Chivas Speyside Trip – Part 1

It was mid February when we (Jim & Nicola) received an e-mail from Kaye Rawlings, account manager with Richmond Towers Communication, the PR company for Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard). The e-mail was an invite to be guests for the up and coming Press Trip to Speyside on Monday 28th – Tuesday 29th March 2011.

As you can guess we certainly did not need to be asked twice, we jumped at this fantastic invite, and e-mailed back that both of us would be glad to join them.

A few days prior to leaving for Speyside via Aberdeen, we both received a small box, inside was a detailed itinerary and to our surprise, a gift of a Flip HD mini video recorder, which was for us to record our visit. Fabulous…alex-robertson-chivas-brothers-international-brand-ambassador1

Just after receiving our wonderful goodie box and itinerary we were asked to supply them with our sizes so that we could be provided with a full Highland outfit for Monday evenings events.

Bright and early on Monday morning we caught the train from Glasgow heading for Aberdeen. We arrived just after 10am and met up with Alex Robertson, Chivas Brothers International Brand Ambassador – our host for the trip – and Chris from “Edinburgh Whisky Blog” another of the guests for this trip.

We all got into a taxi and headed for Aberdeen Airport where the rest of the invited guests:

* Courtney Smith from Chivas London
* Kaye Rawlings & Grace Henwood from Richmond Towers Communication
* Matt & Karen from whiskyforeveryone.blogspot.com
* Joel & Neil from caskstrength.net
* Patrick from whisky-news.com

had all gathered to travel by coach to our Whisky infused home for a couple of days, Linn House, Keith.linn-house-keith

We all arrived just after noon and drove into the grounds of the fantastic Linn House. Linn House is a 19th century Scottish Baronial Mansion sitting on the banks of the River Isla which Chivas Brothers purchased in 1993, and after a few years and a few bob or two, restored it to its grandest glory.

We headed into this fine house, the style, craftsmanship, furnishings, decoration are wonders to behold, wood panelling, luxurious carpeting and four poster beds just amazed all the guests, so we headed to our rooms dropping of our bags and heading down to the large extravagant dining room for our home made lunch, smashing.

Our first visit of day was a short distance from Linn House, Keith Bond No. 1.  This bond sits in an area in Keith that can only be described as a sea of bonded warehouses. The figures that Alex gave us were quite mind boggling, you could not begin to count the casks that Chivas Brothers house here, some of the warehouses had casks stacked 11 high, quite a site to see.

Now back on the coach and off to Glenburgie Distillery (established around 1810), which is only an hour away. Thisglenburgie-distillery-chivas-brothers-pernod-ricard1 hour gave all the guests and hosts another chance to get to know one another and speculate about this press trip.

We all got off the bus at the distillery and were met by Neal Corbett the Distillery Manager & Sandy Hyslop, Ballantine’s Master Blender (appointed in 2006 and is only the 5th Master Blender in Ballantine’s history), firstly we had a tour of the distillery, then came the highlight of the trip so far, a blending session with Sandy in the Old Custom House.

We all entered the Custom House to find a large table loaded with sample bottles, glasses measuring jug etc, the eight guests all sat around this exciting looking table and enjoyed a fantastic insight from Sandy about Glenburgie and it’s important roll in the Ballantine’s blend, then he gave us the challenge.

The challenge was to recreate the Ballantine’s blend using all the malts and grain Whiskies laid out in front of us, but firstly Sandy glenburgie-custom-housesplit us all up, and we were paired with Joel & Neil, so Jim blended with Joel and Nicola blended with Neil.

Let the blending begin, we were all up for this and we were given help and advice throughout the blending session by Sandy, who continually nosed  and tasted all our efforts. After just 12 minutes (I know… Sandy gets years, and we get 12 minutes) our final blends were now ready, Sandy then did a final nosing and tasting of our blends.  He took all our blending notes and announced he would pick a winner from the four blending teams and give the winners their ‘trophy’ at tonights grand evening dinner.

Everyone then got on the coach for the return trip to Linn House, all of us on a high from a really great day at Glenburgie chatting all the way about the blending session and the hospitality shown to us all by all the managers and staff the Distillery.

We arrived back at Linn House, all of us in high spirits, awaiting us was our full Highland Outfits, but more about that and the special evening’s activities in part 2.

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