Sunday, June 10, 2012

Scotland: The Distilleries

We first were in Scotland (specifically Edinburgh) in 2004 at the end of our UK tour where we went to Wales, England and Scotland with a lot more time in London.  By the time we got to Edinburgh we were tired! We swore we'd go back.  I still remember having a taste of scotch at a pub in Edinburgh along the Royal Miles.  We'd just started to try scotch at home but hadn't developed much of a palette.  Eight years later, we were going back with friends with the express idea of tasting scotch in Scotland.  It's known as scotch here in the US, but there it's called Single Malt Whisky (no "e" as in the US spelling).

There are scattered distilleries all over the country but we knew we didn't want to do too many distillery tours (the only way to get a taste usually).  Instead we'd buy mini-bottles and taste test in the evening at the B&B.  This way the driver (K!) could get a chance to taste too.  We were all amazed by the selection of whisky in the grocery stores.

After Glasgow and Inverness we headed to Elgin (pronounced el-gin with the "g" pronounced as in the word "guy").  Elgin was an easy home base to the heart of the whisky region of Speyside a particularly known area of whisky making.  Above, K and friends are walking along the River Spey.  We did just two distillery tours.  One was at Dallas Dhu an historic distillery now closed (in mid-80s). 

The pot still shown to the right is from Dallas Dhu.  Most other distilleries which are in production won't let you take photos.  They are bigger than I expected and really quite beautiful.  At Dallas Dhu we got a good intro to the basics of whisky making as it happened from the late 1800s through most of the 20th century. 

Having made it to Oban but been turned away from their distillery tour since it was full, we'd heard about another tour at Aberlour Distiller in Aberlour (rhymes with "sour").  This tour which was three hours long and included whisky tasting paired with chocolate (!) was one of the highlights of the trip.

It was a small group with the four of us and four very serious whisky affectionados from Sweden. Serious but friendly and we all got chattier as the tour progressed.  We got taken through the history of Aberlour and taken onto the main floors where production was taking place.  OMG.  It was hot! 

The tour guide really did a great job of explaining everything and had samples of all types of things you'd see in the process (watch out for foreshot!).

And then we got to taste four different single malts after having had an intro one before starting the tour.  Five wee drams no matter how tasty are still a bit much for me before lunch time! 

It was great though and we even had the opportunity to pull our own bottle from a single cask.  Really, i could not pass up the opportunity.  We bought just a couple more bottles from duty free shopping leaving Glasgow as packing space was limited and not quite up to carting liter bottles in my soft-sided rolling luggage.  We were really impressed that the Swedes planned on taking back 10 liters which is their full allotment of whisky under European Union regulations. Try and fit that into your luggage next time.  And carry-on luggage had weight restrictions for them.  We figure they only brought back whisky and left all their clothing in Scotland!  

And of course we did manage to spot another Highland Cow herd which was decoratively posing by a castle with a distillery in the background.  Yeah.  It was a good day! 

And no one wanted the day to end.  Have you ever tried your porridge (oatmeal) with some whisky mixed in?  Well try it because the aroma and flavor of the whisky really complements the oats.  Too bad I can't have this breakfast every day before work!  

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