This is part two of my Speyside road trip, the first part can be found here – Part one
After what felt like an eternity it was time to start our journey up to Speyside. The day was crisp and filled with sunshine, the excitement in my partner was palpable as we packed the last of our stuff into the car, clearly as excited as I was as I skipped about the car, serving up facts about the distilleries we were visiting that day.
Car packed, house locked up, I jumped into the car and off we went, the dynamic duo on tour again, like some weird alcohol obsessed spin off from Batman and Robin. We got off to a flyer, travelling the first 150 meters in no time at all before being blocked off on the only road down from the house by some idiot picking up a skip, fantastic! Fast forward 10/15 minutes and he finally manages to get the skip on his truck and get out of our way, and the journey recommences…arse!
Another two hours or so of driving and we had arrived in Speyside, met by the stunning sight that is Tormore distillery I knew we were almost at our destination, then a short while later we were met by a gleaming sign on the winding country road ‘Cragganmore Distillery’. We arrive just in time, no thanks to the guy with the skip, literally crashing in the door about 3 minutes before the tour is scheduled to go out. Our guide for the tour was Rebecca who took us through the process, showing us the gorgeous copper roofed mashtun at Cragganmore, their shining stills and their unusual rectangular worm tubs. We were doing the expressions tour, with this one you get more whisky that with the others – it was a happy accident, I promise – and it is certainly worth the extra money as you get to sample three expressions of Cragganmore, one of which is a 1999 single cask whisky which is not for sale! It was a real treat and a delightful tasting.
Fortunately as I had driven the first part of the journey my partner was up for the second leg, allowing me to sample the Cragganmore’s until my heart was content. Once finished up there and said our good byes to the staff we hit the road again to our next stop. We didn’t have too long of a drive, only ten minutes or so, before we pulled up at Glenfarclas. When we headed into the visitor centre we thought we had gone through some sort of time warp, it felt like we had stepped through the door and gone back to the 70’s.
Our tour was with Matthew who was absolutely fantastic. It was a very thorough and informative tour, start to finish, he did a great job. The production at Glenfarclas was really good to see, the mashtun was simply immense (16.5 tonnes), the largest on Speyside and the stills were a beautiful array of colours from dull copper all the way through to dark mahogany. Glenfarclas is one of the few distilleries today in Scotland to still have directly fired stills i.e. an open flame providing the heating, it was interesting to see how they were bricked in to accommodate this. As we headed out to the warehousing the imposing mass of Benrinnes stood proud above the rows of dunnage warehouses. It was a breath taking sight, especially seeing as how it was gloriously sunny – we don’t get that sort of weather very often here in Scotland! The warehouse of any distillery is always the star of the show if they are maturing on site. The smells are just the best part of the tour, and Glenfarclas’ was no exception, especially with all the sherry maturation that they do, just wow!
Tour over we headed back to the centre for our tasters, the Glenfarclas 10yo and 15yo, which were lovely and intensely sherried as you may have guessed. I enjoyed the 15yo so much I decided to relieve them of a bottle, and then decided that I fancied a 21yo too after getting a taster of it. Bottles bought and my wallet a bit lighter we headed back to the car for the drive up to Elgin. It was a great wee drive, it was like distillery bingo, every few hundred yards you can see another one with the pagoda style roofs and the tall brickwork chimneys.
Once we arrived at our accommodation in Elgin we unpacked then sat down with a wee dram of the Glenfarclas 15yo, as we discussed a day well spent – by that I men I talked my partners ears of about the distilleries. Relaxing back with a dram in hand I couldn’t wait for day two of our Speyside trip, a visit to Benromach and Glen Moray, I knew this was going to be a great few days!
The road trip continues in Part 3.