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Scotch Odyssey 2: A Daft Prologue

The gorgeous Daftmill distillery.

Having said I wouldn’t be updating ‘live’, here I am. In truth, I cannot wait another two weeks to give an in-depth account of my time at Daftmill distillery (and I have access to a computer, photo-editing software and a strong cup of tea, so why the hell not?).

If my Scotch Odyssey was the Tour de France, today would be the Prologue, that weird mini time trial right at the start to shuffle the riders into some semblance of hierarchy and provide a stable location for a bit of a party. I left St Andrews at 8.40; I returned at 12.30. I went as far as Daftmill Farm, just beyond Cupar, to meet Quaich Society patron and vanguard farm distiller Francis Cuthbert.

Since its establishment in 2004, Daftmill distillery has kept a low profile. So low in fact, that I had some difficulty in finding it. After darkening the doorstep of someone’s house, I pedalled back to the main road to find another turn off and sailed right on past the correct one. Eventually, I tracked down the discreet pagoda and donned civilian gear.

The mash tun.

Francis adjusted the mash tun while I took photos, then the tour commenced. He has been rather busy this month showing ‘maltheads’ around, usually as they journey to Speyside or Islay. Germans and Swedes are especially keen to have a look round, with whisky-making happening in between times. Below the mash house are ten wheelie bins, filled with grist made from Daftmill’s own concerto barley. Having long grown barley for other distillers, Allied in the old days and Macallan currently, the journey to distilling his own spirit began after much discussion and interrogation. For the Cuthbert family, it was not a decision rushed into. They ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhed’ about installing a mill but chose to forego the expense and have their grist brought in. 100 tonnes (the smallest batch Crisp Maltings in Alloa will service) is sent away and comes back ready to be distilled.

While I was there the first mash of the current season was in progress. Francis likes to recirculate the worts to ensure clarity – as I was reminded over the course of the visit, Daftmill wants to produce a fruity, clean spirit and that all starts in the mash tun. Distillers yeast is then added, and fermentation takes between 72 and 100 hours. If the wort is crystal clear, fermentation goes off like a rocket and the switcher blades are forced to work overtime to control the rising froth, not always successfully. Francis told me that much of the alcohol has already been created after 48 to 50 hours, but longer ferments promote lactic acid build up as dead yeast cells are consumed, again generating those fruity flavours. Ideally, the wash should taste faintly sour or bitter as it is pumped across to the still house: distillation will recover that sweetness.

The Daftmill stills.

Why these stills, Francis? ‘We just picked a shape we liked,’ he replies with a shrug. Francis prefers to determine house style through his manipulation of the stills, rather than trust the shape to influence matters. Daftmill’s short, and very pretty stills are run slowly to maximise copper contact, and after each wash and spirit charge the man-doors are opened to allow the copper to rejuvenate. At every point, he is zoning in on the desired spirit character.

Half of a wash back’s contents goes into the wash still, producing 800-900 litres of low wines at 22-23% ABV. Into the spirit still, then, for a stately distillation. The aim is to capture some lovely succulent oils, but a seven-minute foreshot run clears out the fat and grease from previous feints which is, obviously, not wanted. The spirit cut is tiny, and impressively high: from 78% down to 73% ABV. I can only think of The Macallan and Glen Garioch that have a narrower middle cut. Water is added and the spirit is reduced to 63.5% (‘with the paddle’ – a lumped of wood rest on top of the spirit receiver) before being pumped across to the warehouse which is the final side of the courtyard.

Inside the warehouse.

When I arrived I imagined I smelt fermenting going on. Francis suggested it could the Quaker Oats factory nearby but I think it could be all the fresh Bourbon casks maturing behind the rich green doors. Inside, I was met with that dunnage warehouse aroma that I know and love so dearly: two floors hold Daftmill’s hundred or so casks (there is another warehouse elsewhere on the farm). All of the production from the past ten years stood in front of me and after fielding a farming-related phone call, Francis grabbed a valinch and set to work.

The vast majority of casks are from Heaven Hill in Kentucky: all first-fill ex-Bourbon. In recent years, due to oak demand, some have had to be sourced from Makers Mark and Jim Beam. Francis pulled out a shining measure of liquid from a 2006 barrel before pirouetting and breaking open a Sherry butt from the same year.

The two cask samples.

I nosed the ex-Bourbon sample and was met by a gust of lightly-bruised spearmint, Werther’s Originals, the creamiest, juiciest vanilla I’ve ever come across and sparkly, fudgey malt. The malt character reminded me of some Larks I’ve tasted: a combination of light, smooth and sweet malt and powdery shards of crystallised green fruit. It also bore some similarity to a single cask Kilchoman Peter Wills brought to the Quaich Society recently: clean, fresh and attractive. ‘You’re in good company,’ Francis said. ‘Charlie Maclean reckoned he could smell mint, too’. The palate presented a different face to Daftmill; still clean and fruity, with the spirit resisting the oak, before rich cereal notes entered together with butter on burnt crumpets. A real mouthfilling whisky, this one. Time in the glass revealed fat corn from the oak, lemon posset and banana chips.

The Sherry cask had contained Oloroso and the colour, as you can see, is spectacular. The nose was as clean and pure as the ex-Bourbon example, but with glace cherry and candied red apple before sultana flapjack and jellied grapefruit appeared. I professed astonishment that the spirit had not been bullied by the first-fill Sherry. Again, the thickness that registered on the palate was impressive: toasty oak with jelly beans and an oily weight. There were some aromatic notes arising from the tannins, like tarragon and bike chain oil (or that could have been me).

Francis hopes to release single casks initially (precisely when, he declined to comment) before bringing a few casks together and bottling at 46%, a la Kilchoman. He confessed that the young Islay distillery’s policy of finishing a vatting in Sherry casks appeals to him but did not say that this would be Daftmill’s approach. Over the whole visit, however, Francis emphasised that while he is still trying to perfect his distillation regime, nothing is unequivocally off-limits. Peated Daftmill may be trialled in future, other casks may be brought in, but for now he is waiting to see how the world will respond to his take on the Lowland single malt style. I’d wager it will be a hit.

I pedalled off in the light rain forecast, my left knee resuming its complaint from the ride in. This is worryingly similar to the pain I suffered from in the run up to the last Odyssey four years ago. That went away with some dedicated rest. Hopefully whatever is wrong can continue healing tonight. The odd thing is that the pain goes away after a few miles so hopefully it is just a temperature problem and a question of getting warmed up. I’d rather not be popping Paracetamol for the next two weeks.

This will be my final blog post for a while, but a lot of the action will hopefully be related on Twitter (@WhiskyOdyssey).

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On the road again…

Back in the saddle again in June 2014.

The terrific thing about wrapping up a semester is that you can turn your mind to fun future projects, cogitate a little more about what you want them to be, what shape and purpose they will have, and get a jump on making them a reality. That happened to me over the weekend regarding a mission of mine which has been incomplete since May 2010.

As those of you who followed my original Scotch Odyssey three years ago will know, I couldn’t make it to every distillery on my itinerary. The reasons for this were numerous: bike/boy breakdown, an overambitious route, misread opening times etc. etc. I had unfinished business with about eight distilleries in Scotland – and then a bunch of passionate people set about building more!

In June next year – all being well – I’ll graduate from the University of St Andrews. Between the formal termination of my final semester here in Fife and Graduation Week there are a few days begging to be capitalised upon and I feel I really ought to finish what I started prior to entering higher education in 2010. With the aid of Google Maps and the mega-litres of whisky experience I gained last time I packed my panniers and pedalled to the glens I have compiled a second route round Scotland which will see me cover nearly 1,200 miles in 20 days and visit thirteen malt whisky distilleries old and new.

The Scotch Odyssey Part II will begin here in St Andrews with Daftmill and Kingsbarns distilleries before I head north over the Tay to tick off Dalwhinnie and Tomatin. From there I wend my way into Speyside for the distillery I shouldn’t have missed last time round but did: The Balvenie. Then I swing by the Aberdeenshire distilleries of The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh before skirting the Moray Firth on my journey to The Dalmore. I did visit this distillery in 2010 but in the meantime the visitor experience has been dramatically overhauled and I feel I really ought to spy those famous stills on the Cromarty Firth in this new light. Next I head to Balblair for my first tour as a punter, despite working there for a week in the summer of 2011.

I continue north to Clynelish which famously does not open for tours on a Saturday in late April. Then it’s time to head westwards: catching the ferry from Ullapool I visit the most westerly Scotch whisky distillery of them all, the spirit of Lewis, Abhainn Dearg. I will cycle down through Lewis and Harris to Tarbert before another ferry desposits me at Uig, Isle of Skye. From here it is an identical route to previously as I pedal off the island to Fort William. There will be a few long days in the saddle before I reach Clydebank and the Auchentoshan distillery. After a few more I hope to visit Annandale – if it is open to receive me – before wending my way back up to St Andrews.

Knowing what I know now about cycle touring I’m hoping to extract maximum adventure from my trip and I’ve invited any friends who wish to accompany of a leg or legs of the journey to do so. The real logistics of B&Bs, ferries and tour bookings have still to be made, and the fitness regime will have to start fairly sharpish. The Scotch Odyssey of 2010 is an undertaking I think about every single day and with every whisky I drink. I have high hopes for the next pilgrimage round Scotland’s beauty spots and barley-boiling stills.

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The Glenlivet Thermostat (Nadurra 16yo)

The debate rages on as to the ethics of putting ice in your whisky. Personally, I think that buying a lovely single malt or blend and throwing some ice cubes in is the equivalent of buying a Lamborghini Aventador, taking it to Silverstone, and driving it at 20mph. The full extent of the spirit’s capabilities and magnificence has been shackled and compromised. But I will concede that, on occasion, there is simply no choice in the matter. For example, when cycling to The Glenlivet distillery in April 2010, the snow and hail with which I had to contend meant that by the time I arrived, wandered around the plant via the warehouse, and eventually creaked into the tasting room, I was the ice with my drink.

That drink, however, was the Nadurra 16yo. ‘Natural’ in Gaelic, this was The Glenlivet at cask strength, straight out of first-fill Bourbon casks without chill-filtration (although the process would have been eminently possible on that day). It slid down my throat like molten shortbread, firing warmth into the very muscles of my legs, or so it felt like. Despite the raw power, I can still remember the delicate malt and floral flavours characteristic of The Glenlivet and which thrilled my soul.

The Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo.

So now I knew what my bottle of the Nadurra, which had lain in my whisky cabinet for two years, tasted like. Purchased with the full intention of drinking it, I had noticed on the label the bottling date of October 2007, the very month in which my obsession for whisky materialised, and consequently this was to be a golden-hued time capsule embodying that single glorious moment in my life. I had expected the Nadurra to remain sealed and chaste indefinitely, but then came an invitation to a 21st birthday in Stourbridge, near Birmingham. Siobhan, born in 1991 and being rather fond of whisky, constituted the perfect excuse to unleash this vibrant but subtle beauty of a malt which had itself largely come into being in 1991.

While watching Disney’s ‘Basil the Great Mouse Detective’ and snuggled into my sleeping bag, I poured measures for Siobhan, myself and a couple of other friends. While delicious, I appreciated the other extreme of the temperature spectrum to April 2010 as I sipped. Whisky + sleeping bag + room full of people = lustful contemplation of… ice.

Though now a whisky inseperably associated with a tortured hypothalamus, I poured some in neutral surroundings to see what it could really offer.

The Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo 57.7% abv. Batch 1007D

Colour - Rich and bright honey gold.

Nose - Bold, fresh ex-Bourbon barrels. Classic syrupy aromas of tablet, pine and coconut. Richness, but of an airy sort: butterscotch, floral notes and creme patisiere. With more time there is a scented, toasted Jack Daniels aroma and a touch of stewed green apple.

With water - Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I thought that might happen. Creamy vanilla pools unctuously in the cracks of the fragrant, golden cask staves. Stewed peaches and vanilla ice cream. Somehow that light, semi-dry sweet malt of the distillery can still be perceived. Firm, wild flavours like a winter burn on the slopes of Ben Rinnes: definitely a brown peaty aroma. That golden barley vista grows ever clearer. Greater exposure to the air unearths syrupy corn, pine again but with zesty orange immediately behind it. Gorgeous coconut and the dusty racked warehouse at The Glenlivet.

Palate - Bursting with mint toffee, oak prickle. Gradually, peat and sweet heather emerge which are then covered with oozing golden caramel. Toffee and ripe pear.

With water - Creamier, banana, still some spearmint but tamer. More impressions of the cask: char, honey, candied lemon. Lots of lemon, in fact. Caramel smoothness and delicate, drying malt.

Finish - Darker, with charred meat-esque sweetness. The coconut dribbles across the tongue but there are also firmer flavours including flowers. Lemon pith.

With water - Deepens into relaxed oaky toffee with a generous waft of heather. Harvest on Speyside. Delicate but purposeful with some sweet and rich corn melting in. Vanilla and green fruits which have plenty of sugar with them but also some juicy freshness.

So…?

What a stunning whisky. Indeed, as I nosed it there were shades of Compass Box’s Hedonism and even, could it be, that supreme Aberlour 14yo single cask which I tasted a few days after that Nadurra in April 2010. This is not a spirit that deals lightly with the oak, but those casks are of such high quality and let out enough of the inherently classy Glenlivet flavours that, to this palate, the effect is nearly faultless. This is the only expression I have tasted of The Glenlivet to be bottled at cask strength and whether it is this or the non-chillfiltration that I must credit with the gorgeous sustain and expert flavour development, I’m not sure. The whole marries suaveness and vibrancy with beautiful results. How delighted I am that I opened it after all; a cautionary tale for all those ‘wait-and-see’ purchasers.

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Glen Garioch – One-Year-Old(meldrum)

A view from the dry warmth of the visitor centre last April.

A view from the dry warmth of the visitor centre last April.

Henceforth, ’one year ago…’ moments shall occur to me on an almost daily basis. They may never have come to pass, however, had it not been for my guardian angels who abstained from supping Scotch whisky vapour long enough to manifest themselves at Glen Garioch, Aberdeenshire. To commemorate this date twelve months ago I thought I would post up a piece which I submitted to John Hansell’s blog for consideration in his guest-blogger season last September. Although I was frustratingly unsuccessful in that particular journalistic bid, I have retained the article so that, today, it may serve as the narrative silver lining to my north-east Highland rain clouds.

I rolled out of Dufftown, making headway into the first of the day’s sixty miles. Snow flurries mutated into persistent rain and little strips of asphalt became the A96. I had chosen to ignore the look my hotelier had given me when I told him I was taking the main road between Aberdeen and Inverness to Oldmeldrum. For ten miles I didn’t so much cycle as self-preserve, hunted by oil industry executives in their BMWs and blasted by the bow waves of air from gargantuan trucks, none of whom were about to touch the brakes for a squidgy cyclist.

Exhausted and petrified I swung off the motorway at the sign for Oldmeldrum, the rain still falling lazily, the rolling arrow-straight roads of Aberdeenshire taunting my cracked, foggy brain. Every last inch of me was dripping and squelching. My bike, on account of the spray, muck and frenzied pedalling of the A96, was disturbing the peace in Hades with its creaking, squeaking and rattling. My personal fuel warning light had been on for the last fifteen miles and I splashed into the distillery car park not entirely alive. I knew, however, and with grim certainty, that if I didn’t get my cycling gear dried somehow, when I came to leave the distillery after my tour for the return leg to Huntly I would depart this mortal coil, as well – long before the trucks could have a second crack at me on the motorway.

Resembling a refugee more than a participant on her next tour, I begged the lady in the visitor’s centre for a hot radiator.

“Go across to the stillroom and say Jane sent you to dry some things,” she said.

The very accommodating stillroom.
The very accommodating stillroom.

I stumbled back out into the rain to the still house where I found the stillman reading his newspaper. I mumbled my message from Jane and he pointed to a clothes rack stationed behind the spirit still. With the last of my strength I wrenched off my saturated clothing and turned the stillroom at Glen Garioch into my own personal launderette.

Back across the road in the visitor’s centre, Jane made me a cup of tea and I was taken round the distillery by tour guide Fiona. As we approached the glowing stills, the point at which my semi-nudity had featured unexpectedly in her previous tour, Fiona joked that she had considered whether or not to inform her two visitors who had also witnessed my disrobing that half-naked cyclists were pivotal to the final Glen Garioch flavour.

After the tour we discussed with Jane my travel ambitions, mishaps and fears, of which there were many at that moment. It was partly the bone-dry clothes, but mostly their encouragement that meant I had a smile on my face when I left Oldmeldrum and still had one when I later arrived in Huntly.

Would my Glen Garioch experience have been drastically different had I undertaken my journey in invigorating spring sunshine? It is, to all intents and purposes, a redundant question – one pretending to a rationality and design entirely absent from the minute-to-minute experience of my Odyssey. It rained, I chose a despicable road, I had a crisis, I was restored. That’s pretty much it.

When will be the 'right time'...?

When will be the 'right time'...?

Except, of course, it isn’t. Not by a long way. As I excavated my bottle of the 1990 Small-batch Release from the drinks cabinet, my entire tour could be appraised in 70 centilitre form. As I had reason to remark to my charming Swedish neighbour on a recent train journey, Scotch whisky has at once assumed positions in the micro and the macro of my life. Nothing is ‘just’ a dram – drinking is not simply consumption but a form of communion with a very particular form of spirit. Glen Garioch will always abide in my memory – like the mircoflora in a wooden washback – because it created a unique, intoxicating blend of circumstance, humanity and history: a sequence of unrepeatable malt moments. Friday, April 23 2010 surpassed all previous expectations for how whisky could inspire me to singular efforts, as well as the extent to which it and the people involved in it could reward them. Therefore, whilst my powers of recollection do not strictly require a material object, my 1990 bottling is as good a manifestation as I can come up with for now of these complex amalgamations of whisky and wonder.

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Itchy Legs – One Year on from the Odyssey

A moment I will never forget - obliviousness as to the future makes a certain imprint on the mind.

A moment I will never forget - obliviousness as to the future makes a certain imprint on the mind.

If only my mind weren’t obliged to sacrifice quite so much attention to mastering my academic commitments, you would find me sprawled amongst the daffodils, incapacitated by reminiscence.

This Tuesday past marked the one year anniversary of my unpredictable, challenging and spectacular cross-breeding of single malt and a bicycle. I had not appreciated the power with which the rapid turning of the year would recall my preparations for my Odyssey although fortunately cherry blossom, blue skies and what feels as if it were laundered air have evoked less of the jittery insanity and helplessness and all of the excitement and wonder I don’t quite remember the prospect of six weeks of cycling in aid of the finest Scotch whisky entirely induced within me the first time round, the closer it came to departure. That I should be in Scotland renders the comparison still more arresting.

Of course, of greater import than a wish to go back in time, cock a leg over that silver cross bar and pedal away into the Trossachs again is the contrast of perspective the intervening twelve months supply: a year ago I would be snuggled into the bottom bunk in a dormitory of the Pitlochry Youth Hostel. Now, I am desperate to get into a different bed – one in my student accommodation. (Not until you’ve done more work.) I may yearn for the extraordinary surroundings of that first 60 mile plus ride from Pitlochry to Brechin, through Kirkmichael and Kirriemuir, but I have also encountered the sublime in my literary studies. The Odyssey introduced me to magnificent, singular people; here in St Andrews I have made further wonderful acquaintances.

Though I haven’t cycled between its production facilities for a while, whisky itself has at least abided with me. As I sipped a Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve – a toast to the occasion – I could be profoundly grateful that my memories, connections and all that I learnt and experienced on the Odyssey inform each dram I pour for myself. While I won’t have the opportunity to get on the bike and spin to a distillery during the next six weeks, I intend to enjoy many whiskies in diverse circumstances and – as Keith and I discussed last month - chances are pleasingly high that a malt in my hand will communicate with one from the past.

As I complete my term’s work, my mind at every opportunity free-wheeling down a myriad single track roads or wandering between washbacks, I hope some of you will take advantage of the much improved weather to get out and explore some of Scotland’s unique landscapes, and singular single malts by whichever method of transport pleases you. These itchy legs of mine won’t let me forget the precious joy of two-wheeled adventure.

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Stirling to Pitlochry

I beg patience of you, readers. Whilst I would love to satisfy my own needs and my journalistic responsibilities at the same time, I’m quickly appreciating that this is not always possible. Time, just at the moment, is money, and with an hour’s worth of internet access at my hostels costing me £3, I have to condense. A lot!

Regarding the pictures, I had hoped to post some yesterday but unfortunately the IT at Comrie Croft was not in a cooperative mood. Hopefully tonight, as I’m satying with my aunt, I should be able to bring you some of the stunning photos that have practically taken themselves. The whole country is one astonishing photograph!

***

Stirling to Comrie: 34 miles.

I awoke with far too much anxiety. I won’t lie to you, had the first two days of my trip entertained even a smattering of rain, I would probably be writing this from home. Three hours of sleep, I felt was insufficient to embark on my second day of my whisky odyssey. Just at that moment, however, it felt like the whole 1300 miles were waiting for me that day. Mentally, I was not in good shape at all. Despite the nausea of panic, I managed to eat some muesli and some toast. Washed down with a hot cup of tea, I felt a little better.

I collared the staff at Stewart Lawson Cycles, Barnton Street, just as they were lifting the shutters. Pedal system fixed, I returned to the hostel feeling infintely better.

I set off in what the Scots would call ‘driech’ weather. It was grey and cold, in other words, although how expressive a dialect it is. Blackford, here I come.

The turn off signalled by the map suggested a small road. It said nothing about a corkscrew of a passage. I had to get off and walk, for the first time as a cyclist since I took it up seriously in my early teens, I had to walk. In cleats, though, and with the weight of the bike added to the insane gradient, pushing was more challenging.

Although it didn’t flatten, the incline wasn’t quite so steep. I cleared the trees and there was the Highlands. And lots of it. Only the photos, when they eventually are transferred, can communicate the desolate beauty of the landscape.

Congestion was possible, even on these single track roads. A farmer was driving his sheep to new pasture, the two

There was no safe overtaking opportunity on this occasion.

There was no safe overtaking opportunity on this occasion.

 collies on the back of the quadbike with him eyeing this strange, fluorescent thing wheezing behind them.

After a nerve-shredding 500m on the A9, I made Blackford and there was Tullibardine. They claim to be the most accessible distillery in Scotland and I can’t disagree. It is odd having a traditional distilliung complex in a retail park but stepping into the excellent visitors’ centre, I didn’t notice. More about the tour later.

Getting to Crieff was more of a challenge. The roads got busier, faster and, on one awful stretch, dustier. I had already phoned Glenturret to put my tour back by an hour and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. More on this tour in a future post.

Now deeply concerned about where my dinner was coming from and riding on empty already, I sought my accommodation. Comrie Croft is unique in my experience. Camping, hostelling, hen rearing. It was a little earth-lover’s utopia. I could not enjoy the idiosyncratic nature of it all, however, for the doubts were returning. I had washing to do, buses to catch (and living in Northumberland I know how sparsely distributed services can be) and sleep to hoard. Despite there being no plug in the basin, I improvised with a ball of saturated toilet roll. I shall know better for next time, for now everything I washed has little white flakes of paper all over them! And they don’t smell particularly clean…

I was given a lift to Comrie, as it happened, by a total stranger. We talked about the weather, the surrounding area and the ospreys which were nesting just across from the hostel and had been for the last seven years.

I demolished some fish and chips, found an apple, caught to the bus back to the hostel, and had a great night’s sleep.

***

Comrie to Pitlochry: 49 miles.

I woke up feeling not a great deal better. The idea of cycling to Aberfeldy and then on to a busy Pitlochry did not appeal. A party of teenagers whom I had not failed to register the night before from their loud music and loud conversation had assumed total dominion of the kitchen. I managed a bowl of cereal and some toast. I decided to forget about scrambled some of the Croft’s free range eggs.

The road north out of Crieff starts to look very Highland, very quickly.

The road north out of Crieff starts to look very Highland, very quickly.

The road from Gilmerton to Aberfeldy, 10 miles into my journey after going back into Comrie for supplies, was indescribable. Immediately the glens began. Cycling between these monoliths, like the knees of the earth thrust up under the duvet of the land made me feel very tiny indeed. Again, the pictures can say a thousand of the words of which I am only vaguely aware.

It was hot. Heat haze was making me feel more disorientated than I really felt. I ate some lunch in what shade I could find, with the cars whooshing past intermittently. Just when I thought this empty moorland would never end, I noticed the sign for Griffon Forest, where I had walked with my family last autumn. A little further on was a viewpoint for the surrounding Munros. There, shark-toothed and with a mantle of snow was Schiehallion, my first Munro. I didn’t have long to appreciate the view. It was after 1PM and I still had to tour Aberfeldy.

I was suitably stirred having seen this. Schiehallion is my first and only bagged Munro to date, and spying it on the horizon was evocative of last autumn when I was hear with my parents.

I was suitably stirred having seen this. Schiehallion is my first and only bagged Munro to date, and spying it on the horizon was evocative of last autumn when I was hear with my parents.

The descent into the town was a worry for the brakes. I’ve been riding with them for more than 600 miles already and I suspect they will need replacing soon.

Aberfeldy was busier than I remember it, but the distillery was a focus of calmness. Locking the bike and changing, the smell of the washbacks had been in raptures. More on the tour next time.

The road to Pitlochry was both familiar and familiarly hectic. The sun was a concern of sorts with my burn and water consumption. It’s very difficult to judge all these things in addition to sun cream application when you have more than 40 miles in your legs already. I couldn’t take the A9 so I followed the minor roads. Minor, I hasten to add, in size; not, incredibly, in traffic.

A few close calls later, I was in Pitlochry, and in fact passed Blair Athol. The smell was again, deeply promising.

I found the hostel and for the first time felt genuinely contented. I’d travelled far, and was beginning to feel like a traveller. The sun was still shining, dinner was within walking distance, and I was rooming with fellow cyclists.

The night’s sleep was a good one, and the breakfast was superb. Bring it on, as they say.

By the by, if you have toured any of the distilleries I will be visiting, please comment under the relevant post with your own experiences. Mine is only one opinion, after all. I hope to speak soon.

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