WhiskyTimes Dan Visiting Speyside

on Nov 02 in Editorial, Scottish, Single Malt Whisky, Speyside by dan

visiting-speysideEarlier this year when the summer still threatened to shine down on us in the UK, Whiskytimes Dan spent a week visiting Speyside sampling some of the spirit of Scotland… here is the story.

Let me set the scene… It was one of those days where you get out of bed and think, “to hell with it, i’m going to do something fun today!”, but unlike most of those days, having had a shower, having inbibibed medically questionable amounts of coffee and having spent the morning attending all the morning rituals we all must suffer before we get to work, I still had the force of will enough to decide on a plan and act on it.

So the only question left was, “what is the coolest thing I can do this weekend?”, “where I can I go”, and “how can I convince SWMBO“. I hit twitter and imediatly it was clear, visiting Speyside in a tent was the way forward!

It dawned on me like a tonne of bricks dropped from a particularly nasty height, that neither I nor my fiancée had any camping equipment, we knew bugger all about where we were going, and what to do once we got there. So very shortly after that I hit the web again, found a tent, bought a stove, and a foam mattress (non of this camping mat rubbish for me) and to say the least we set off very heavily packed indeed but light on plans.

Twitter being what it is, Grants heard I was going to Speyside and kindly invited me to join them for a drink and a tour when I arrived So BANG! just like that within 4 hours of waking up with a can do attitude (and a massive coffee buzz) I had arranged my first trip to Speyside, how fun!

Arriving in Speyside

Or Not! We arrived in speyside having completed a marrathon drive that if it were undertaken by a professional truck driver it would have likely been considered against the law. Let me tell you Devon to Speyside is no short journey!

Speyside was in the middle of a torrential downpour, the wind wasn’t so bad but water was falling out of the sky like it was somehow just not ‘cool’ to be in the air any more. Needless to say putting up the massive new tent we had bought just days earlier was a nightmare, and the tent felt like it was prime to fail at any point. Its was terrible! Mind you a cuppa tea from the stove cheered us up no end and we also found the place we staying was a fantastic campsite.

What about the whisky?!

From this point in I am not going to give you a day by account of what we done as it would likely bore you to tears, it’s wasn’t all realted to whisky, and in some respects Speyside is a place to discover and I wouldn’t want to ruin your opportunity to find things yourself.

The wether picked up the next day and we were off! We had made a date to see Grants and all their stuff at Dufftown the next day so today we went exploring and we bumped into the baxters factory (worth a look) and Glen Grant (definitely worth a look). Here are some pictures:

glen grant visitor centre

glen grant bottle and glass

whiskytimes at glen grant

glen grant stills

glen grant spirit safe

glen grant gardens

glen grant whisky casks

I would say Glen Grant has has magnificent gardens and a beatiful visitor centre, we found it by mistake, but you should make time to find it if you are ever visiting Speyside. If it’s a sunny day, I think you will be amazed by the gardens in particular. Make sure you leave plenty of time though as it is a big old place. Ideal for romantic pic nic’s (if Campari would let you do such a thing).

The Balvenie Visit

The next day seen us heading to one of the mecca’s of whisky enthusiasts, The Balvenie! I had visited their ‘whisky den’, tried their signature 12 years and Double Wood and others, and now I was at the home of the legendary whisky. Even better I was going to have a private tour by one of their professionals, just my my financee and the guide. It was AWESOME!

A slight down side was that I didn’t have a decent camera, and they were right slap bang in the middle of refitting and expanding the whole place. In one way this was very disappointing, but in another though, what I did get to see was the ‘guts’ of the place no one else gets to see on a normal tour, a lot of machinrey was laid open and bare, the innards plain to see and becuase things were quiet we got all access to all areas.

I was like a little boy in a sweet shop with no parents around to stop then fun. Have a look at some of the photo’s to see what I mean.

the balvenie speyside

Balevnie maltings

the balvenie maltings

the balvenie under construction

the balvenie wash back

Balvenie chalk board

the balvenie scaffolding

Balvenie maltings kiln room

balvenie kiln

With that amazing treat out of the way and done, our little group of three simply walked up the road in our high-vis jackets and hard hats to the begin the next round of the incredible day this was turning out to be.

We hit the Glenfiddich distillery and to be honest I was still buzzing from the things I’d just seen and learned at The Balvenie (Did you know they use roughly 10% of their own malt in the mash?). Having done two disillery tours in as many days now, the glenfiddich tour didn’t hold too many suprises for me, bar a few extra’s will tell you about now.

The Solaris wherehouse is the Bomb. we done some things in there i’m pretty sure you are not supposed to, I wish I could tell you about but I can’t. Later we killed a little time in the VIP suite where we tried some really good whisky surrounded by tartain finery normally reserved for royalty and much more civilised folk than I. My partner sampled some 19 year Old Madeira finished goodness while I opted for a dram of the Glenfiddich 30 year old.

Now at this point i’m nearly in tears with joy as you can imagine, I am thinking I am so glad that I woke up a week earlier and decided to do something with myself. After that we grab some lunch, grab a bottle of 18 years old grants, and then head back out for a little more fun!

We are offered a trip down to see the coopers! Of course I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing a age old art being practiced right in front of me, and agreed with gusto. So I found myself walking down the less galmourous wharehousing which is the reality of big whisky business (but just as worth a look) and onto the coopers which was in full swing. I loved seeing the art being kept alive in a pragamtic and business like way, unlike a lot of old arts which are simply kept alive for tourists.

At this point I ask you, could things get any better? Would you be bold enough to ask for more? I though to myself, “well it was being bold and deciding to do this in the first place with little planning that got me here in the first place and all they can say is no”, so I asked…

Could have an old plank of wood from a cask that would be otherwise disposed of. And they said yes! I was so pleased I could have done a cartwheel, I clutched the lump of whisky sodden wood presented to me with glee and took deep draughts of its intoxicating nose as we walked along.

That was it, I could take no more in one day, the tour was done, and so was I for the day. It certainly isn’t a day I will ever forget, and its long over due, I have to say but a massive thank you to Ludo and Becky at grants is well over due and so it comes from the bottom of my heart when I say it, “Thank you so very much”.

Here are some of the pictures I managed to snap off:

glenfiddich

glenfiddich stills

coopers

The next day I went to the smallest distillery in Scotland… keep you eyes out of the next post about Edradour distillery.

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