In part one of my Speyside road trip I will be discussing the planning for the trip and the reasons behind where I have chosen to visit. Part two will be the commencing of the journey.
A few months ago my girlfriend informed me that she had booked us a long weekend away in Elgin, Morayshire (Speyside). Now to most people this would be a lovely relaxed weekend away, but to a whisky drinker this is the dream opportunity to visit some of the best distilleries in Scotland. She gave me the dates that she had booked our accommodation for, we would be staying in Elgin from the 16th to the 19th of September – excellent, four days to cram in as much as possible – and I feverishly began looking up the distilleries I wanted to visit and noted tour times and prices and journey routes.
I knew there were a few distilleries that I definitely wanted to visit but there are so many up in Speyside that there are almost too many to choose from, I felt like a parent being forced to choose between their children. In the end I narrowed it down to five that I wanted to go and see, all very different and all for different reasons – I would have planned to visit more though I thought if we went round too many that my partner might get fed up and there would be no chance of Speyside road trip number 2! (And if she is reading this then yes, that is a hint) The distilleries I planned on visiting are as follows in no particular order:
Aberlour – Aberlour has always been one of my favourite whiskies, from the first time I tried their 10yo to my first sip of their wonderful A’bunadh, and I knew no matter what that I had to go round and see the distillery; this was a must for the trip!
Benromach – I find Benromach to be such an interesting distillery, it certainly has had a colourful and patchy existence but since being taken on my Gordon and MacPhail it has come on leaps and bounds. As well as that there is always something nice about visiting the smaller distilleries, it always feels more personal. They also have a big focus on the ‘hand-crafted’ and ‘traditional’ side of production which I think is just fantastic in this day and age.
Cragganmore – This was amongst one of the first single malts that I ever tried as I began my adventures into the world of whisky; their 12yo is such a complex and satisfying dram for its age that it is always a good go to whisky. Since I first tried it this has always had a place on my shelf since that day, and I couldn’t travel all the way up to Speyside and not pop in for a look around.
Glen Moray – I’m going to come straight out and say this, I’ve never really been a big fan of Glen Moray, it is growing on me but what I’ve tried of theirs so far I wouldn’t consider to be amongst my favourites, I’m not saying it’s a bad whisky by any means, I do quite like their chardonnay matured stuff and some of their finishes have been really good. There are a few reasons I chose to visit Glen Moray, firstly it’s right next to where we are staying so no need to drive. Secondly I know they have recently undergone a huge expansion and so it will be interesting to see that. And finally it’s quite an industrial distillery, so very different from the others I plan on visiting.
Glenfarclas – Glenfarclas has always been a distillery that has intrigued me, I have heard great things about their product though I must confess that I have only tried a few of their bottlings, and what I have tried has been very good. I also like that fact that they are still a family owned distillery, which is becoming increasingly rare in the industry today.
As well as visiting these distilleries I also planned on visiting the Speyside Cooperage, as recommended by Andy, The Amateur drammer, on Twitter. After looking into it further I knew I had to go and watch these master craftsmen at work, forming the casks that would house and nurture the whisky of the future.
After deciding on where I wanted to visit I began getting in touch with them all and arranging the visits and trying to formulate a plan for the weekend. After a lot of playing about and juggling things around I had it all sorted. And to say I was excited for my trip north would be one of the biggest understatements ever made, the plan was as follows.
Friday – this was the day that we would be heading up to Elgin and so would be passing my beloved Cragganmore and Glenfarclas on the way through Speyside, and managed to get a tour booked for each on the way past.
Saturday – our first day in Elgin and we planned on heading towards Forres and the Benromach distillery, then on the way back pop into Glen Moray.
Sunday – on Sunday I didn’t make any plans and left this up to my partner to arrange anything that she wanted to do – I thought after four distilleries in two days she deserved it…
Monday – the sad day when I had to return home, though possibly the day that I was most excited for. On the Monday we planned on stopping by the Speyside Cooperage on our way south to Aberlour, then home.
Plans made and set all that was left to do was wait for the day to arrive when we would venture up north and into the wild highlands of Scotland. Part 2 of the journey can be found here – Part 2.