Today would be a day of whisky, and we were up bright and early in preparation for it. Our first stop would be one of the smallest Speyside distilleries, Benromach. I had booked David for an “Essential” tour, which involved a distillery tour and a tasting of 4 drams of their different whiskies. We set off from out rural retreat in Inverarnie towards Forres. The tour was set to start at 11 am, and due to traffic (a novel occurrence for us!), we managed to just squeak in on time. I joined as well, taking the basic “Welcome” tour, which was only 6 GBP and included a dram of whisky.
We joined the group who were watching an introductory video of the distillery. David noted that it was nice to have this kind of video, a well-made, polished introduction, and that his friend Tim, who recently opened the Rolling Rivers Distillery in Portland, should follow suit. Our tour guide then took us through the distillation process, showing us the stills (2 large copper ones that David said were absolutely huge in comparison to his friend’s) and the wash back and all the various stages of the process. He took us into their cask storage room, where they stored casks dating back to the 1940s. Despite not having any interest in the drinking of whisky, it was interesting to hear about this process and the science behind it.
After about 45 minutes, we returned to their visitor center for the tasting. Most of the other tour members were taking the basic tour, which just tried one of their whiskies. Following that, they provided David with the other three whiskies for him to try. He sat and meditated on the nose, taste and finish of each, musing on their interesting differences. We chatted for a time with one of the tour guides about various specific questions D had. The guide was also kind enough to recommend a place to grab lunch nearby. David decided to get a bottle of the “experimental” whisky called Golden Promise. From there, we made the 10-minute walk into town to the Mosset Tavern, to grab lunch and water to let any of D’s lingering effects of whisky dissipate.
It was a cute little restaurant, and it wasn’t long before we were chowing down on our tasty fish and chips and mac and cheese. We loitered for awhile, with D guzzling coffee and water, before heading out in the direction of Dufftown, the heart of whisky–making country. The next tour we’d booked was Macallan, which was just a bit before Dufftown near the village of Craigellachie. It was a pleasant drive through the countryside and an absolutely gorgeous day (bright sunny skies and surpisingly warm temperatures). We soon pulled into the Macallan estate, where I dropped David off for his tour and rather nervously set off to kill time for a couple of hours. I had only planned to go to Craigellachie, as it was just 0.5 mile away, so I wouldn’t need to spend a lot of time driving.
Craigellachie was a cute little village perched next to the River Spey, famed for providing its delicious water to many of the nearby distilleries. I knew of Craillegachie in large part for its hotel, which houses the Quaich Bar, reknowned for its 700+ whisky collection. We’d planned to grab a drink there after David’s tour and having dinner in their hotel restaurant. I popped into the hotel to make a reservation, only to find out to my dismay that the kitchen was closed for maintenance for the day and that the Quaich Bar was also closed for refurbishing for the rest of the week. The only place I was aware of in town was across the street at the Highlander Inn, so I popped over to make a reservation for dinner. I walked down to the River Spey to take a few photos before wandering through the village (though there wasn’t much to it). I decided I just wanted to find a quiet spot to catch up on a few things on the computer, so I drove back to the Macallan estate.
I had heard one of the tour guides mention that you could walk down to see the house that inspired the Macallan brand label. I walked down through their well-manicured estate and found a bench with a lovely view of the valley and a few Highland cattle for company. I saw there for an hour or so before heading up to the visitor center, where David was finishing up his tasting. They had not been quite as generous with their pours as Benromach, which was in part a good thing because David hadn’t actually consumed too much liquor. We drove into Craigellachie, where we decided that it might be nice to actually get closer to where we’d be staying for the night to have dinner. D had a coffee in the Highlander Inn, and we canceled our dinner reservation before driving southward.
A minor mis-navigation on my part yielded a pleasant surprise in absolutely beautiful scenery—rolling hills dotted by farms and the ever-present sheep. Twisting roads carved through countryside, much to David’s delight. It was about hour and a half until we reached the town of Aboyne and pulled into the drivewayof Struan Hall, by far the fanciest of the B&Bs we’d be staying at. I thought it might be nice to splurge a little towards the end of our trip. It was a beautiful house, with a spacious, well-appointed room. Our host was very friendly and helpfully supplied and made a reservation at a restaurant in walking distance. We made the walk over and noticed that the town seemed to be populated by some wealthy residents, judging by the size of the houses and quality of cars.
The restaurant itself, the Boat Inn, was jam-packed full of lively folks. We were soon enjoying our beer and wine and our appetizers, including potted rabbit (a rabbit terrine) and blue cheese pannacotta with pears, both of which were quite good and filling. Naturally, we’d been overly ambitious and ordered full-size meal portions: I had my first fish and chips of the trip, and David went with a beef steak pie. Both were quite good, though we were quite full at that point and soldiered through as best we could. After a few more glasses of beer and wine, we noticed the place had pretty much emptied out (about 9:30 pm), so we figured we’d head back to the B&B for the evening.