Clynelish, Casually


Clynelish was my fifth DIageo distillery visit, and the second of this trip (after Cragganmore), and I wasn’t sure what to expect. While my visit to Lagavulin last year had been a highlight—both for the Warehouse Experience and for the general vibe at the distillery—and my brief stop at Cragganmore likewise very pleasant, I feared that the more perfunctory attitude I encountered at Talisker and Oban might make an appearance again at Clynelish. I was very happy to be proved completely wrong. We stopped here on our way from Dornoch to Wick. The distillery is located only 30 minutes or so from Dornoch, and it’s a lovely drive there up the coast. Given my expectations—and also the fact that I had a tour booked at Pulteney at 2 pm that day—I had not planned for a tour at Clynelish and so what I have for you is my usual look at the grounds and at the Visitor Centre/shop.  Continue reading

Balblair, Briefly


Balblair was my third distillery stop on the day of my visit. The day had begin with a tour of Aberlour. Then on the way out of the Speyside we stopped briefly at Glenfarclas. A couple of hours later we were at Balblair. If you’re ever planning a trip in this part of Scotland and wondering about distillery visits, you should know that it’s very easy to get to Balblair. It’s less than an hour from Inverness and mostly on a nice big highway. It’s very easy to combine it with a visit to the Loch Ness area. And if you so chose, you could stop at Dalmore and Glenmorangie along the way. We did not stop and arrived at Balblair about an hour and a half before closing time.  Continue reading

Glenfarclas on the Go


Having just written up a Speyside distillery that I did tour (Aberlour), let me hit you with one last distillery visit that did not involve a tour. This was my second stop at Glenfarclas in as many days. You may recall that my friend Daniel and I went to Glenfarclas on the Sunday afternoon of our Speyside jaunt only to discover that they are closed on Sundays (and also on Saturdays—at least in June). We then went to Cragganmore instead. The next day, after we’d toured Aberlour and lunched at the Mash Tun, Daniel and his family drove back to Edinburgh. We drove to Dornoch but decided to go a bit south rather than north to meet the A9. This resulted in the only sustained bit of very narrow road driving on this trip, as our sat nav took us through a slightly more picturesque route than we were looking for to get to the A9. It also meant that we were going to be driving past Glenfarclas rather than Benromach on the way, and so we paused for about 15 minutes for me to walk around the distillery grounds and in the visitor centre.  Continue reading

Touring Aberlour


Here is my sixth report on a visit to a distillery in the Speyside and it’s finally one that I toured. (Previous stops were at Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, Strathisla, Glen Moray and Glen Grant.) I was very much looking forward to this visit as I’d heard a lot about their distillery exclusive bottles and was hoping to taste and purchase one of each, and certainly at least the ex-bourbon cask they’re said to always have on offer. And the tour itself has a very good reputation—it’s one of those that is always recommended by whisky geeks to people making their first visit to the Speyside. Well, I was disappointed on one score and pleased on the other.  Continue reading

Cragganmore at Closing Time


Cragganmore was the third distillery I visited on our Sunday in the Speyside in June. I’d not actually had any plans to visit it. The plan was Strathisla in the morning, followed by Glenfiddich, and then the afternoon at Ballindalloch Castle. After Glamis Castle on the way to the Speyside, however, we weren’t feeling like another castle tour and so decided to just hang out in their gardens—which include extensive play areas and activities for kids. When we got there, one of the gents at one of the activity tables asked my friend Daniel and me if we’d been to Glenfarclas yet (it had somehow come up that we were interested in whisky). No, we said. You should really go, he said, it’s just a few miles away. And so off the two of us went. And found that Glenfarclas is closed on Sundays. Rather than go right back we decided to drive a few miles the other way to Cragganmore, which we’d established was open on Sundays. We arrived just about 20 minutes before closing but got a warm welcome.  Continue reading

At Glenfiddich


There was no way I was going to go to the Speyside and not stop in at either of the region’s two most historically significant names. The most significant distillery, of course, is Glenlivet. But Glenlivet was just a bit too far out of the way for our mostly non-whisky-obsessed group. Glenfiddich has the added attraction of being situated right by the ruins of Balvenie Castle. And so it was an easy choice to go to the distillery that pioneered the marketing of distillery-released single malt whisky in the early 1960s. Accordingly, we drove right there from Strathisla. The two make for quite a contrast, especially in quick juxtaposition. Continue reading

Strathisla on a Sunday


Strathisla was supposed to be the first distillery we stopped at on this trip to Scotland. We left Edinburgh in the morning on a Friday and drove north and slightly east to Glamis Castle, thanking my many-armed gods along the way for the big highway we were on. We ate lunch at and toured Glamis Castle with our friends and then headed towards the Speyside. (By the way, if you’re into the Scottish castles thing, I heartily recommend Glamis Castle; they have very nice grounds—including play areas for kids—and while it’s pricey, the ticket includes a very good guided tour.) We chose to go via Aberdeen, in order to stay on large highways the whole way. This seemed like it had been an excellent decision until we got out of Aberdeen. Then a horrific accident on the A96 bottled up traffic for a good long while, and there was no way we were going to get to the distillery before they closed. Sitting on the highway we texted between cars and decided to head straight to dinner in Craigellachie instead (an enjoyable meal at the Highlander Inn, on which more later). As such, Glen Grant ended up being the first distillery we stopped at the next morning; Glen Moray followed that. We finally got to Strathisla bright and early on our second day in the Speyside, a Sunday morning.  Continue reading

Glen Moray, On the Run (Summer 2018)


Glen Moray was our second distillery stop on our first full day in the Speyside. I’d originally planned for us to eat lunch at their cafe, with the possibility of a quick tour. But things didn’t pan out that way.

We started the day at Glen Grant and drove up to Elgin. After a visit to Elgin Cathedral, a large part of the group broke off to do a “Murder Mystery Treasure Trail” (highly recommended if you have small children with you) while a small splinter went off to check out Elgin’s other cathedral, the Gordon & MacPhail store—you’ll never guess which group I was part of. (Gordon & MacPhail was a hugely disappointing experience, as I will report later.) As the Treasure Trail had not been completed by lunch time we decided to eat in Elgin, finish the trail, and then go straight to our primary afternoon destination: Roseisle Beach in Burghead. On the way, we popped into Glen Moray while our friends went grocery shopping for dinner. While the kids used the facilities, I did a quick walk around the shop and distillery grounds, snapping crappy pictures, and then we were off. But there’s no reason why you should not look at those pictures now, is there?  Continue reading

At Glen Grant, Mostly in the Gardens (Summer 2018)


I may as well begin my long series of reports on our recent trip to Scotland with a look at the first distillery we visited: Glen Grant. It had not originally been on my list of places to stop at in the Speyside—where we rented a house with friends for a weekend after our time in Edinburgh. But Florin recommended it as a distillery where there’d be a lot for non-whisky-crazed members of the party to do, and so we stopped in. Florin was right. Though I didn’t do it the way I think he’d meant I should: me touring the distillery while the others wandered the grounds. As on our last trip to Scotland, I didn’t want to spend most of my time inside distilleries, doing repetitive tours. Especially when a distillery like Glen Grant has something truly unusual outside it: expansive and very attractive grounds. And so I joined everybody else in the gardens, where the kids ran and played and had a grand old time for almost an hour. It was a very good whisky-free introduction to whisky country.  Continue reading

Kilchoman


Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay). Continue reading

Bruichladdich, Barely (Summer 2017)


Here is my penultimate distillery visit report from our recent visit to Islay. I’ve already gone over my longer visits to Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bowmore (where I did tours) and to Ardbeg (where we ate lunch) and short stops at Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. Here now is a brief look at Bruichladdich. We stopped here a little after my tour at Bowmore. We were on our way to Portnahaven, trying to figure out where to have lunch, and stopped at Bruichladdich to see if they might have a cafe (for some reason I’d thought they might). They do not, but I took the opportunity to take a quick look around and take a bunch of photographs.  Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


We visited Ardbeg on our first and second full days on Islay but on neither occasion was it for whisky-centered action. I did not do any of the tours or tastings the distillery offers. Instead, we were there to eat. Old Islay-hands already know this but Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Cafe may very well be the best place to eat on Islay—it certainly was where we had our best meals. I’d originally thought I’d only have the one post on our visits to Ardbeg, centered on food. But when the time came to resize and crop pics this weekend I discovered that, predictably, I’d taken an amount known to mathematicians as a shit-tonne—and I felt that it would be cruel to deny you the opportunity to look at all of them: many of which are of the same subject from multiple angles, taken with different white balance and aperture settings on different cameras. (There is no need to thank me.) Accordingly, my post on the Old Kiln Cafe will come on Friday. Today I have pictures of the distillery grounds and the visitor centre/shop, which we wandered while waiting for tables to open up.  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)


On Wednesday I posted a look at the grounds and visitor centre of the venerable Bowmore distillery. Here now is a look at the interiors of many of the distillery’s most important buildings. As I’d mentioned, my initial hope had been to do the comprehensive Craftsman’s Tour but it was booked up before I got around to emailing the distillery. The basic tour was a consolation prize. This turned out to be a good thing though. For one thing, it meant I did the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin (which was the highlight of the whisky parts of our Scotland trip); for another, it meant we had time on this day to visit Kilchoman and go on to Machir Bay—and our time at Machir Bay turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. And as it happened, the basic tour at Bowmore is pretty damned good in its own right.  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


After Laphroaig, Bowmore was the Islay distillery I most wanted to visit. The distillery evokes a love-hate response from most whisky geeks and I’m one of those who is in the love camp, most of the time. (What can I say? I’m all about love and positivity.) And more than any distillery tour I’d wanted to do the Craftsman Tour at Bowmore, a 4 hour extravaganza that leads you through the entire process of whisky making and ends with a tasting session inside their legendary No. 1 vaults. Alas, I left making a reservation too late and they were full up the entire time that we were on Islay. On the plus side, it’s because of this that I ended up doing the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin, and if you’ve read my report you know how happy I am to have done that. At Bowmore I contented myself with just the basic 1 hour distillery tour. I can tell you that this is a pretty good tour—probably better than the tour portion of the Laphroaig Distillers’ Wares experience and about 500 times better than the perfunctory tour at Talisker. This post, however, does not describe that tour—that’s coming on Friday. This post merely presents a look at the distillery grounds and the shop and visitor centre. I have too many pictures, you see, and can’t be arsed to crop and resize them all at once. Continue reading