One of the wonderful advantages of living in Scotland is that you usually do not have to travel far until you stumble upon a whisky distillery. Granted this is more likely depending upon which way you are travelling, and how relative distances are. During my formative years of whisky sampling my Fiancés younger brother had finally decided upon a career path and had become by now a fully-fledged member of the armed forces. Assigned to the Black Watch the Royal regiment of Scotland, and was soon to be deployed to Afghanistan. As part of this process the families of the soldiers were treated to the hospitality of the regiment at Fort George near Inverness whilst the Prince of Wales gave them their royal send-off. And so began our first whisky pilgrimage planned with military precision.
Our first port of call was the Dalwhinnie distillery just of the A9 on the way to our B&B for the weekend the Glenan Lodge [http://www.glenanlodge.co.uk/] at Tomatin just south of Inverness. Here we undertook the Taste of Dalwhinnie tour which included a tour of the Distillery and warehouse followed by tastings of the Dalwhinnie 15 year old, Distillers edition and single cask.
At Dalwhinnie we signed up for the Diageo ‘Friends of the classic malts’ and collected our passports allowing us free entry to all their other distilleries. The following morning we were treated by a display of the local wildlife including red squirrels and Scottish crossbills having their breakfast right outside our window as we tucked into a full Scottish breakfast before setting off for Fort George.
During our stay at Tomatin we were unable to tour the distillery due to their tour operating days, however we did browse their shop and sample a free dram of the 12 year old. I also came away with their Sample set of 12, 15 and 18 year old 30cl bottles, and a rather nice wee tot glass in the shape of a still. Already I had made the decision that it was much cheaper to come away from each distillery with a piece of glassware or barware as a memento than a full bottle of whisky.
On the following day I had planned a little detour down the Spey valley before we started our journey home proper. From Tomatin we took the A9 down to Carrbridge, then the A938 before a brief stop at the Speyside Heather Centre [heathercentre.com]. After a quick look around the garden centre and gallery and taking in a little more wildlife at their bird feeders we took the A95 to Tormore Distillery. Owned by Pernod Ricard, unfortunately this distillery has no visitors centre so after a quick look we carried on a few km before turning off for the Cragganmore Distillery.
Again sadly this Distillery is closed to visitors on Sunday so we just stopped for a few quick snaps. A little farther down the road we finally turned off for our first whisky of the day at Cardhu.
Here we took part in the full distillery tour for free thanks to our passports though I supplemented my own tour to include the ‘Taste of Scotland’ as Cardhu currently produces relatively few expressions. here we sampled the Cardhu 12, Distillers edition and cask strength examples. I also tried some of the Flora and Fauna range including a speyside from the flora and fauna range [I forget which either Auchroisk or Teaninch], a Mortlach 16 year old [which I picked as I was intent upon purchasing it , but they had none left in stock here] and the Caol Ila distillers edition full of smoke and sweet sherry.
From here we went to Glenlivet, which we toured and sampled their 12 year old, 15 year old and Nadurra. Unfortunately our spey tour ended here as we must have picked up a puncture somewhere between Cardhu and Glenlivet resulting in me having to change the car tyre in the Glenlivet car park while busloads of german tourists looked on. So back onto the A95, through Aviemore and onto the A9. We stopped briefly again at Dalwhinnie in order for me to purchase a bottle of the Mortlach which I had spotted in stock on the way up, and finally home with all my goodies.