Thursday October 22nd, a 13-strong delegation of CaskAid arrives on Scottish soil, travel-weary but looking forward to a long weekend of companionship but most of all discovering new whisky gems.
Our first evening (or night actually, as we reached our remote mansion past midnight) sets the tone, a couple of local pints and a good dose of “water of life” helps to put us in the mood & ensures a good first night of rest (for those lucky enough not being bothered by snoring companions).
Day 1 starts probably a lot earlier than some of us would have liked, although the copious breakfast makes up for those craving extra hours of sleep. Lunch is loaded in the cars, and our little caravan sets sail for Inverness, a 2 hour drive to the Highlands, where we are expected for a rather exclusive tour of the Tomatin distillery. The day is rainy & windy, a typical great day in this part of the world, and although the road is long and narrow, our spirits are lifted when we pile out of our cars and catch a whiff of a different kind of spirits awaiting us.
Of course we get to see the making of the whisky (and who would pass on such opportunity, if only to learn of the differences which makes this distillery different from any others), but on top we went “all the way”:
- taking a sip “straight from the tanks”
- visited the inside of a mash vat
- were invited to visit the secrets of the production process, a rare treat
- got our heads around (and for some of us, inside) some of the casks used for finishing these spirits (an Ardbeg cask especially drew our attention)
- visited the antiques collection, with casks spanning the full life of this distillery (or at least, as far as casks could be found back from each of those years)
- and finally got a tasting of 5 excellent spirits (6 for some of us who had the right amount of persuasion)
As people gathered their purchases (and in some minor cases, some of their wits), we climbed back into our vehicles and sped back to our mansion. A brief and unscheduled stop was done at Dalwhinnie, and albeit the settings were good & our moods lifted, no spirits were consumed nor bought (maybe because our posse was more on the lookout for the really unique finds, leaving the flasks in this shop for the busloads of tourists deposited on a daily basis).
All cars managed to get back in one piece, leaving plenty of time for a “real Scotsman’s meal” to be prepared: haggis freshly made by the local butcher with some roast veggies & potatoes, and a dram for those faint of heart.
To prove time can fly fast when you have good companions & some wee drinks, get a look at the clock:
Soon: day 2, a laboring day at Strathearn & a dinner at Glengoyne