There are parts of the world where innovation and collaboration are simply bywords for survival, and whether businesses live or die can come down to fine detail.
That’s the ethos that has been applied to the refurbishment of Glenmorangie House, near Tain in north-east Scotland.
When the whisky firm commissioned interior designer Russell Sage to overhaul their 17th-century hospitality venue, an emphasis was put on involving local artisan firms.
In an area blighted by population decline, it must help to have a huge distillery producing 400,000 bottles of whisky every week on your doorstep.
So the various hand-painted wallpapers and art pieces designed to immerse guests in the story of whisky were mostly produced by local firms.
A table centrepiece inspired by spring water used for whisky was made by a hot glass studio in Tain itself.
Candles which produce the notes of different whisky blends were also manufactured in the town.
Stuart Smith, Glenmorangie’s brand home manager, reckons that around 70% of the six-figure sum spent on the refurbishment last year stayed in the local and Scottish economy.
Innovation, collaboration, detail. Ed Thom, the whisky firm’s award-winning distillery manager, would tell you that is what Glenmorangie’s latest release is all about.
A Tale of the Forest was made by bringing back an ancient method of kilning barley with botanicals, in this case juniper berries, birch bark, heather and, of course, a little peat.
Aged in bourbon casks, the result was a whisky which worked particularly well in cocktails made by in-house mixologists during a weekend visit.
The house itself has six bedrooms, three one-bed cottages and six walled gardens.
There is also thought to be an underground cellar which was known for its wine selection – but the current owners have never found it.
Each room represents different elements of the whisky-making process, such as the Morning Room with its barley-inspired golden wallpaper, or a classic Glenmorangie blend.
The Reserve room, inspired by the taste of tropical fruits imbued in the firm’s 19-year-old Reserve, features monkeys on the wallpaper, a tiger hiding in a wardrobe, pineapple lamp bases and coconut-shell pots.
As well as being an assault on the senses, each room is well appointed with a four-poster bed, en-suite bathroom and very effective, heavy, blackout curtains.
For entertainment, there’s a digital radio in the bedrooms and a turntable in the cottages but don’t expect to watch television – because there aren’t any. As explained by Smith, Glenmorangie House is a hospitality experience. Guests eat and socialise together, often forming lasting friendships.
The menu changes according to what local produce is available and the roasted Aberdeen Angus beef was a highlight.
Wood pigeon, roe deer and Orkney scallops also featured on the five-course tasting menu with wine flights created by head chef John Wilson, a native of Fort William. All this is served in the dining room which is designed to reflect the extreme heat of copper stills and houses a most remarkable piece of furniture.
A dresser which was original to the house was taken by Sage and basically burned then covered in resin to seal it. The result is a black-charred effect similar to that found on the inside of casks. There is also a bicycle made from old casks on display in the house.
Innovation. Collaboration. Detail.
Glenmorangie is offering a two-night Tale of the Forest stay on selected weekends in January, February and March, priced at £1,200 per room.
It includes afternoon tea on arrival, a tour and tasting at Glenmorangie distillery, a falconry display and a cocktail-making masterclass.
Breakfast is served each day, as is a five-course dinner with wine. A complimentary bottle of A Tale of the Forest is also included.