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My Half-Term Report (including the hiccoughs)

I am, surprise surprise, beyond halfway now. That juncture was passed on the Saturday night in Helmsdale.

From a fairly precarious outlook in Braemar a fortnight previously, I have entered and exited Speyside (notable highlights being Glenfiddich and Aberlour on the distillery side, Sandy and everyone at A Taste of Speyside in the way of general, unlikely angels), and journeyed up the north-east coast to Wick and beyond to John o’Groats where the concentration of cyclists increased dramatically with those starting or finishing their Lands End to John o’Groats attempts. I’m behind in relating all of these stages to you. Forgive me. For now, I am attempting to ease the backlog of distillery tours – there have been many, and I still need to bring you my views on 11 of them. Yikes!

I am in ‘Whisky Magazine’, after all. There isn’t a picture so I might not be able to use it as a passport for free entry to my following tours but it was a thrill. Unfortunately it reminded me that this blog is not quite the outfit I had hoped, and which one might expect to find mention of in a quality publication like ‘WM’. It also means that the amateurish nature of this site is most likely known to even more people – and perhaps the very whisky enthusiasts I had meant to contact in the first place. I’m sorry guys: no pictures yet and irregular updates. I haven’t my own computer with me so I am very much at the mercy of the IT facilities at my hostels. I shall be spending much time on it once I return home, however, which is two weeks on Saturday. Patience, please, because I’m having quite an adventure up here.

I feel it my duty to explain that between telling Mr Allanson (editor of ‘WM’) of my travels and details of said travels appearing in the magazine, I actually undertook those travels. Certain distilleries have had to be avoided or were closed to me, so that figure of 49 is no longer accurate. Here are the casualties and why:

Blair Athol – Unexpectedly closed, their silent season having been brought forward. There will be no tours of the distillery until July.

Dalwhinnie – I would have died trying to get there. The post dealing with my journey to Braemar will contextualise my exact condition at the time.

Tomatin – See above.

Glendronach – Following my 60-mile slog in the rain, my bike was in a pretty poor state. The cleaning of it and sourcing of oil (and general pulling of hair) left too little time to head out east for Forgue and still make it back for Strathisla.

The Balvenie – It seems I should have booked weeks in advance. I phoned on the Friday to book a tour on the Monday (the 23rd for the 25th) and discovered that they were fully booked until nearly a week into May. This was even before the festival. Be advised.

Dallas Dhu – I elected not to tour this distillery on the advice of the guide at Cragganmore. She said that its museum nature was a rather tragic contrast to the working distilleries and was unlikely to show me anything I had not already encountered.  Also, omitting it saved me time and money. If you are interested, though, it is a self-guided tour round the old production areas, then a video and a dram.

Clynelish – Having struggled along the A9 in the rain under the assumption that the distillery was open (all of my reading and research had said that they were open on Saturdays), I found it to be shut up entirely. This was annoying. It seems they are open on Saturdays… as of next month. No literature or website told me this. I should have phoned ahead, but as I said, I didn’t think there would be any problem.

So not a full tour in the slightest anymore. I am still covering the miles and getting a sense of the regions, however. As I have (quite happily) come to realise over the course of this tour, though: Scotland isn’t going anywhere. I can plan another tour which encompasses the missed distilleries from this loop, as well as returns to those which have made a real impression on me, which at present include Tullibardine, Royal Lochnagar, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, Glen Garioch, and Highland Park, which I toured today.

« Glen Garioch – Strathisla »

4 Comments »

  1. Marc Castermans

    Congrats on reaching the half way marker. What an accomplishment but indeed a damn shame you had to miss so many distilleries but rest ashured, many more to visit on the second half ;-)
    I just figured that it would have been a nice idea to mention what whiskies you can exclusively buy in the shops at the distilleries, maybe something for the rest of the visits or if you still remember for the already visited ones.
    Just a thought hé, hope to hear from you soon.

    PS: I noticed your article in WM too, you’re getting quite famous ;-)

    Greets,
    Marc

    #1 Comment vom 05. May 2010 um 7:19 pm

  2. Jeff H.

    Hi James,
    Congratulations on your achievements so far! No need to apologize. Just cover what you can and share the info when you’re able. You’re doing a great job.

    Looking forward to seeing the pictures in a couple of weeks!

    Cheers,
    Jeff

    #2 Comment vom 06. May 2010 um 6:19 am

  3. Marc Castermans

    Congrats on reaching the half way marker. What an accomplishment but indeed a damn shame you had to miss so many distilleries but rest ashured, many more to visit on the second half
    I just figured that it would have been a nice idea to mention what whiskies you can exclusively buy in the shops at the distilleries, maybe something for the rest of the visits or if you still remember for the already visited ones.
    Just a thought hé, hope to hear from you soon.
    PS: I noticed your article in WM too, you’re getting quite famous
    Greets,
    Marc

    #3 Comment vom 06. May 2010 um 3:57 pm

  4. saxon

    Many thanks, Jeff and Marc. It certainly was a significant milestone, physically and psychologically.
    Marc, it’s funny you should highlight the bottling side of things, because the same thing occurred to me towards the end of my stint in Speyside and I cursed that I hadn’t thought of it sooner.
    A lot of people have asked if I have been buying any whiskies on my trip round, and that got me thinking about what whiskies I would buy if I had the space and a budget of maybe £100 per distillery. I can remember much of the shops in the distilleries, so shall try and revise my tour reviews to reflect the products on offer.
    Speak soon,
    James

    #4 Comment vom 09. May 2010 um 8:40 am

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