A quick 2 day whisky trip with two guests who love the amber nectar (sometimes not so amber). I left Perth on Monday, driving up to Grantown on Spey, in the heart of the Scottish highlands. It’s a traditional highland town on the River Spey surrounded by ancient woodlands, much of which is community owned and offers a unique habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
The town’s square and high street are lined with independent shops and businesses selling everything from children’s clothes to whisky, fishing line to pottery. There are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants including of course, Maclean’s Bakery! A MUST for every visitor. I arrived and checked into my digs, dropped off my wee bag and went looking for a dram. Not too many now, as I am driving in the morning.
We start the whisky trail Tuesday 1 November: We start after breakfast, to Dufftown for a tour at The Balvenie Distillery. Bottling your own Balvenie in Warehouse 24 costs £25 and is well worth it! They still grow their own barley and keep faith with a traditional malting floor, the last of its’ kind in the Scottish highlands. Resident Coppersmiths maintain the stills and a team of Coopers ensure each barrel is in perfect condition. We have taken so many whisky lovers here it’s untrue and they ALL love it.
We dropped into The Highlander Inn for lunch, some good craic here with owner Tatsuya Minagawa. We then drove to Glenfarclas Distillery. Since 1865 Glenfarclas has been owned and managed by just one family, the Grants of Glenfarclas. On the 8th of June 1865 John Grant acquired the tenancy for the Rechlerich Farm and as part of the transaction purchased the Glenfarclas Distillery for £511.19S.0d. (we bought a bottle of this a while back, we need to drink it!) To this day Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family owned and managed. Now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generation of the family, the Grants remain committed to the vision of creating the best quality Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, in the traditional Speyside style. We returned to Grantown on Spey.
Whisky and hairy coo’s Wednesday 2 November: We drove to the Glenlivet Distillery for a 10am tour. Today The Glenlivet name is known worldwide for setting the standard in taste and quality but it began with one man: George Smith. Born in 1792 on a small hillside farm in the parish of Glenlivet, George Smith came from a long line of illicit distillers. As a young man his perseverance and determination were clear to see, as he stepped up to support his family by working as a joiner, building barns, mending fences and doing odd jobs on neighbouring farms. Myself having a cuppa, my guests Anne and Don went off on their private tour – by the way lasted until 12.15. Aye they enjoyed themselves – and the drams!
We drove to Cardhu Distillery where a tasting has been booked, (nae tour, the quiet season) we fed the hairy coo’s. A friend of a friend of ours owns them, they are his pets! Great fun, then wandered over to the distillery. Guests were taken through a tutored nosing and tasting – including all the Cardhu drams and a glass to take home. The Cardhu Distillery is the only distillery started by a woman. Johnnie Walker is the biggest selling blended whisky in the world and Cardhu is the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker in Speyside. It’s a shame driver Paul could not join in! Then on to tour Dufftown and photo all the distilleries there, then back to the hotel, then headed home.
Another successful whisky trip, however short.
Paul, November 2016.