Thursday, September 12, 2013

UK blog- Scotland

This will be a long one but the final installment.
We left Chester on Friday morning and drove the 6 hours north to Inverness.  On the way, the landscape and weather changed dramatically and constantly.  We never had rain for more than 5 minutes and the sky would be blue for a few minutes.  And that appears to be the weather in scotland..
Halfway up we stopped for lunch at Blair Castle. We didn't have time to go in. While planning, I found that distilleries had 'extended and in depth tours' that you had to pre-book but included tastings of rare and very old whiskeys..this is right up Jason's alley. So I booked a tour each day as they tended to last a few hours.
Blair Castle was beautiful .
 Then a few miles up the road we had our first tour at Dalwhinne (don't let the angry cloud fool just meant high winds.).  This is the 'coldest' location in Scotland so they were able to use this to their advantage in whiskey making. And it was quite chilly.  There seems to be two things that separate all the distilleries. Their water source, which they guard and value above all else even purchasing hundreds of acres around the well/lake/pond to secure it and preventing anyone else from using it, and the shape of their distiller (more on that later).
After the tour, Jason did a tasting. At this distillery, the tour was free but the special tasting was extra. So we only did one, since I am not a Scotch fan.  But they did a Scotch and chocolate pairing.  I forget how old the one on the right is..but it is 18 or something.
Then we finished the journey to Inverness where we stayed at a B&B on the River Ness within walking distance from downtown. Our walk to and from dinner each night was pretty awesome.
And we would walk right under the Inverness castle. We were never in town during working hours so we didn't go inside. But it was pretty neat too (and we went in a lot of others). It is to the middle right on this photo
The next day we had a booking for a 3 hour tour at Glenlivit.  This was the biggest/most industrial of the distilleries but he got to taste some seriously old stuff here.
I tasted too..and honestly this is what mine looked like at the end of the tasting as well.  But I did learn to appreciate the differences in the Scotches.  The oldest one here is 25 years old. However, after this we went to the 'secret warehouse' and he got to taste a 36 year old straight from the barrel.  Photos weren't allowed in any warehouse or inside most areas. They SAID b/c there was alcohol in the air and the fear of fire was too great.  I don't know..
On our way here, I had told Jason I read about all the distilleries had a 'fill your own bottle' thing that although no cheap sounded pretty neat.  So he could fill his own bottle, cap it and label it. Usually with a Scotch that was only available this way so not distributed.  I told him he could fill A bottle. Why not? So he chose to fill one here.  it was really neat.  I think this was a 17 year old cask conditioned one
First he fills the bottle:

Then he caps it
And finally, he completes the label, writes in a log book and affixes the label.
 it was all very neat.
Driving out to Speyside (the 'area' of distilleries) took a little over an hour from Inverness.  We went through a lot of countryside and small towns.  No cities here.
 After Glenlivit and lunch in Dufftown, we went to Spynie Palace which is very close to the northern coast, so less mountains. We drove right by the ocean.  The palace is just ruins but we climbed to the top of the tower for some awesome views.
 The next day, we head to Loch Ness to search for Nessie!  I had learned about a cool castle on the Loch Ness. If you find yourself in this area, visit this castle!! Uruquat castle.

It was very large and had lots of vantage points and history.  Loch Ness is huge.
But from top of the towers, it was beautiful.  There weren't many people here due to the time of year and day..but those that were in the way were deleted. ;-)
There was obviously at least one other person!
This is probably my favorite shot..from the furthest point looking back.
 Then we drove the 2 hours back to Speyside for lunch and a tour at Glenfiddich.  they actually allowed us to take photos everywhere except in the warehouses.  So I was able to get more detailed photos of all the inner workings.
I feel sure I don't remember it correctly..but the barley goes in these things to soak and get ground up.

And then it goes in to these things for 8-72 hours to ferment with yeast..kind of like beer at this point.

Up to this point, every distillery was exactly the same except for the source of water. But the shape of the distillers were different.  They always looked like tear drops, but some were larger/smaller/taller/fatter/had divits/had inset/etc

And then we tasted

And yeah..remember the whole "you can bottle one, if you'd like"...turned in to two.....
They gave this one a great 'display' box which will be on a shelf when he gets home.  No, he hasn't opened them yet and let's hope they make it home in one piece.

 We drove back to Chester the next morning and I flew out next day.  I really enjoyed Scotland a lot.  Everyone did OK here.  Shiloh ate well for aunt Kristen and Dante ate well for aunt Nerice.  I did split them up so that not one person had to deal with all the difficult old dogs...I am used to it.  So Kristen took Shane and shiloh and Nerice stayed at my house with the other three.  Shane developed a tooth abscess while I was gone and Kristen took him to the vet. Antibiotics helped but we knew his horrible teeth and past dental care was the issue.  So I made the decision to have a dental done on the 14 year old boy.  He came out fine and his infections are all gone and his teeth look awesome.  He is doing great.

Jason comes home on Saturday.  He is ready and so are we!!!!!


houndstooth said...

It looks like an amazing trip! It would have been hard for me to leave a place with so many castles.

Sue said...

Love the shots of Scotland. I lived there as a little girl. You are so right about Scotland having a lot of rain:)

Shame Nesse didn't show herself to you:)

Hope the bottles make it home in one piece.

gyeong said...

Can't visit Scotland and not visit a distillery, or two, or three... Beautiful country. We still talk about visiting again.

Hazel said...

You did a really good job explaining and photographing everything! Glad that your dogs did well while you were gone!

What Remains Now said...

You are an excellent travel writer. Enjoyed every minute of your trip. Thanks for taking us along.

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Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

Awesome photos and such an interesting travelogue of your trip. I hope the Scotch made it in one piece. I've never really tried Scotch, am I missing out?