Posted in Travel

A Wee Dram (or two)

Here is part 2 of my 3 part

scotch series. This one features Speyside and a couple of other Highland/Lowland Distilleries.


  • Tour 1st one
    • All about the malting, the mash and how they triple distill
    • The head, the heart and the tails of the batch
    • Differences in cask material and length effect outcome
  • Tasted
    • The heart straight from the spirit safe with our fingers
    • American Oak
    • 12 year old
    • IPA beer 50/50 with scotch, sugar water and lemon juice (this is what got me liking the taste of scotch — this combo was so much better than you think it would be)
  • Bought
    • Whisky book
  • History
    • Auchentoshan was built in 1800 and is gaelic for “corner of the field” which I am sure made sense in 1800. Now it is located right beside a huge municpal cemetery.
    • It is one of six Lowland distilleries. It is a single malt “born & raised in the city”
    • The triple distilling is quite unusual. Generally the final stage involves distillign the fermneted mash in two copper stills. But here they use a third still called the Intermediate to help give the final spirit strength of 81%. This triple disillation, in addition to the unpeated malt, gives it a more delicate and sweet flavour than most Scotchs.
    • Excellent shop and very friendly staff which we were to find out was the norm in the industry.
    • The all important water comes from Loch Katrine
  • Ownership – after it’s foundation it changed hands multitude of times. Bought by Eadie Cairns in 1969, he rebuilt it completely. He then sold to Morrison Bowmore in 1984, which lead to Beam in 2014 while lead to Suntory which lead to Beam Suntory.

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  • No Tour
  • Tasted
    • The most interesting part of the drinking here was the actual physical bar! It was an old mash tun that had been specially converted into a bar. It was shipped from some other distillery and I suspect it would have been an interesting site rolling down some of the “highways” in Scotland.
    • I actually had something called the Virginia Splash. It was listed on the bar board but we think it was the bartender’s first day on the job and it was quite the undertaking. It was really tasty and I am thinking of trying to replicate it here at home. As an aside the bartender was half Kiwi, half Scottish. He was the first person we’ve ever talked to that was down on New Zealand, like really down.
    • Ron tried the Distilleries Edition
  • Bought not one thing!
  • History was sadly vacant but for one or two pictures. Perhaps there was more behind the scenes if you did a tour.
  • Ownership is one of bought, sold, bought, sold, mothballed, opened, mothballed, opened. This all started in 1798 but perhaps it’s over now as they are owned by Diageo.

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  • No Tour
  • Tasted
    • Here we had “the” bartender. The guy who knew his job, shared his passion and loved whiskey. We also heard his life story and travel history as he gave us our complimentary half drams of Winter’s Frost (Bernie) and Winter’s Storm (Ron).
  • History
    • The site for the distillery was chosen for its access to clear spring water from Lochan-Doire-Uaine and abundant peat from the surrounding bogs. Set in splendid mountain scenery, Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland at 1,164 ft (355 m) above sea level. The name Dalwhinnie is derived from Gaelic word Dail Chuinnidh, which means meeting place, referring to the meeting of ancient cattle drovers’ routes through the mountains. The historical display shows the huge impact the location had on the volume of people through the valley and how the Scotch industry grew to support it. It was in 1897 that John Grant of Grantown-on-Spey, George Sellar, and designer Alexander Mackenzie and already a designer of a distillery in Kingussie, put up an estimated £10,000 to build the Strathspey Distillery at Dalwhinnie between the Great North Road and the Highland Railway.
  • Ownership
    • It is now owned by Diageo, like so many other distilleries.

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  • No Tour
  • Tasted
    • This was the only tasting bar who asked who was driving. So we ended up with a couple of little travel tasters of the 12 year old. I had the 14 year old while Ron tried the Antiquity and the Cask Strength (not for the faint of heart).
  • Bought
    • Ron bought the Antiquary which was named after the 1816 gothic novel by Sir Walter Scott. It’s an intense blend with Edinburgh roots that now falls under Japanese ownership. The unique diamond-esque bottle shape, which is now synonymous with the brand, was introduced in the mid-20th century and has been retained through subsequent changes in ownership. As we progressed along the scotch distillery journey I learnt what blends, no age statement and single malt meant. I hope to taste this one sometime when visiting our son, who was the recipient of it.
  • History
    • There was not a lot of history around the show room but the thing I loved was their marketing use of the “coo” in boots.
  • Ownership
    • Well here we go. It is owned by Takara Shuzo Corp. out of Japan. It’s to date, the only one I’ve seen with that ownership. It was owned locally until about 1985; in and out of production for years and at one time produced the most scotch annually. The amount of warehouses there was simply crazy!

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  • Tour
    • If we had done this tour first ever other tour would have been found lacking. It was the gold medal of tours; opulent and rich like their Scotch.
    • this tells the story right here — they have 15 tour guides (full time) and 12 other staff. They spend a lot of money making this a fabulous experience.
    • The only negative is that the entire history section is only accessible if you purchase a tour. The history display alone was worth the money.
    • The end of the tour is done in an old mash tun, which gives you a real feel for how incredibly big they actually are.
    • Water for the distilling process is from Josie’s well. It seems most others use a stream but they’ve been using the same well for centuries. Various tales about how it got the name. We hiked up to see if after the tour which also gave us a good overview of this huge property. It’s in the Speyside area which is an area of rolling farm land but they long ago gave up growing and malting barley and just buy it done to their specifications.
  • Tasted
    • Cask Strength (holy moly strong)
    • 12 year (smooth as a babies bottom)
    • Reserve (a little bit of both of the above)
  • Bought
    • Glasses because we had to buy something from this iconic place.
  • History
    • George Smith was the first in the Speyside area to apply for a license and earned the right to be known as THE Glen Livet. He had been distilling illegally like many others in that area.
    • They produce an amazing variety of cellar collections, travel collections and the core range is award winning year after year.
  • Ownership
    • It is now owned by Pernod Richard after several mergers one of which saw the Canadian Company, Seagrams, owning it for a few years.

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  • No Tour
  • Tasted
    • Bernie Project XX
      Ron project 15
    • With a tasting bar like that one could have spent the whole entire day there sampling. Over the top luxury in the actual setting. We chose to sit outside and enjoy the tranquility of the exterior. The grounds, warehouses (47 of them!!) and footprint is huge and so well done. The buildings are incredibly well maintained. There is an aura of money to this place.
    • A funny aside here is that I hit the washroom right after we arrived. I came out a bit gobsmacked and said to Ron — go check out the washroom because it’s over the top opulent. So he went into the men’s washroom. He comes out shaking his head. Turns out the men’s room looked like just about any other washroom you might visit anywhere!
  • Bought
    • Alas not a thing but you should see the store area. It was like so upscale that I felt like I was totally out of place because the limit on my credit card wasn’t high enough!
  • History
    • Now this is the story I’d been waiting for. The quintessential family business that I wasn’t sure still existed in this industry but here it is. Generations later, still carrying on in the family tradition. It is now run by the 5th generation of the Grants.
    • Glenfiddich means “valley of the deer” in Scottish Gaelic, which is why the Glenfiddich logo is a stag.
    • The first single malt whisky first ran from the stills on Christmas Day, 1887. They now have 32 stills and 47 warehouses which is mind boggling!!
    • Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single-malt whisky and also the most awarded at the International Spirits Challenge.
    • They have their own cooperage, full time coppersmiths and do bottling on site.
  • Ownership
    • owned by William Grant & Sons in Dufftow

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  • No Tour
  • Tasted
    • Sovereign
    • Highland Queen 21
    • Burgundy 228
    • Silver Seal (This what it — the one I am meant to drink — the right level of back end peat and the front rich warm smoothness) Available in Canada but need to find it. So far haven’t heard back from the distributor. But the weird thing is that it’s not an actual Tullibardine product — they seem to have several different lines in the touring area and we didn’t really figure out why. Nor does any of the websites really clear it up.
  • Bought
    • Alas we had no more suitcase room or I so would have bought a Silver Seal. The guy pulled it from a special cabinet — it’s not a normal tasting one.
  • History
    • It apparently has one of the oldest documented histories in Scotland; dating back to the 15th Century. The story begins in 1488 when a young King James IV of Scotland, stopped by before his coronation to purchase beer from a local brewery. As a result of this fine brew the King granted a royal Charter in 1503 for beer. The brewery flourished for centuries and in 1947 William Delme-Evans began converting the original brewery into the Tullibardine Distillery (so while they are old in one way they are young in the whiskey field).
    • The beer and scotch all benefit from a fine local water source called the Danny Burn.
    • They distill, mature and bottle on site which is fairly rare. The bartender told us that they off sell straight spirits to many other distilleries.
  • Ownership
    • Picard + Vins + Spiritueux S.A. whoever they are.

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It’s crazy how long it has taken me to do this intensive record of our round of distillery tours. I am glad I persisted, did the research, fought with the pictures and pulled it together. Now excuse me while I go enjoy a wee dram!



I have had a love of the written word for my entire life. It's no surprise that eventually I found a platform where I could write. It's random; sometimes funny, occasionally sad, maybe even at times from anger and I lean towards creative photography and hands on crafts. I have a few blogs that high light these interests.

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