And so begins the final part of my Speyside Road Trip, my final day up in Speyside before returning home. I wasn’t going to get too disheartened though as it may have been my last day but I knew it was going to be the best. The agenda for the day included a sluggishly slow packing of our things and leaving the yurt before hitting the road, we had two stops planned for our journey back through Speyside on the way home. The first scheduled stop was the Speyside cooperage, the second was my beloved Aberlour distillery.
After we had eventually got all of our stuff packed and into the car we hit the road once again, this was the day I had been most looking forward to and I clearly showed, I was just sat shaking in my seat with excitement. The half hour drive was painfully long; it lasted far longer than it did on the way up. By the time we reached the cooperage I burst out of the door and skipped like an idiot up to the visitor centre, eager to see the master craftsmen at work.
The Speyside Cooperage tour started with a short 10/15 minute 4D film which was very interesting, showing the process from acorn to tree to cask and everything in-between. After the film we were taken up to a viewing platform above the cooperage by our tour guide Philip, who was previously employed in production, maturation and coopering at Glenrothes for 36 years! The cooperage employs 16 coopers at present, and they get paid per cask! It is immensely hard work that they are doing, and each will make around 20 casks per day, they make it look so effortless. In your average year Philip said the cooperage will churn out between 90,000 and 100,000 casks!
After standing, mesmerised, watching the coopers work for 15mins or so we then went to have a go at assembling a mini cask ourselves, it was very frustrating, but with a lot of help from my partner we got there eventually – I’ll be a master cooper one day! Out of all the experiences in Speyside I would probably have to say this was definitely one of the highlights, it is a very interesting tour and well worth the stop. Thanks again to Andy, the Amateur Drammer, for recommending a visit here.
After our tour at the cooperage and a bit of lunch we then went the short drive to Aberlour, the star of the trip, I couldn’t wait. The gatehouse at Aberlour is such an iconic and picturesque building that it is possibly one of the most attractive visitor centres in Scotland.
Our tour was with Donna and she gave a very in-depth and informative tour, with a lot of personality behind it which was good to hear. She gave arguably the best tour of the trip. I found the history behind the distillery very fascinating, and how it helped to shape Aberlour, the town around the distillery. One of the first things that became apparent while walking around the distillery was the lack of staff. The production is heavily automated nowadays at the distillery and the whole process can be controlled from one of four computers in the production area. A highlight of the tour was getting to taste the fresh wash prior to distillation. I must say, it was actually really nice; I’m certainly not planning on drinking it any time soon as it would literally go right through you but it did taste quite good.
The best part of the Aberlour tour was the tasting, we were each given a tasting flight of five whiskies and a sample of their new make spirit. The tasting included two Aberlour cask strength batches, both from batches AB16, one was a 13yo first fill barrel, the second was a 16yo Olorosso sherry monster, and it was so intense. As well as these the tasting also included some of their standard bottlings, the 10, 16 and the most recent batch of A’bunadh, 54. Now I am always a fan of a big sherry cask monster but I must say for me the 13yo Bourbon barrel matured Aberlour was probably my favourite from the selection.
Unfortunately for my partner she had to drive us home so we got some samples bottles to take them home in, which she generously donated to me, I will most certainly be reliving that tasting at some point in the near future.
Tasting over and our thanks given to Donna for the great tour it was time to head for the car, and the long drive home. I couldn’t believe how quickly the long weekend of whisky madness had past; it was time to get back to reality. As we passed again the magnificent sight that is Tormore I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
It had been an amazing few days away and I knew it certainly wouldn’t be my last visit up there! Until next time my Speyside friends…