, a whisky vault, whisky cabinets, a whisky library, great whisky, a wonderful kitchen, a stunning dining room, a burn and lochan from which to source fresh water – as well as snooker table, cigar courtyard, views down the glen and the finest local food. And, essential to all of this, a great team with access to the distilleries and their whiskies. With 44 distilleries within 30 minutes and 59 within a one-hour drive, there is no shortage of choice.

When you want a change from the dram there are dolphins in the Moray Firth, the greatest density of castles anywhere in Scotland, skiing in the Cairngorms, fishing on the Spey, shooting, great golf, stunning walks, cycling and much more – all on our doorstep. We are surrounded by beautiful countryside and some of the most extraordinary views anywhere in the world.
All in the detail

One of our early discoveries was that Rothes Glen was built by Charles Chree Doig, the architect behind the invention of the pagoda roof as part of the now-famous maltings skyline of Scotland. His original watercolours of the house are now on site, and his 1911 addition of a smoking room has become the tasting room. The heart of this room is a bespoke world first: a table made only from staves by Barrel Creations of Cabrach, which sits centred between walls filled with pictures of the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame inductees, and glassware sourced from Glencairn.

Summer 2021 will mark the opening of Rothes Glen as a world-class luxury exclusive-use castle dedicated to the very best whisky hospitality. This iconic Highland property is a stunning Scottish baronial mansion built in 1893 by one of the wealthiest families of the time. Descendants of Duncan Dunbar, who died in 1863 having created the largest privately owned shipping company in the world, with 73 ships at the time of his death, purchased the substantial Birchfield estate in 1870.

The house is in a picture-perfect position at the head of the glen with breath-taking views towards Brown Muir and the Cairngorms, and is located midway between Inverness and Aberdeen, nine miles south of Elgin.

A nationally recognised Grade B mansion characterised by its square central tower, Rothes Glen is four stories high on the eastern side, with corbelled and crow-stepped gables with cannon water spouts. The main entrance opens to a stunning reception hall with a fine Italian mosaic tiled floor. From the reception hall, the magnificent stone staircase – with its decorative cast and wrought iron balustrade – leads to the first floor’s galleried landing, lit by a stained-glass laylight.

The dining room has a richly decorated plaster ceiling, while the drawing room and adjoining library have fine panelled ceilings and white marble fireplaces.

Off the western hallway, with Victorian tiling, is the snooker room which links to the tasting room. There is a newly installed kitchen and pantry, and arranged off the inner courtyard are the stores, game larder, kennels, walk-in cold room and woodshed. There are 10 king-size bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms which have been appointed to the highest standards of Scottish country luxury. The gardens and grounds are extensive and private, and the house is approached by a cherry tree–lined driveway. On the western side of the house there is a formal lawn, terrace and rose garden, and in the meadow are some stunning specimen trees, leading down to the private lochan accessed by a bridge.

In its former life the property hosted guests ranging from Sean Connery to Gordon Jackson, and for many years in the early 20th century it was the holiday home of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith. Today, every guest is welcomed by the Rothes Glen team in the whisky library with their first dram, presented with their signed copy of Rothes Glen – A History, and escorted to their suite in which their personal decanter and glassware await. Throughout the house are whisky cabinets from which guests can order a mini decanter, each cabinet offering a different range and region of whisky. When the time comes for dinner in the elegant dining room, of course to any whisky theme one desires, Rothes Glen can again prove to be the ultimate home for the whisky connoisseur.

This remarkable survivor of the Victorian era has been spectacularly returned to its original use as a luxurious home for the enjoyment, fun, laughter and regal entertainment of its guests.

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