CaskAid Scotland trip, part 2

Day 2 on Scottish soil started off badly. Well, maybe badly isn’t the right term, but let’s say that some of us rather would have skipped the morning half of this day altogether, as heads were still a little sore of last night’s savoring. As a result, some of us did experience more troubles as usual getting out of the bed, and only the smells of strong coffee and sizzling bacon could lure them all the way to the breakfast table.

That being said, the day couldn’t have been nicer: squirrels & pheasants & an occasional rabbit on our front lawn, the sun breaking through the clouds, and an agenda to look forward to: today we are not only going to have dinner at the Glengoyne distillery, but first we’re stopping at Strathearn, Scotland’s recent addition to an already impressive list of distilleries (and probably the smallest of them).

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So, breakfast behind us, our nose-counting revealed everyone was accounted for, we set out for the distillery. The lead car did have a GPS system fit for 4×4 cars and lead us over some rural roads (unfortunately, our cars weren’t 4×4), and managed to find the distillery in no time.

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We were welcomed by Tony Reeman-Clark, the owner, Stuart McMillan, the Distillery manager, and Zak Shenfield, the distiller (and at 22, recently named Young Distiller of the Year in the Scottish Craft Distillers Association Awards).

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We got ourselves a triple treat here, as you can see:

TREAT 1 – Full tasting of some excellent stuff

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The lads at Strathearn may not yet have whisky that has met the Scottish standards of selling it as whisky, but they have been busy nevertheless. They also make some excellent gin (one of which also got an award), and they have also built up some remarkable relationships with master distillers in the area, enabling them to put the hands on some rare and exquisite bottles. And (lucky) we got to taste them all: from the blank spirit right from the still, to some of the rarest whiskies found in the area, capping it with their own gins, drams were generously provided of each and every one of them.

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TREAT 2 – Distill a whisky

The entire group (in 2 teams, did I mention this is probably the smallest distillery in the world ?) was invited to help distill the next batch of spirits. While one team did some mashing:

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The other team helped decide on the cut:

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Or filled the casks:

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TREAT 3 – Enjoy our own cask

CaskAid purchased a first cask at Strathearn some time ago, and this was the first occasion we all could get around it. Even if the whisky is not yet ready and won’t be for another couple of years, there is something in “owning” a cask which brings out the love in each of us whisky-afficicionados:

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Alas, even this fine morning (and early afternoon) had to come to an end, and some pranks aside we set sail once again to our mansion, preparing ourselves for another road trip, to dinner this time.

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An unfortunate encounter with a rather sharp rock caused one of our cars to suffer a rather nasty tire puncture, and as the rental cars are not equipped with proper spare tires, we were delayed in coming to Glengoyne. Rather than rushing us through dinner, we decided to cut short on the whisky tour, visiting the main facilities and receiving a tour of the educational center only.

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The education center also hosts a rather impressive cellar of aged casks, but as our master locksmith wasn’t able to pick the entry gate lock, we decided to go for pre-dinner drinks in the guest house.

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The dinner would have been impressive to any standards, with a skilled chef preparing some food paired to several of the house whiskies. What made the evening memorable, is that the master distiller prepared us a special CaskAid bottle, a generous spirit indeed. Sláinte !

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Oh yes, there was a day 3 as well, where we acted more the proper tourist, visiting both the William Wallace monument and the town of Edinburgh. The only item worth mentioning (other than having enjoyed a rather superb burger) is the whisky shop on the Royal Mile, laden with fine whiskies, but at rather sharp prices.

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And yes, we did see the obligate piper and stood beside each of the obligate statues, but that’s another story.

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