Speyside – A Whistle Stop Tour

Last Monday (3rd February) I took a wee two day trip up to Speyside to visit some of my favourite Distilleries.

1st on my list was Macallan Distillery, this is a must see Distillery if only for its size and the 36 stills. Also in this cathedral like Distillery is an unbelievable collection of Macallan Whisky Bottles. The value must be in the tens of millions of pounds.

I would recommend any visitor to take The Six Pillars Experience Tour and only £15.00 it is excellent value for money. This tour last just over an hour and a half and finishes with a wee tasting. There is a coffee shop and an upstairs bar that overlooks the Stills. As this Distillery is fully automated the only staff you see is uniformed tour guides.

In the afternoon I traveled to Elgin and called into The Glen Moray Distillery to be met by Emma Ware the Assistant Visitor Centre Manager and Iain Glen Allan Moray Global brand Ambassador. Once again a fantastic tour, with a look at their new wash stills, great visitor centre with a full selection of bottling’s and merchandise together with three different casks ready for any visitor to fill. I filled a bottle from a Peated Red Wine Cask, I had a little sip in the centre, a delight.

Again, a visit to this distillery must be high on any Whisky lovers trip up to Speyside.

I stayed at the Craigellachie Hotel which sites just across the road from the very picturesque Craigellachie Bridge spanning the River Spey.

After dinner and a few night caps and retired for a well earned sleep.

Tuesday morning started with a healthy Scottish breakfast then of to Aberlour Distillery which is only a couple of miles from my hotel. On arrival I was met my Jonathan, one of the senior guides. A grand old distillery full of character and charm. There are plans being made to substantially increase production and and alter the layout of their warehouses.

This distillery is home to one of my all time favourite drams and that being the Aberlour A’Bunadh. While I was browsing round the well stocked shop I noticed that the A’Bunadh has dropped in price to £60.00. A tour finishes with a tasting in the fabulous tasting room, a great way to start the day.

For the third or fourth time I Visited The Speyside Cooperage. This is where we see the unsung hero’s of the Whisky industry, the coopers. A tour starts with a short film about the Cooperage and Speyside, after which yo go up to the viewing gallery to see all the coopers hard at work building and repairing cask, and do they work hard.

David McKenzie a senior cooper holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to build a 190 litre barrel, his time was a blistering 3 minutes and 3 seconds.  With up to 80% of the flavour coming from the wood coopers and their trade should be recognised more and there importance should be mentioned much more in distillery tours and tasting events.

I never tire of visiting The Speyside Cooperage, they also have a large cooperage shop and coffee area where I had soup and a sandwich for lunch, now onwards to my final distillery.

My final distillery visit and tour is Glenfarclas Distillery in Ballindalloch. 

I was met by Matthew Porritt, the Visitor Centre Manager and on entering the centre you have this warm and welcoming feeling. Matthew organised one of his senior guides to give me a tour, this lasted just over an hour.

1865 Glenfarclas has has been owned and managed by one family – the Grants of Glenfarclas. To this day, Glenfarclas is only one of a very few distilleries in Scotland to be family owned and managed.

After the tour we headed to the tasting room or better known as “Ships Room” with the walls being wooden panels from RMS Empress of Australia. A truly impressive room to sip some fine and some rare drams, but, alas I was driving and had to take some samples in a drivers pack.

My whistle stop tour has now come to an end, a great couple of days meeting friends old and new, I will be back.

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