Cocktails – Maple Pancakes

Maple PancakesIf two spirits were ever meant to get married, this would be the happy couple. I was first introduced to Crown Royal Maple Finished late last year, and it was love at first taste. The sweet, subtle tones of the maple finish added another element to an already cherished whisky. Whether consumed neat, or with added cola, this is the whisky for people who don’t like whisky.

Over the past year or two, there has been a trend to develop spirits based on dessert flavours, like Three Olives Cake, and the sales of these spirits seem to be flourishing. Over the past few months I have noticed some of the following new flavours: whipped cream, glazed donut, assorted sorbets, and red licorice just to name a few. When I first spotted Blueberry Pancakes by McGuinness, I took very little notice. I first began to think what I could use as mix, and then I had my revelation. What is the one thing you need for a big stack of blueberry pancakes? Maple syrup.

The more I thought about it, the more mixing the two drinks together made sense. A couple of weeks later, as I was hosting some friends, I was asked if it was better to mix the Crown Royal Maple with cola, or to have it neat. I was about to state that it didn’t matter, as either would be a fine drink, before I remembered the bottle of Blueberry Pancakes in the cupboard. I leaped out of the chair, grabbed a number of shot glasses and started pouring. The reaction was unanimous, these two were made for each other.

  • 1 oz Crown Royal Maple Finished
  • 1 oz McGuinness Blueberry Pancakes

The drink it self is easy enough to make, put equal parts in a shot glass, and make it disappear. I’ve only served the drink with the two spirits at room temperature, but chilling the pancake liqueur may make the drink a little more palatable for those who are not drinkers of strong spirits.

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Wells Banana Bread Beer

Wells Banana BreadWhen I first saw this bottle on the shelf, my first instinct was that I must have misread the label. On my second look, I confirmed what I had originally saw, someone actually decided to brew a banana bread beer. I have always been the type of drinker that will try anything once, but I must admit when I first saw this product, I had my reservations. Over the past number of years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of beers that have included fruits: Strawberries, raspberries, oranges, and limes just to name a few. One would think it would only be logical to continue the trend with another household favourite, and with that, I scooped up three bottles before I could second guess myself. Even on my way through the parking lot I pondered the wisdom of my decision, but by this time it was too late, and I had no choice but go home and give it a try.

I must admit, I waited nearly two weeks before I made time to sit down and sample my newest discovery. Upon opening the first bottle there was a faint scent of banana, nothing anyone would find overwhelming or overpowering. I gently poured the beer into a standard pint glass, and by the time beer settled, with a nice foamy head, the scent of bananas was incredible. Placing the beer into a glass remarkably improved the strength and scent of the bananas, and the bouquet was reminiscent of fresh baked banana bread that had just been lifted from the oven. The beer itself has a rich amber hue, to go with it’s full creamy body, so there is no mistaking this ale for a lager. There was a little trepidation in my first sip, but once I had a good mouthful, I was pleasantly surprised. It certainly tastes like banana bread, with the slightest hint of walnuts underneath the dominant taste of fresh bananas. It’s a good beer, perhaps not one for an all night session, but one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the flavour of homemade banana bread, or those looking for a new experience. I can only imagine some of the questions consumers would have when they first see this product on the shelf, and yet after my first bottle I only have one:  I wonder if a bottle of this would be included in your five a day?

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Latest Update

Hey everyone! After a long, neglectful summer, I have finally made the effort to return to my booze blog.

I will be leaving for the UK soon, so I made sure to add posts for all the distillery tours that I took while on my last visit, and I assure you there will be more posts once I return. I have also added a couple of posts on some of the new drinks that I have sampled over the summer, and if time allows I may have another post or two uploaded before I leave. Thank you everyone for taking an interest in my blog, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed sharing my stories.

Cheers, Fun Bob.

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Three Olives Cake

Whether it’s a birthday, graduation, wedding, or any other celebration, the occasion always calls out for a cake. I mean, who doesn’t like cake, can anyone honestly say that they don’t love cake? I know a certain someone who loves cake, and it so happens that they love vodka too, so this product from our friends at Three Olives must have been made with them in mind. Made with vodka from the United Kingdom and yet apparently not available in the UK, Cake is one of the most recent in a long line of flavoured vodka’s from Three Olives. Other flavours in the Three Olive line include: root beer, bubble gum, and espresso just to name a few.

As intrigued by the bottle as I was, I initially had trouble figuring out how to enjoy my cake. The obvious choice was to chill it and have shots, but I was looking for something that would allow me to sit back and savour the flavour. By the time I filtered down my search I was left with three options, all of which were shared with me by people who had tried them out. The first was the simplest and least exciting, it was simply cake vodka with a splash of lemon-line soda (pictured to the left). It reminded me of the Rocket candies given out on Halloween, and although some may find it a touch too sweet having it this way, it turned out to be my favourite. Secondly, I had someone tell me that mixing cake vodka with pineapple juice was just like having a slice of pineapple upside-down cake. I have still yet to pick-up some pineapple juice, but I can see that being the drink of choice for someone who is looking to tone down the sweetness. Finally, a bartender told me that layering a full ounce of cake vodka with half an ounce of both creme de cacao and cherry brandy would make a black forest cake shot. As splendid as this drink sounds, and as much as I enjoy having fancy new drinks, I would much rather spend my time enjoying my drink than fiddling around trying to prepare it.

To be fair, I haven’t had a great deal of Three Olives Cake, but I have enjoyed what little I’ve had, and should I have the motivation I will attempt to try it in different ways. There are so many exciting new products to try, I hope that they too will have the flavour and quality of Three Olives Cake. With that I must commend Three Olives for breaking away from the traditional flavoured vodkas and producing a line of unconventional and utterly delicious products. I anxiously await their newest creation….. S’mores anyone?

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Bacardi Arctic Grape

When I’m out looking for a drink, I’m always on the lookout for something new, something I have yet to try. The past few years have seen an explosion of new flavoured products hit the shelves, and with that there has been more choice than ever before. Over the years Bacardi has released a number of tremendous flavoured rums, and their newest expression, Bacardi Arctic Grape, is no exception. Flavoured with white grapes and infused with arctic berries, its aroma brings back memories of grape popsicles and Kool-Aid.

Bacardi Arctic Grape is one of many in a line of flavoured rums I’ve sampled, and it’s certainly one of my favourites. Much like most flavoured rums, it pairs well with cola, lemon-lime soda, and club soda, but it really stands out when paired with grape soda. My first inclination with flavoured rum is to pair it with cola, as everything seems to pair well with cola. My first glass, with cola, was as I imagined, fresh and fruity without being overpowered by the spirit. As I savoured my first glass it was a reminder of some of the other flavours, Limon and Razz specifically, that certainly benefit from being paired with cola, and soon after I went to pour glass number two. As I opened the fridge to retrieve the cola, I noticed a can of grape soda sitting on the door, and inspiration took over. I hesitated at first, would that be too much grape, or had I stumbled upon the next big thing. After a quick deliberation with the little voice in my head, I opened the can and added it to my measure of grape rum. I was instantly taken back by the flavour, it was a sweet taste that mimicked all the grape products of my childhood, and yet there was no indication of any spirit whatsoever. For those of you who know me, you know that I pour myself a fairly modest measure, and yet this drink was exceptionally smooth.

Bacardi Arctic Grape is fabulous. I can’t say enough for the taste, it is certainly one of, if not the best flavoured rum in the Bacardi line-up. Obviously with a product like this, there are many ways to enjoy it, but to get the most out of the flavour I would recommend having it this way:

  • 2 oz Bacardi Arctic Grape
  • 4 oz Grade soda
  • Garnish with a lemon or lime (if available)

 This is the sort of beverage I would recommend to anyone who would like to go out drinking but doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. When paired with the right mix, it’s nearly unnoticeable and it has such a refreshing taste. Knowing Bacardi’s history with flavoured rums I certainly await their next expression, but I must admit that they have some work to do in order to top their Arctic Grape.  I’m always willing to try something new, but it may be a long time before I find another product that is so remarkably delicious.

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Aberlour Distillery

My final distillery tour while visiting Speyside was at Aberlour. Situated in the south of Aberlour (the town with which the distillery shares its name) and just off the main road (A95), Aberlour is easily accessible to anyone traveling throughout Speyside. Only minutes from my lodgings at The Mash Tun, Aberlour was the perfect stop before I returned to England. Although, knowing that I had over five hours of driving ahead, I was unable to fully participate in the extensive tasting that concluded the tour.

Before I begin with the details of the tour, I’d like to share to little a couple of little points that stood out during the tour. Firstly, Aberlour translates into  “mouth of the chattering burn”, as the distillery is nestled along the banks of a picturesque stream. Secondly, after being established in 1826, Aberlour suffered not one, but two major fires before the turn of the twentieth century. Unfortunately as a result of these fires, very little of the original distillery survived.

The tour began in the gift shop, just off the main road. By the time everyone taking the tour assembled, there were seven of us set to tour the distillery. I spent a fair amount of time chatting with a couple from America – Florida if I recall correctly – and the other members of the tour seemed to keep to the themselves. We began by walking down the driveway which followed the path of the chattering burn, and made our way into the first building. Inside was a display paying tribute to James Fleming, the founder of the distillery, and the work that he had done for the community. After his passing money was left to the community for the construction of a hospital cottage. There were also funds left for a suspension bridge over the River Spey, as a result of a child’s tragic drowning.

We were now in the distillery itself, and made our way up and down a series steps and staircases. This is certainly isn’t a tour for anyone afraid of heights, but it sure is a good way to burn off your full Scottish breakfast. As we stood in the still house we were advised that we had to refrain from taking pictures until we had made it into the tasting room.  The still house contained two sets of stills, which certainly doesn’t class Aberlour as a large distillery, but large enough to produce over three million litres of new make spirit each year. New make spirit is what comes directly out of the stills and is placed into casks for aging. A spirit can only be refered to as Scotch Whisky if it meets the following criteria: It must be distilled and aged in Scotland, and it must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks. Interestingly enough, the spirit that comes out of the still is clear, and it relies on maturation in the cask to gain its colour.

Now it was time for the our tasting to begin. We were given five whiskies, and a sample of new make spirit, something that you will not find at many distilleries. Located in Warehouse No.1 , the tasting room was actually located at the end of an actual warehouse, separated only by a glass wall. We began with the new make spirit – which I had to try - and it was actually quite sweet, but at the same time, it was very potent. I continued around the board to the first two whiskies, they were each cask strength and available to be bottled on site. Having already bottled my own at The Balvenie the day prior, I passed, but the couple from America took advantage to pick up a couple of bottles as souvenirs. The fourth and fifth whiskies were standard expressions, Aberlour’s 12 and 16 Year Old bottlings. These two whiskies were very smooth, and had I not had the littlest of tastes,  I’m sure I would have enjoyed them even further. The final dram was Aberlour a’Bundah, another cask strength whisky that is released in limited batches with an alcoholic content in the range of 55%-60%. The single, tiny sip I sampled of this whisky did enough to demonstrate its sheer strength. My lips and gums tingled, and my throat and stomach gently warmed, certainly a man’s whisky if there ever was one.  It was heart-breaking to leave so much whisky on the table, but I had a half a day of driving ahead of me, and wasn’t willing to take any unnecessary risks. That, and it gives me a good excuse to return, because I plan on returning to Speyside someday to try some new whiskies and visit with some old friends.

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The Balvenie Distillery

Having spent a lovely morning touring The Macallan,  I made the short trip down the road to my second tour of day at The Balvenie. Now for a quick note; before the introduction of trademarks and copyrights, anyone could use a name to sell and market a product. That’s why a good number of distilleries use the word “The” infront of their names, to seperate themselves from the other illict distillers that were trying to pass off their whisky under someone else’s name. I arrived at the distillery and made my way towards what looked like an old cottage. I peered into the window, and a figure stood up, waved, and made his way to the door. With a firm handshake and a slight smile the gentleman introduced himself, welcomed me into the house and lead me into a fancy sitting room. Inside the room there were a couple of soft leather sofas, a fireplace and tray with tea, coffee, and the nicest Scottish shortbread cookies I’ve had in some time. As I took a seat, David introduced himself, as he has the enviable position of being the distillery ambassador. With all the formal introductions out of the way, we were ready to begin the tour, but first we sat down for a quick chat.

David began by telling me that I was the only person booked for this afternoon’s tour, and then began with some questions to gauge what sort of background I had with whisky and distillery tours. I told David which distilleries I had visited, some of my favourite whiskies, and some of the experiences I’ve had on other tours. There was a small pause, then David burst into life, and he told me that he wouldn’t bore me with the whisky making process, as I had seen it often enough to understand the basic principals, but rather show me the little things that make The Balvenie so special. I now had a sense that this tour was going to be something to remember, and I sure wasn’t disappointed.

We began by visiting the malting floors. Only a small number of the malt whisky distilleries in Scotland continue to use a malting floor, as the process is very time consuming and very labour intensive. Now most of the barley is malted by a handful of companies in large machines that are quite similar to clothes dryers and transported to the distillery. Even those distilleries that have malting floors (like The Balvenie and Highland Park), can only malt upwards of twenty percent of their barley and rely on purchasing the rest from the malting companies. On the floors, wet barley is spread out and dried to allow for germination which will then allow for fermentation later in the distilling process. In order to make sure that all the barley dries evenly, it needs to be turned. This is done with large wooden paddles, sometimes as many as four times a day. Having looked at the malting floors I told David that on my trip to Highland Park, I had my picture taken turning the barley. Well, no sooner had I said that, and David handed me a paddle, known as a shiel, and snapped a couple of pictures. I’m sure the maltmen weren’t impressed with the mess I left, but it’s certainly an experience I’ll cherish for many years to come. From the malting floors we made our way to the kiln, where they dry the malted barely before milling. On the main floor sits an fire, much like a fireplace in someone’s home, and directly above is a grated floor on which the barely lays. Beside the fireplace is a chalkboard indicating when this batch began, and at what time fuel needs to be added to the fire. The Balvenie like a number of distilleries uses peat to flavour their barley, but unlike the Islay distilleries they only use a very small amout, for a very short time. David looked at me, and within seconds I was placing some peat on the fire. It was now time to move on, and we made our way over to the wash and still houses.

We made our way through the wash house, complete with traditional wooden washbacks, and arrived at the still house. The copper stills used in the distillation process have just as much of an impact on the flavour of the spirit as the ingredients and the casks in which they mature. Any alteration to the shape or a size of a still will alter the spirit inside, so The Balvenie relies on a coppersmith to repair and maintain their stills. Unlike many distilleries who contract out such work, The Balvenie has their own coppersmith on site everyday to make sure that the stills are in prime condition. After the spirit has passed through both the wash and spirit stills, it needs to be aged, and for that we need oak casks. It was time for the next portion of my tour, and we made our way out to the cooperage and Warehouse 24.

The cooperage is where all the casks are stored and prepared for use. Once again, this is a practice that most distilleries source to outside agencies, but The Balvenie feel that it’s crucial to the final product, and place their trust in seven coopers who work all day repairing and rebuilding casks. It was quite a sight to see how the coopers fixed up old damaged casks with tools that haven’t seemed to have changed in the last hundred years. When each cask was finished, the ends were painted black and they were stacked onto pallets to be sent off to the filling station. Seeing all this attention to detail, I began to understand how passionate the workers are of their spirit, and what it means to them to produce a whisky of exceptional quality.

The second last stop on the tour was Warehouse 24. Although Warehouse 24 is an old stone warehouse from many years ago, most of the aging process takes place in larger, modern warehouses. A couple of winters ago, the snowfall was so heavy that throughout Scotland several warehouse roofs collapsed  under the extreme weight. At The Balvenie, it was decided that easiest way to repair the roof was to build a new building around the existing one, and to leave the original warehouse untouched inside. Thankfully Warehouse 24 was uneffected, as it was another highlight of my tour. Inside the door lay three barrels: a sherry cask, a port cask and bourbon cask. David walked over to the first cask and dropped a copper pipe on a chain through a hole in the top and waved me over. He asked if I would like a sample, but if I did, I would have to drink it out my hands. I couldn’t say yes quick enough and before I knew it, I was lapping up the whisky from the palms of my hands. We repeated the same process for the two remaining casks and I was asked to choose a favourite. It was a touch choice, but in the end I chose the first cask, the sherry butt. What came next was simply amazing. David gave me the opportunity to fill my own bottle directly from the cask. He gave me a little glass bottle, 200mL I believe, and passed me his copper pipe. I dipped it through the hole in the top of the cask and listened to sound it made as it filled with the spirit inside. When it was full, I gently pulled up on the chain and with a steady hand, poured the whisky in the bottle. I placed a cork in the top and held it up to admire my accomplishment. David filled out a tag and placed it around the neck of the bottle, detailing from which cask the whisky came, the date, and the alcoholic strength (59.5%). Finally I placed the bottle in a box, and had officially done one of the coolest things ever.  With my bottle in hand, we left the warehouse and made our way to our final stop, the tasting room.

Inside the little cottage we sat down at a beautiful oak table and David began pouring some drams. We began the tasting with a personal favourite of mine, the 12 Year Old Doublewood, and moved along to the 12 Year Old Signature. Up next was the Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel, followed by the 21 Year Old Portwood. I was in heaven, each of the whiskies were so smooth, and so mellow, it was beginning to become apparent that all the small things The Balvenie does in order to maintain their exceptional level of quality were paying dividends. Finally, it was time for the fifth, and final whisky of the afternoon, The Balvenie 30 Year Old. Bottled at a slightly higher strength than most whiskies, it warmed on the way down and left a gentle tingle on the gums, it was sheer delight. With that my tour was over, and I no matter how many times I thanked David, it wasn’t enough, for I had just taken the best tour ever. I’ve had the chance to take some tours elsewhere, Highland Park will always be special to me as it was my first tour (it’s also my favourite whisky), and Glengoyne’s Masterclass was unbelievable, but having spent the afternoon with David at The Balvenie, I can honestly say that was an experience I shall hold dear to myself  for the rest of my life. Now it was time to head back to The Mash Tun for a well deserved meal, and a quiet night’s rest.

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The Macallan Distillery

Resting high on a ridge above the banks of the River Spey lays The Macallan Distillery, the first of my three tours while visiting Speyside. The Macallan, known to many simply as Macallan is one of the premium spirit producers in the world, and is widely regarded as the benchmark on which other single malts are judged. I arranged to take the “Precious Tour”, which included a tour of the distillery, a visit to Warehouse 7, and a tutored tasting featuring four of Macallan’s classic malts. 

When I arrived at the visitors centre, I was warmly greeted and told that another group was on route, and that the tour would commence once they arrived. To fill my time, I had a quick look through the gift shop and admired the vast collection of whiskies, with some prices ranging far into the thousands of pounds. Not wanting to leave empty handed, I picked up a hand carved keychain made of wood from a retired Macallan cask. Within minutes the other members of the tour arrived, two gentlemen and one lady, all from Italy, and we were off to begin the tour.

The tour began at the visitor centre and worked its way outside to the new atrium. It was at this point we were advised that we were not able to take any pictures inside the facility, but were more than welcome to take as many as we wanted of the outside and the surrounding grounds. Prior to my tour at The Macallan, most of the distilleries I visited were small, and had no more than two pairs of stills, so here at The Macallan, I had my first opportunity to see whisky mass-produced on a grand scale. With seven wash stills and fourteen spirit stills, The Macallan was by the far the largest facility I had ever seen. This allows for the production of nearly eight million litres of spirit a year, which is four to five time more than can be distilled by the other distilleries I had visited. Now, usually mass production is associated with poorer quality, but here-in lies the genius. Since The Macallan produce such a vast amount of spirit, they can pick and choose only the best for their products, and sell the rest for use in blended whiskies.

As we began the sensory portion of the tour, we were joined by another young woman, who if I remember correctly was born in Winnipeg and now lives in New York.  Initially, we walked past eight or nine pots, each of which included a scent that is associated with whiskies. Initially we took a blind sniff, not knowing what was in the pot, then flipped the sign to see what was inside and sniffed again. Some of the scents included chocolate, marzipan, citrus, and iodine, all of which are used by connoisseurs to describe whisky. This lead to a small discussion on the type of oak casks used to age whisky, and how the wood from different regions affect the aging process. The Macallan use former sherry casks to age their whisky, and similarly with their spirit, they only choose the best of casks, as only the best casks will allow them to continue to produce their world renowned whisky.

After a brief stop in Warehouse 7, we made our way back to the visitors centre. My friends from Italy took their sample of The Macallan 10 Year Old and began browsing the shop, and the young woman who joined us late, and myself were led into the tasting room. Sitting at a beautiful oak bar, we were presented with four drams, and our tour guide began by playing a little powerpoint presentation. By the time the tasting was finished, I had sampled The Macallan 12, 18, 21, and 25 Year Old expressions, each one lovelier than that last. I made my way out to the parking lot, and as the pale grey sky began to clear, I waited for my lift to The Balvenie for my afternoon tour. At first I was a little disappointed and thought I should have booked The Macallan as the second tour of the day, as how could it get any better than this, but only time would tell.

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The Mash Tun

In the early months of 2012 I returned to the United Kingdom and once again set away touring some of the many malt whisky distilleries. I had been fortunate to tour a variety of distilleries in the lowlands, highlands and even on the northern most islands. I made a decision to venture a little further a field to travel and stay in Speyside. Located on the banks of the River Spey, Speyside is the geographically one of the smallest whisky regions of Scotland, but home to a good number of distilleries including some of the industries finest.

Before deciding on which tours I was interested, I needed a place to stay, and the first place to pop up on my search engine was The Mash Tun. Located in Aberlour, the Mash Tun is within a small taxi ride of countless distilleries, prefect for anyone looking to go along the whisky trial. After a quick look at their website, I began planning tours to surrounding distilleries. Accommodation at The Mash Tun is splendid, and exceeded any and all of my expectations. They offer B&B in five rooms, each named after a local whisky, and all painted with bright and fresh colors. Every room offers the typical on-suite facilities, not to mention in-room tea, coffee and locally made shortbread biscuits. Breakfast consisted of an assortment of bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, porridge, cereal, and fresh fruit.

I had a chance to meet a few of the locals while I stayed in Aberlour, and without question, they were some of the most nicest, kindest people I have had the privilege of meeting. When I checked in late on Sunday night, I was shown to my room and told that breakfast would be served anytime I was ready. After a great night of sleep, I awoke, washed up and made my way downstairs for breakfast. As I was waiting for my meal to be served, I enquired about local taxi services and asked if they knew of someone they could recommend. I was asked what time I needed a lift, and was told not to worry, and that a taxi would be here to collect me when I was ready. I was standing outside for no more than 30 seconds before my taxi arrived, and I was away for tour number one.

My driver was an older man, and very willing to talk about the area, and answer questions by tourists like myself. He was unlike any taxi driver I’ve had before, as he had a marvelous habit of rounding fares down. The first stop came to ₤12.60, and he said, “Just give us a tenner lad.” After being dropped off, I asked if he would be free to collect me and take me to my next destination. “Nee worries lad, I’ll be here for ya.’ he proclaimed, and sure enough as I was browsing the gift shop he pulled into the parking lot. On my arrival at tour number two, he once again trimmed my fare down to another “tenner” and told me that he would be back to collect me whenever I was ready. After tour number two, I certainly needed a taxi home, and not to disappoint, I had the privilege of another “tenner” fare. I graciously thanked him and offered to buy him a pint should he turn up at the pub later.

The Mash Tun is truly an exceptional B&B, but it is just as outstanding if not more so as a pub. Featuring a fine selection of beers, from crisp refreshing lagers, to locally produced ales, there is certainly a drink for everyone. Oh, and then of course, there’s the whisky. The Mash Tun owns one of the most exceptional collections of whiskies I have ever witnessed, including the Glenfarclas Family Series, a collection of Single Cask whiskies for each year from 1952 up to 1995. Sitting in a display cabinet on the back wall, I was looking at whiskies that were distilled before the introduction of cellphones, microwave ovens, and some even before man walked on the moon. I remember sitting there and thinking I should give one a try, but I relented, and stuck with a nice frosty pint of Tennent’s Extra Cold. As I look back, I think it might be cool to have a dram from the year in which I was born, but that would mean another trip to The Mash Tun, and judging by my first experience, that certainly would be a good thing.

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Dalwhinnie Distillery

Having spent a lovely morning touring the Glenkinchie Distillery, I made my way north into the Scottish highlands and set my sights for Dalwhinnie. Roughly 100 miles north of Edinburgh, the Dalwhinnie Distillery sits in the hamlet of Dalwhinnie. Located directly off the A9, this tiny community is found among the peaks and valleys of the Scottish highlands, which provide some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer.

As this was my second tour of the day, I allowed myself plenty of time to make the journey between the distilleries. Having made great time along the A9, I made a brief stop at a small cafe in Dalwhinnie itself, as I had not had anything to eat since my early breakfast and it was soon approaching 2:00pm. John,the gentleman running the cafe was tremendous, as he set out a proper place setting at my table, complete with knife, fork, place mat, coaster, and so forth. As he waited for the bacon to cook for my sandwich, he told me stories of the local area, and what it was like to work and live in Dalwhinnie. After I finished what was one the best bacon butties I have ever had, I made my way to the cash and noticed a book on the counter. Dalwhinnie: A Hamlet on the Great Road was a book that was put together by a group known as Dalwhinnie Past and Present. Of the group, John’s wife was an active member and had made contributions to the publishing of the book. I had a quick flip through the pages and was sold. Every page was loaded with photographs: school photos, local scenery, old maps, and of course the distillery. I made no hesitation and purchased the book, as a fitting souvenir to my visit. With my book in hand, I made my way up the road to the distillery.

When I arrived at Dalwhinnie the parking lot was nearly empty, and I had high hopes that I might get my second personal tour of the day. I went inside the visitor centre to let them know that I had arrived and was ready for my tour. They took my new passport given to me at Glenkinchie and stamped it. 2 down, only 12 to go. I was told that I was quite early for my tour and that there would be one starting in roughly 10 minutes if I’d like to go at that time instead. Not seeing anyone in the gift shop, I agreed and went outside to take some pictures before the tour began. As you can see the it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see. I was just on my way back into the visitor centre when a bright yellow tour bus pulled up, and nearly twenty people piled off ready for their tour. Well, two personal tours in a day would be asking too much.

Our tour group featured quite a selection of people. There were four Swedish college students, three young couples from Australia, and two rather large families from Japan. Seeing as how no one else had ever been to a working distillery, our tour guide made sure to take his time and thoroughly go through the distillation process. Having a basic understanding of the whisky making process, I was looking for those little stories that allow you to distinguish the brand from other distillers. With the tour coming to its conclusion we returned to the visitor centre where we were given a wee dram of Dalwhinnie 15 year old, the brand’s core expression. This is a lovely whisky, so light and warm, yet there is not a hint of peat. Much like Glenkinchie earlier in the day, Dalwhinnie has a soft straw-like colour, and is very gentle to the senses. It is certainly a single malt whisky that I would recommend for anyone who is looking to discover the world of whiskies.  Now my day was done, I had just finished my second distillery tour,  and I was ready to head back to England. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Categories: Tours, Whisky | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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