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The Dalmore

Not one design scheme, but several. Some Czech folk who were touring found it a little claustrophobic and noisy.

Not one design scheme, but several. Some Czech folk who were touring found it a little claustrophobic and noisy.

Alness, Ross-shire, IV17 0UT, 01349 882362. Whyte & Mackay. www.thedalmore.com

NB: Due to large-scale refurbishment of the entire distillery, there will be no tours until the first week in May.

The coveted 62YO Dalmore.

The coveted 62YO Dalmore.

APPEARANCE AND LOCATION:      ****      Higgledy-piggledy is a good way of describing this distillery. For those who don’t know this term, the general feeling is one of fitting things in any-old-how, with architecture adapting to accommodate as and when required. There are a number of ramshackle buildings and odd connecting corridors and extensions. In short, it is the archetypal farm distillery gone big. The location right on the bansk of the Cromarty Firth is truly lovely. The Black Isle glowed and emerald green on the day of my visit.

TOURS PROVIDED:

‘Standard Tour’: £2. See ‘My Tour’ below, but best to contact the visitor centre prior to your visit for full details and options.

DISTILLERY-EXCLUSIVE BOTTLINGS:      Wait and see: current as of the 26/01/2011, four casks are under consideration for a single cask release. Richard Paterson will get the final say-so as to what will be bottled, but it will be available only at the distillery. Early price indicator is between £100-200. TBA.

My Tour – 30/04/2010

THE RUNNING COMMENTARY:      **

THE PROCESS AND EQUIPMENT:      **

Notes:      The spirit run at The Dalmore must be a complicated one to co-ordinate. The still house is in two parts, and there appear to be a whole range of different-sized stills. The spirit stills have waterjackets and the wash stills have flat tops. In both cases the reason behind their designs is due to the cramped conditions: ceiling height is low so the tops of the wash stills have effectively been lopped off and the waterjackets, by cooling the neck of the still, effectively replicate the conditions found in a much taller still as only the lightest vapours can travel up the neck without condensing and returning to the bottom. The warehouse is stupendous: all of those exotic woods holding big, rich, Dalmore spirit right by the tidal firth is quite an orgy of aromas.

I could not be trusted with the key to this vault of delight.

I could not be trusted with the key to this vault of delight.

GENEROSITY:      * (1 dram)

VALUE FOR MONEY:      **

SCORE:      7/10 *s

COMMENTS:      It was a joy to finally arrive at this distillery whose profile has risen since the sale of the 62YO for a record figure and the work of master blender Richard Paterson. The distillery is right down by the Cromarty Firth, and its construction is wonderfully hap-hazard. It started off as a farm distillery and grew and grew when money allowed. The tour did not disappoint, either. The still house is deeply unusual: a mixture of short and tall wash stills. The spirit stills have their waterjackets, which trick the alcohol vapours into thinking the still is taller than it really is. As I said above, the unusual dimensions of the equipment was due to considerations of space and it is one of the most idiosyncratic distilleries I have come across so far. It was a little too idiosyncratic for my fellow tourists from the Czech Republic. As I ate my lunch in the blazing sun by the shore, the butter I’d purloined from my B&B melting fast, one of the gents came across and asked if I could recommend somewhere for them to visit that was a bit less noisy and more open. For them, they found it difficult to hear and understand over the noise of production and couldn’t follow the chain of the process I got the map out and pointed to Glenmorangie. My first request for advice! The warehouse visit was very special for me, and was the first time a guide has ever mentioned that most significant of extra ingredients: terroir. The melange of casks used by The Dalmore added greater complexity to the delicious, sweet fug of the darkness. There were the Matusalem butts that go into my beloved 15YO – the first filled in the new millenium. There was a big party to mark the occasion, apparently, and volunteer rates to police the event were at a higher level than normal. Their oldest barrel was on the bottom level of a rack just in front of us: a 1951 Bourbon hoggie. They weren’t there for my tour, but normally there are casks to nose. This is a tour worth taking, although maybe not if you are Czech and new to the process! As an aside, not even The Macallan can match this distillery’s self-promotion as a luxury brand. The opening DVD is sumptuous and very professional, but you are left in no doubt as to the lifestyle element in The Dalmore marketing. When they deal with the range, only the most expensive are dealt with. They also talk about that famous 62-year-old. You look to the front right, and there’s a bottle, kept for posterity. Oh yes…

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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.

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Pitlochry to Braemar

Pitlochry to Kinnaird Castle, 61 miles

As I mentioned in the previous post, my attempts to tour Blair Athol were thwarted. The first I heard about it was when I was shopping for supplies in Robertsons (my kind of grocer: half of shop for fine whisky, the rest for everything else you might need to live on.) It seems their silent season had been brought forward and I’m afraid you won’t be able to tour the distillery until July. The man recommended I head along anyway, because they werew still offering an explanation of the process and a free dram.

I got there but everything was largely shut up. The man in the office said he could call the guides but I didn’t think it was really worth my while to be told about a distillery I was in. I’m all about the showing! The basics are £5 entry, with an exhibition for Bell’s whisky and a dram of the 12YO at the end. 

I headed for Edradour, then, and it is such a beautiful distillery (see tour review below). The sun was out, a fresh breeze was blowing and you feel totally removed from everything. It is your quintessential farm distillery with oodles of character.

That done all I had to do was cover the, as I thought it, 50 miles to Kinnaird Castle outside Brechin, where my aunt is a tenant and had succeeded in securing a room for me in the castle itself which are normally rented out by holiday-makers. So what better motivator was there than great food, my own room and bed, and above all someone familiar?

The route was an exceptionally picturesque one, heading north out of Pitlochry onto seemingly the roof of Perthshire with suitably strained breathing. The sun was strong and ever-present again. I passed many little communities, encountering very few cars. It wasn’t until I joined the road to Blairgowrie that the road deteriorated and the traffic worsened.

My Mum, always with half a mind on my stomach, had found a nice stop on my sparsely-populated course. I pulled up at the Old Cross Inn just within Blairgowrie and as I was getting myself sorted out a man appeared. He asked if he could help and I said I was after a drink and some food. He said that unfortunately the chef was away and the kitchen was closed. Obviously he took pity on my sighs of dismay and generally ragged appearance. “I can put the fryer on and do you a bowl of chips.” It ended up a bowl of chips, a pint of Coke and a cheese and ham toastie. I enjoyed my chat with Liam, for that is his name, just as much. Your hospitality will not be soon forgotten.

So taken was I with the charm of such encounters that upon leaving I neglected to secure my backpack to the rack. A massive honk from a truck behind me told me as much. It was in the middle of the road. Lesson learned, and reflecting on how life is instances of good and bad luck, I carried on to Brechin.

I’d said in my phone call to my aunt that I’d arrive by 5PM. Kirriemuir only just went by at 4.45PM. The road out of Forfar, connecting with the one to Montrose and Brechin, seemed to go on forever. 55 miles came and went on my odometer. I began to notice familiar views, however, and I took the turn off to Farnell knowing I was home.

The food was extraordinary, the room palatial and the bath lovely and hot. The company, though, was what I began pining for even before I left the next morning.

***

Kinnaird Castle to Fettercairn, 15 miles

A very necessary shorter day, this one. Had the itinerary been any more severe, I might not have left at all. Why leave such comfort for more stress, exhaustion and strangeness? I didn’t answer this inward enquiry, just saddled up and left.

Before Glencadam which my aunt had arranged for me, I wanted to check my brakes. The descent into Pitlochry the day before had reminded me that brakes wear out, and having that happen coming down a Cairngorm would not be advantageous. The man in Tayside Cycles reassured me that they had bags of life left.

After my Glencadam tour (see below) it was a very short – and pleasant – ride to Fettercairn. I had been promised by my Dad, who works in Aberdeen and stays in Fettercairn when he does so, that the treatment to be had with Mike and Denise at Kishmul, my B&B for the night, was second to none. The road on which it sits was divine, and the atmosphere of the place so very tranquil. I’d already got some excellent photos of the distillery against the mountains and the daffodil crops but went for a walk to get a closer look.

I had my lunch beneath a majestic monkey puzzle tree, watching the light breeze tickle the early cherry blossom on the tree just in the distillery yard. After a cup of tea and some carrot cake at ‘the arch’ (no capital letter), and asking at the Ramsey Arms for public computer access (no chance) I returned to the distillery for my tour. For the second time that day I was accompanied solely by the guide and what a nice tour it was. Being part of the same group as the wonderful Dalmore made the trip to the shop especially interesting. I shall post up my review of the tour later.

After dinner at the Ramsey Arms (super scrummy) I retired for the night, but not before checking out my route to Aviemore on my maps. I knew that the following three days would be tough, and that if I survived them then my continuation of the tour would be with some momentum, the worst being, for now, over. Obviously those three days which had troubled me so greatly in mental preparation will now look very different. The first of them, however, went ahead (almost) as planned.

***

Fettercairn to Braemar, 54 miles

Denise, as promised, set me up as best she could with a stonkingly excellent breakfast. I’m not sure that’s an official adverb but it ought to be when associated with that kind of food. She had also taken my request for a packed lunch (just a couple of sandwiches) and gone to whole new levels of accommodation. There were three sandwiches, a banana, apple and two chocolate bars. Without such a sack of vittels, I don’t think I would have made it.

Cairn o’ Mount is a famous hill in the area, often closed in winter. I wish it had been closed on Friday. Long, and unreasonably steep in parts. I’d like to brag and say I didn’t get off and push. That’s true, but only because to have done so would have been far more dangerous than simply carrying on. The gradient was so severe and the camber of the road in the final bend before the merciful parking area so inhospitable, I had to ignore my screaming legs bursting lungs and incoherent thoughts and just push on. I rolled into the car park and let the wall at its perimeter stop me. I have never been quite that destroyed.

The view south and east from the parking area on Cairn o' Mount.

The view south and east from the parking area on Cairn o' Mount.

I carried on after a few minutes, the view from the top sea and farmland on one side, the snow-capped Cairngorms on the other.

Royal Deeside: simply spectacular. Murderous to cycle through, however.

Royal Deeside: simply spectacular. Murderous to cycle through, however.

Until Aboyne the road did nothing but writhe up and down. There were many hobby cyclists out for a spin, and from either direction they all looked as if they would rather be mowing the lawn. The wind was what did for me. As I continued to head west, so it continued to gust at me. This only became a physical problem after I finally made it to Royal Lochnagar. Despite the sandwiches and banana I had finished with the distillery cat before the exemplary tour (more details later), I came out deeply tired. The nine miles to Braemar were some of the longest I had ever attempted. The road followed the banks of the Dee, so was fortunately flat, but was essentially long straight sections, with a cheeky bend at the end which I prayed would reveal the town, but instead promised more trees.

My knees had been registering some complaints intermittently all day, and now it was the re turn of my face. My lips felt rather raw, so I stopped to apply some well-known petroleum jelly. My fingers came away covered in blood. I was bleeding, and a lot. Mercifully, finally, I wobbled into Braemar. The hostel was at the other end of the town, of course, and I rasped up the steep drive to the front door. Abandoning the bike, I went to find the reception. It was busy, so I checked my appearance in a car window. I looked like I’d been in a fight. Congealed blood came from my nose, my face was ashen white and unsightly build ups of goodness-only-knows were at the corners of my mouth. Had I been in a fight? I felt like I had, only I was mssing the adrenaline. As I said to my parents, surprisingly matter-of-factly, when they phoned, I was at zero. Languishing at the bottom of the barrel, utterly spent, is not as unpleasant as many people make out. My exhaustion shielded me from many haunting realisations. I had a shower, then an enormous pizza from the Hungry Highlander and was in terrific spirits. I’d encountered my first real set-back. This tour felt like it was my own at last, after I had no option but to make the pragmatic decision to change the route. It was almost a relief to be so run-down, liberating that it truly was my decision to sacrifice my grand plans for the sake of the whole experience I can still have. Yes, I wanted to do a full tour. But these things happen when one is on the road.

Unfortunately, I could not maintain such equanimity into this morning. It dawned grey, cold and snowing so had yesterday been a normal day, I probably would still have had to call off my trip to Aviemore. Coming to terms with my fatigue and the imperfect nature of my journey, however, I couldn’t see any of the pluses anymore, hence the post of earlier today. My aim is to get to next Sunday (for my Speyside distances are largely quite modest) and then see how I am. I’m keen to be moving again, and Diane at Tomintoul sounds like she can sort me out.

***

As for the photos, dear readers, I have done what I can. An hour (£3) of uploading and only the picture of Glenkinchie would load onto my photostream – check it out, it’s beautiful. I have deleted four fifths of the pictures on my camera so that I had less to upload, but still, the other nine images I wanted to show you wouldn’t transfer. I tried again and zilch. I have done my best folks. Technology is just not on my side.

Apologies also for ay typos or tautology. I’m writing these posts straight onto the computer – no drafting – and haven’t time to read back through. With less than two minutes of credit left, I shall see you all when I see you.

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Fit For The Glens: 4 weeks to go…

As this last week’s number of startling developments failed to match that of the previous one, this ought to be a slimmer post. We’ll see whether this is how it proves, or whether some new neurosis screams for an airing.

It has been seven days of familiarisation and consolidation. I haven’t been promised a cover spot in ‘Whisky Magazine’, I haven’t received an endorsement from Charles MacLean, and I haven’t been abducted by The Macallan and whisked up to Craigellachie so that they might give me a lavish grounding in their ethos ahead of my arrival next month. I have been cycling, though. Since my last post I have spun through more than 100 miles and feel jolly happy about it. My bottom, however, has taken offence somewhat, so I have started on the soothing, salutary creams.

Wednesday’s weather and record distance in a single day resulted in a profound sense of achievement. The warm, clear sunshine made pedalling twice round my 18-mile circuit a true delight. However, its perfection came packaged up with a strong feeling of guilt and foreboding: this can’t last, it has to rain eventually and will it ever stop when it does; gales will blow unremittingly and chill me to the marrow, I know it. Then then we’ll see if whisky is a strong enough obsession to carry me through. I was, therefore, perhaps oddly keen for it to pelt it down and gust ferociously around so I could test my mettle. I should have been careful what I wished for.

Things took a grim turn on Friday, a stiff breeze scoring the underbellies of some fat, juicy clouds. Of course I had forgotten to put my waterproof overtrousers in my panniers, although fortunately it was a passing shower and the rest of the ride was a dry one.

Yesterday, whilst dry, took the wind idea and ran with it. I woke up in the semi-dark and could hear a lot of air moving very quickly over the field outside. On opening the curtains, I saw the horse huddling behind the barn and trees being buffeted in groaning arcs of branches and needles. They weren’t really ideal conditions for a proposed 43 miles. But I won’t have any choice in four weeks’ time, so I gave myself none on this occasion. After running some key errands, and giving the weather maybe a bit more time to calm down (it didn’t), I togged up and went out. It was pretty hairy in places and while the panniers planted the rear wheel to the road, pushing through merciless side winds was exhausting for the arms as I fought with the front end of the bike. The headwinds were quite something, though. Early on in my first stint, the road forsook the protection afforded by a small village, made a sharp left turn and suddenly my surroundings were very open farmland. Incredibly, I had to change down into the small chainring, reduced to barely more than 8 mph on the flat! It was similar agony again when I returned to the coast line 5 miles further on. However, on those same stretches during my second, reverse loop, I was freewheeling merrily at 22 mph. I completed my 43 miles; just. A huge plate of pasta and a couple of hours of indifferent TV alleviated the worst of the shellshock.

But to return to those errands, because they really were very significant indeed. The first set of them saw me return to the station where I bought my railcard, train tickets for my Wick to Kyle of Lochalsh transfer stage (I leave Wick at 6:20AM and arrive in the Kyle just after 1:20PM, still with 40 miles of riding before I bed down on Skye), and reserved a space on the Cross Country service to Edinburgh on the 29th of March. I’m doing a reconnaissance mission! I’m getting into Edinburgh Waverley at the same time as I will a fortnight later, cycling the route to Glenkinchie and seeing if I can make it back to the station in time for my train to Stirling, a fictitious connection on this trial run. I need to overcome the stress of urban cycling and memorise with the aid of landmarks the minor roads I need to find to draw me out of the city. I also need to learn in what condition my beloved machine is to be stashed on the train and just how watchful of my fellow passengers I must be. Not that there is any chance of a quick getaway so heavy and ungainly is it with the panniers attached. The aim is to purge as much fear and anxiety ahead of time so I am as cool as the proverbial cucumber when I come to do it for real and don’t require urgent medical attention and sedation on the platform. Or lock myself in the Stirling youth hostel toilet and refuse to come out for six weeks. Luckily I’m a one-hour train ride from Edinburgh to make such an exercise possible.

Security is a big concern of mine, naturally enough. As, for the purposes of saving weight, I shall only be carrying the essentials, I cannot afford for anything to be pilfered. Should anything, from the bike downwards, undergo a change of ownership, I shall be royally, inter-galactically screwed. So I visited the guys at Breeze Bikes and bought a big, heavy lock, the operation of which I should probably factor in to my timetable, knowing as I do the state of obsessive compulsive paranoia I shall be in whenever I must leave the bike unattended. “I did lock it, didn’t I?” will become a tiresome refrain.

I’m sure I will adapt – I’ll have to – and my myriad anxieties will be silenced by the necessities of reality. There is only so much I can do. The rest I must simply condition myself not to worry about. It is the same with road safety. I may be big and very yellow, but there is the chance I may come a cropper due to someone’s undue haste, carelessness or simple bad luck. I can’t concern myself overly. I certainly can’t allow it to become inhibitive. Cycling to Scotland’s distilleries means cycling on the road. There’s just no way around that.

The may have been expensive, they may be bulky, but they are vital - and also quite inspiring.

The may have been expensive, they may be bulky, but they are vital - and also quite inspiring.

Those are my fears, then. Keeping them in perspective and proportion, though, is the mounting anticipation. At last I can visualise undertaking this journey, and great visual aids are my maps. £100-worth of maps… It’s supposed to be a small country! I’m still waiting on a couple, but on these charts I can plot each stage, see on paper the roads I’ll be taking, the ever-shrinking settlements I’m to pass through and the precise location of the distilleries themselves. Very auspicious is Map 28, ‘Elgin & Dufftown’ which gives up marking each individual one and simply records: “Distilleries”. In my more vivid daydreams I can imagine my Sunday ride in Dufftown, a rest-day of sorts, when I shall be touring the town and its forest of pagodas.

I had to atone for my poor total of tastings the week before last so I have four sets of notes for you now. I retasted the Talisker 18-year-old and to say I was blown away is just the kind of glib, vile cliche that should be eradicated from our language. But I can’t express it any differently. It was truly extraordinary and, in the context of my personal rating system, I’m not sure many will be able to best its score. Having been slightly underwhelmed when I tasted it last year, preferring the more insistent, volcanic power of the younger sibling, I can now lend my support to the decision which deemd this the best malt in the world. I shall share the particulars of my scoring system with you after I return from this odyssey, for technically only then with my bank of sensory and spiritual experiences can it operate at its full potential.

The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban was awesome, too. I’m acquiring a taste for this Tain whisky, it would seem, for my third attempt at seeing what all the fuss was about regarding The Original largely paid off. You couldn’t ask for a better example of how to tastefully finish a malt.

The Dalmore impressed as much as it did when I first sampled it in late 2008, although it hasn’t quite the same poise and complexity of the 15-year-old.

To finish, I’d like to stress how much I enjoyed the Glen Deveron. I picked up the mini at the Aberfeldy distillery last autumn and I was struck by its beautiful balance, quiet complexity and deft interchanges of Speyside and Highland

My week's work.

My week's work.

 characters, an appreciated strong allusion to its location on the border of these two regions.

Talisker 18-year-old 45.8% (See ‘Most Hotly-Awaited’)

Colour: Glowing, profound amber and gold.

Nose: (FS) Extremely complex maltiness, both in flavour and body. It is firm and smooth but in places light and ethereal, falling away into sea cliff floral and salt notes. A very rich, fragrant and dry peat fire: burning for an eternity of so it seems. Full rich sweetness of honey but also darkly rich seaweed. (WW) Sweetly smokier with extra sweetness from the rich honey and smooth seaweed. An intense burning together with some some syrupy fruitiness. Sublime richness and balance: salt crystals and light resinous oak. Bewitching mature smoothness together with gentle spice. Ashy smokiness of a garden fire.

Palate: Full and grainy with a sliver of seaweedy/woody sweetness then impossibly rich, mouthfilling peat. Biscuity, heavy malt and dark honey. So satsifying.

Finish: Dark, rich and awesomely long. Sweet vanilla oak with a sooty, rounded maltiness. Clouds of black pepper. Exquisite delicacy and very moreish.

Glen Deveron 10-year-old 40%

Colour: Smooth and bright amber with old gold highlights.

Nose: (FS) Soft, medium to full with gentle Sherry influence and some light smoke. Rich and quite solid biscuity graininess with helpings of caramel toffee. Gentle and earthy spice. (WW) A little peatier with deep honeyed fruit. Victoria sponge. Barley sugar. Not-too-sweet melted chocolate. Fresh and complex in the least taxing of senses.

Palate: Malty, lightly peaty and very very firm. Sustained spice. Dark chocolate in taste and texture.

Finish: Deeper oak flavours: chocolate with subtle, enticing Sherry fruit and nut. Clean with well-defined and deliciously rich malt.

The Dalmore 12-year-old 43% (See ‘Most Hotly-Awaited’)

Colour: Intense deep orange with touches of greeny gold.

Nose: (FS) A real presence of heat contributed by rich and intense Sherry oak and earthy peat. Green, rich malt. Lots of orange with a contrast in textures between orange cream and candied orange. Zesty and nutty. (WW) Firm dried fruitiness and gentle smooth toffee. Heather tickles the nose. Seriously deep honey and lightly-toasted oak. Sugary marmalade and orange concentrate. Deliciously soft and oppulent with fragments of burning sweet peatiness and chocolate.

Palate: Rich, firm, lots of spicy gripping oak and very peaty. Orange and smooth coffee.

Finish: Orange Chewits. Soft with some Italian coffee for yet more richness. Fresh, leafy and oily oak over which the Sherry is a moist, nutty veil.

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 46%

Colour: Clean and pale amber with a pink rosy tinge and copper red veins.

Nose: (FS) Dry but rich heat; possibly, in its spicy, dark fruit overtones, the Port caves themselves. Very smooth with heavy, voluptuous vanilla wood. Some honeyed, delicate malt emerges as does a round citrus note. Very clean and even floral notes. Excellent soft sweetness with all the complexity of an ice cream sundae. Smooth dryness. Extraordinarily complete integration of wine flavours. Still a Glenmo, though. (WW) Deeper and even softer. Cherry and dark chocolate. Very firm wood with lots of warming spice. The Port influence exerted is breathtaking. Exquisite caramel toffee. Blooming, gripping saltiness.

Palate: Vibrant, warming and very spicy. Dry but also rounded and rich. Lots of cooked fruits. Sweet earth and oak lend fabulous firmness. Barley sugar sweetness.

Finish: Excellent smoothness and richness with echoes of fruit and caramel. Floral/grassy. Long and delicate. Creamy vanilla and dark honey.

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Fit For The Glens: 9 weeks to go…

I believe that in the writing of this post I am entitled to feel deeply sanctimonious, in marked contrast to that of last week. True to my word, after captioning the last of my images that day, I donned all the skin-tight clothing I own and set about sweating.

Maybe it is a trusim I shall now coin, but with turbo training the more you sweat the more effective the session was. With my frighteningly insulating Vanguard base layer and overshoes, it may have been hovering around freezing outside, and indeed inside, the garage, but I looked like a businessman enjoying some Swedish corporate hospitality. My hands went from numb with cold to more emitters of personal steam. I worried I might deserve some blame for global warming. After maybe 10 minutes I started pulling at the bidons and 50 minutes later I dismounted having almost drained both of my 750ml bottles. Despite there being nearly 1.5 hastily-ingested litres of water in my system, I felt drained, too, but the overriding (no pun intended) emotion was that of elation. In the summer I compiled some CDs of my my favourite music, one of which I put into the CD player for my session. Drowning out the whir of the trainer itself were Aerosmith, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, Dream Theater, The Cult. The list, fortunately, went on, and what could have been purgatory flashed by whilst also reassuring me that my careful excesses of the week before had not hindered me too much.

My run on the Friday was similarly encouraging. It lasted just over 15 and a half minutes, but this was seven seconds quicker than the last time I trained over that circuit.

Three successive days of waiting-on taught me various things about endurance, not all of them relating to the purely physical. I cannot deny that it was worth it, however, for my Sunday pay packet was greater than all bar a couple of my summer weekly earnings. A few more like that and I shall feel a lot more placcid getting on that train in April. Money is still a concern, however. The only outstanding expenses needed before I leave are maps, another pair of shorts, a lock and those train tickets, but how I am to pay for everything once north of the Tweed is a matter of no small delicacy, for obviously carrying vast amounts of cash is not at all desirable. Plastic may be my saviour as I head into the second half of my journey.

Back to fitness issues, though, and anxious to maintain consistency, for I will be consistently knackered from

Still as yet unridden. Hopefully this should no longer be the case by next week.

Still as yet unridden. Hopefully this should no longer be the case by next week.

 the middle of April onwards, I completed another turbo sesh yesterday. In truth, there was nothing meteorological stopping me from cycling in the open air; the sun was even shining. Next week, though, is my target for beginning the amassing of real road miles. Equipment needs to be swapped, you see, so I’m persisting with the indoors for now until I can trust that the snow has given up its evil schemes.

This most recent period with the stationary bike was not quite so euphoric. Air temperature was a little higher than last week and I thought foregoing the jersey would counteract this but at 40 minutes in, I could see the perspiration condensing on the outer fibres of my base layer. I made sure I completed a full hour, however; an effort that I repaid with two huge sandwiches, a mug of soup, some raisins (high GI, so good for speedy muscle recovery) and an oat bar. I’m a finely-tuned machine, I thought to myself as I lounged in front of ‘Two and a half Men‘ .

Ahead of my body, my senses have seen a return to authentic service. On Friday I sampled my first new whisky since the op: the Tomatin 12-year-old. I’ll share my findings of this dram with you next week, once I’ve conducted a second tasting. Otherwise, The Dalmore 15-year-old was my final reacclimatisation malt, and its terroir factor-oriented notes are below. I also completed notes I started last year for the Clynelish 14-year-old and the Tomintioul Peaty Tang which I’ve included as well.

As far as the blog itself goes, Google Analytics is a wonderful tool. The glut of my visitors are UK-based, but I also have readers in France, Norway, the USA and even a few visits from Russia. Hello, all of you! I hope you’ll carry on visiting all the way to April when this site shall really come into its own. Speaking of realising potential, I’ve been in touch with a number of whisky outposts, trying to wheedle a link to me. The Whisky Directory has attached me to their impressive database; the whisky section of The Scotsman website got back to me but I haven’t heard anything further; I’m going to re-send my email to Whisky Magazine once finished here and perhaps the perfect partner for my whisky

Oh, it's good. It's so so good...

Oh, it's good. It's so so good...

 journey, www.scotlandwhisky.com, has yet to make contact, but then I only emailed yesterday afternoon. So yes: it is incredible how things can propagate on the web, but I believe a little more focused exposure can allow me to reach those I think would benefit most from learning about my odyssey, Scotch and Scotland.

The Dalmore 15-year-old 40% (See ‘Most Hotly-Awaited’)

Colour: Round, smooth and glowing log fire orange with golden syrup highlights and pistachio green edges.

Nose: (FS) Acres of smooth, nutty Sherry wood: fine-grained and oily. Full and rich malt with a dry, green peat husk. Walnut shells, only moister than you would expect. Building heathery floral notes. (WW) More open. Nutty vanilla. Soft, crumbly and cake-like peat lends a complex dryness. Warmed satsumas. Glorious breadth across the whisky ingredient spectrum.

Palate: Sweet, slightly peaty with a delicate oaky firmness. Nutty, dry Sherry.

Finish: Hints of caramel, honey and heather. Milk chocolate, hazelnut and cranberry.

Clynelish 14-year-old 46%

Colour: Clean gold with lemon highlights.

Nose: (FS) Medium-bodied and medium-dry with a light sandy texture. Strong scents and further textures of seaside wood. Mayonnaise with a considerable mustard kick. (WW) Sweeter and smoother with a little more cohesion. Develops an interesting damp/rich peaty smokiness. Vanilla sponges and vanilla cream.

Palate: Cerealy, semi-sweet and well-defined. Very unobtrusive peatiness underpins everything.

Finish: Lightly, sweetly grainy. A touch of juicy fruitiness to the front of the mouth and lips. Very good balance with

Angus Dundee: this was the wrong malt to subject to over-peating.

Angus Dundee: this was the wrong malt to subject to over-peating.

 dryness and a touch of salty seaweed.

Tomintoul Peaty Tang 40% 

Colour: Bright honey gold with blackened amber highlights.

Nose: (FS) It is an Ardbeg-esque smokiness to start with: sharp and woody with an underlying sandy quality. The smoke grows softer and more heathery. Citrus antibacterial cleaner. (WW) Still retains an initial Islay-style smoke profile. Underneath this, though, is the gentle softness hinting at its true origins with runny heather honey and toffee apples. 

Palate: Gentle and smooth lightly-peated malt and honey is quickly conquered by full and aggressive, heathery peat and smoke.

Finish: Sweeter notes struggle against the peat blanket. Occasionally this yields an interesting exchange, but overall the lither, more dextrous dancer has been smothered by the sumo wrestler. The gentle dram never stood a chance.

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