Posts Tagged With: classic malts

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.

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Glenkinchie Distillery

A week after visiting Auchentoshan, I made my way north up the A68 towards Edinburgh, and the Glenkinchie Distillery. Located about 15 miles from Edinburgh city centre, Glenkinchie is nestled among the small villages and rolling hills of the south Scottish countryside. Much like my previous tour at Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie is one of very few lowland distilleries still in operation today.

My visit to Glenkinchie was the first of two distillery I had planned for the day, so I had arranged to take the first available tour, which was 10:00am. After parking across the road, I made my way through the grounds, and past the lawn bowling green to the visitor centre. Inside was a well stocked gift shop, with a bountiful supply of whiskies, books, and souvenirs. As I paid for my tour, I was told that there was a group on their way, and that once they arrived, the tour would begin. I was shown through to an area full of displays and exhibits on the history of Glenkinchie, and the of the local area. I was told there was a meeting place at the other end of the room, and that would be the point from where the tour would commence.

As I began to stroll through the exhibits, I saw old pictures of the distillery, old bottles from years gone by, and so much more. The most fascinating display was a massive scale model of a distillery. It included all the stages of the distillation process, and provided a step by step account of whisky making from milling the barley to filling the casks. Having had time to sit and study the model, I am now have a greater understanding when taking tours as to what is happening at a particular stage in the whisky making process. Another interesting exhibit was that of a local farmer who began buying the left over mash for use as cattle feed. Apparently the leftover mash once all the liquid has been drained away was full of nutrients not found in traditional cattle feed, and from all accounts, the cows enjoyed the taste too. This farmer began to enter his herd into local and county fairs, and for a good number of years was awarded best in show, and he credited it to the feed he received from the distillery. Selling mash to farmers is now something that happens at most distilleries, as it provides an efficient disposal for the distillery, while giving the cows a tasty, nutritious feed. During my tour, I was informed that the displays set up were actually sitting on the old malting floors, a process which like most distilleries, Glenkinchie abandoned a number of years ago.

Once I reached the end of the exhibits, I took a seat and waited for the missing group to arrive. Roughly five minutes passed, and a young woman poked her head through the doorway and introduced herself as Amanda. She explained to me that the group were unable to make it on time, therefore, I was fortunate enough to have a private tour of the distillery. She began by asking what sort of knowledge I had about Scotch, and the distillation process, and I responded by explaining my love for the sweet nectar, and which tours I had taken previously. This gave a frame of reference for Amanda, and she was able to spend a great deal more time talking to me about Glenkinchie itself, rather whisky making in general. We made our way around the mash house, and still houses, and ended up in my favourite place, the warehouses. Although they are dark, damp, and cold, the smell of a traditional stone warehouse is a scent that is so warm and comforting. The warehouse which we visited was right across the courtyard from the visitor centre, and it was obvious by the low ceiling and beautiful, intoxicating aroma that this was one of the original warehouses from many years ago.

Now came time for what is usually my favourite part of any tour, the tasting room. Glenkinchie aren’t know for having a wide range of age expressions, as they sell a majority of their whiskies for use in blends. In fact, if I recall correctly, I believe upwards of 5% of Johnnie Walker Red Label is made up of whiskies from Glenkinchie. This left me what I thought would have been a small selection from which to sample (which was good seeing as how I was driving all day) but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the selection before me. I had the customary dram of Glenkinchie 12 Year Old, and it’s light, golden body went down a treat, and it wasn’t yet 11:00am. Amanda then pointed to the large selection of bottles on the shelves behind and asked if there was anything else I would like to try. I nearly cried, the thought of all those whiskies just waiting to be sipped, but I informed Amanda that I was driving to Dalwhinnie for a distillery tour that afternoon. At first I thought she didn’t like what I had said, as she simply turned and walked away. Not sure what to do, I began to gather my things when she made her way out of the backroom. In her hands was a little faux leather passport, and in it were a list of distilleries. She explained that if I signed up to be a friend of the “Classic Malts”, I would be given free admission to each distillery, and for every distillery I visit, I would get a stamp in my passport. Should I visit all 12 distilleries, I could send my passport away and I would get a token of their appreciation. It was free to become a friend of the “Classic Malts”, and it just so happened that my next stop, Dalwhinnie, was one of the participating distilleries. This day was just getting better and better, and aside from the fact that I had to turn down so many lovely drams, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I had a personal tour of a distillery, and I now had a free pass to 11 more. I would not hesitate to go back to Glenkinchie again, I just hope I could have Amanda again as my tour guide, and have someone else come along to be my designated driver.

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