The Balvenie Tour

All good things come to he (or she) that waits…and man, that happened to me.

I’ve been trying to visit The Balvenie Distillery since mid 2016, and I even had to cancel a tour last year as work got in the way.

Today that changed.

Today I found myself spending rather a long time in whisky heaven…and I loved every single minute.

What treats awaited me? What would I see? All those sights and sounds and of course aromas and tastes.

I was met outside by Charles Metcalfe at the visitor centre. Then it was time for a coffee and to meet the others who were on the tour. This was a lovely group of four from America and shortly after a group of three men from Liverpool.

So the time had come. We were told the history of the distillery and then we made a move to start… off to the malt house. It was great to see the barley steeping as well as being able to follow it through to the kiln. A real insight and treat…I had been hoping to see one of these processes, but not both.

We then meandered through to the washbacks…the comment that made me smile was “and now you’re ready for whisky..” yum yum indeed. Being able to immerse yourself in an experience like this. Bliss!

The stills were a lovely sight, and then off to the cooperage after calling shotgun. En route we passed all those wonderful warehouses where casks sleep.

This was my first experience of a cooperage. All I can say is what a skill!

From there we then drove back to the visitor centre to drop the van, where to next?

Warehouse 24.

I was really quite excited about this.

Through the door, heavenly aromas greeted us. The dimly lit warehouse with the casks sleeping…maturing while we await their contents.

Upstairs we enjoyed some samples from a first fill bourbon cask, a second fill bourbon and a sherry cask.

Then time for samples back in the tasting room. From new make to a rather delicious dram from 1974…what an array of whiskies.

Huge amount of thanks to Charles for a thoroughly informative tour, and to Lisa and Duane…your humour and fun were appreciated.

Sarah x

PS I licked my fingers 😋

A Trip to Speyside

Sunday saw me taking a trip to Speyside…well it’s the right thing to do when it’s on your doorstep surely?

It really was a gorgeous sunny day and I doubt I’ll ever tire of the stunning views that greet you, as well as on the drive there.

It was supposed to be a quick bite of lunch, however if you have the chance to visit the visitor centres too, then this is also a must…

So, the first stop was at Glenfiddich (going back always makes me smile…) and they probably have the best ladies toilets…that Noble Isle whisky & water hand-soap is simply amazing too. I just love that fragrance.

Lunch was delicious, Cullen Skink (yet I like it more than it likes me (it’s a dairy thing)) however it was lovely. I’d toyed with a dram, but lunch appeared to be a hurried event.

I then went to browse around the visitor centre, glassware, frames, scarves and most importantly whisky. After having a little nose of the bottle your own Glenfiddich 15 year old, I decided to buy one. I always love the experience of being able to do something a little different…a little more special. These are the moments I recall…

So whisky safely stashed in the car it was time for a trip to Aberlour.

I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed and will say I was a little lost for words when I found out I was unable to purchase the bottles I had gone there to buy…and I really do hope they have a change of heart. To me, the opportunity of buying a distillery own bottling is a pleasure…a treat, something special. But I do still love Aberlour as I left with a bottle of the A’bunadh Batch 60 (after having been offered a little taste.)

I must send them a box of Aberlour A’bunadh fudge… well without them it wouldn’t be possible.

Five minutes later saw a drive by visit to Glenfarclas, another favourite of mine. I’ll go back soon (when it’s open.)

Then it was time for home…but first a pit stop at the Malt Barn at Glenfiddich for coffee (and a dram for me…)

I opted for The Balvenie Single Cask 15 year old which was a tad sharp on the nose, but a lovely palate. I’d perused the whisky menu over lunch, and I’d said there were a few I’d really want to try, but I think they’d need to leave me the keys and see me in the morning… Real fire, sofa, whisky…and time. Perfect.

Well I can dream.

I popped into a shop on the way home, looking for something entirely different but left with a bottle of Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask finish.

Then it was time for home, bottles and a couple of new glasses in tow.

Glen Moray Distillery

What do you do when you get up in the morning and decide to take a very last minute couple of days off?

Well you decide to go to Glen Moray Distillery…or at least I did.

It was good to get something whisky related back in my system. You know? Yeah, course you do.

I was on the tour with a nice couple from deepest darkest England. They have one of my business cards, so it’ll be nice if they get in touch for some fudge 🙂

The tour itself was really good, had a bit of a chat with a couple of the guys there too (they were funny.) Then lots of nosing the lovely casks which were sleeping in the warehouse.

I also bought a bottle of whisky too, seemed like a good idea…so I’m now the happy smiley owner of a bottle of the 1994 Bourbon Cask…and a new bag.

It was nice to chat to Emma & Iain too of course 🙂

Dramboree 5 – I blame Jon and The Dram Team

Hopefully the title had you thinking “huh?”

I’ve called it what I did as they were the main influence in my deciding to buy a ticket and go. Well we all like a giggle don’t we? Or should I say “we all love trying new whiskies, don’t we?”

Maybe it should be “a lost weekend in a hostel in Aviemore?”…

So I was packed with my bottle for the table and my fudge for willing mouths, and I was Edinburgh bound… eventually. Signalling delays had meant I had missed the first train but as I had planned ahead there was plenty of time to get there. I decided to have my first dram of the day while we approached Inverkeithing and as my stash was packed in my case I decided to see what they had on board. Not a lot it seemed. The Auganocean (guess) didn’t fit the bill so I decided on a wee old favourite the Highland Park 12 year old. Upon arrival in Edinburgh and ignoring a tweet about “batten down the hatches Edinburgh” I attempted to meet up with Jon and Tom. Bonus was I also met Chris and Jamie from The Dram Team and lovely Amy Seton too. So we set off for one of the Robert Graham’s shops before a brief visit to look in the cage at Cadenhead’s. Brief note, always accept the proffered magazine and don’t respond with “obviously they’re popular” at the large pile. Still my cheekiness and a smile got me off with a laugh.

Shortly after we headed for the coach station to gather the troops of whisky brethren together. I was kindly offered the job of driving the coach, however being two drams in I gladly declined the offer. So all aboard the bus and we were Aviemore bound. Woo hoo!

Back of the bus banter was refreshing and I soon found myself at ease… and the array of delicious drams most definitely helped the miles just disappear, GlenDronach 2002 Batch 8 PX Sherry Puncheon, and then another Batch 8 the 1992 cask #145 Oloroso Sherry Butt. A brief comfort break in Pitlochry and we were on the last run to Aviemore as we headed through the Drumochter Pass and past Dalwhinnie Distillery. We soon found ourselves at the hostel and cases put away and bottles on the table it was a chance to mingle…a few faces I already knew and a few who knew my face and some new faces to know too. So I think the rest of the evening went a little like this…a whisky tasting and receiving our Dramboree 5 glasses and badges to identify who we were. Then later we all introduced the bottle we brought along. These could be something you’ve wanted to try because they are nice or totally evil drams… I brought Douglas Laing Old Particular Glenrothes 12 YO. We all set about tasting things we fancied, I tried the Glen Moray Peated Port cask finish which was rather lovely and it also brought me a lot of humour on Twitter… If you saw the tweet you’ll know what I mean 🙂 Compass Box Morpheus delighted my palate as did Dickel on the second dram. I tried some lovely SMWS whiskies too, 35.52 Lush, divine and exotic and 73.84 Tug of war in a meadow, I guess these were to build up a friendship with my palate again after subjecting it to Fujikai. If you haven’t “been” there then do give it a try… If I’d ever got close to a post game rugby players sweaty cup then I imagine my initial scent sensation would be “Fujikai”. However, I nosed it, I sipped it and believe that my face said it all as I took one for England and swallowed. It was interesting to see some extremely old looking bottle of Haig’s and I’m still not sure where they had been hiding. I gravitated to the lounge for the lost souls…humorous banter and some music and a chance to swap stories of who we are and what we like, the added bonus was the question “I’m going back to the table, anyone want anything?” to which I handed over my glass with a “surprise me”. All good and most welcoming as it was someone else’s choice.

I think I went to bed at 1:30am.

Saturday was an earlyish start and after brekky a walk down to Loch Morlich, love this area of Scotland. A fresh morning and the beautiful views to just lose yourself in for a moment or two. Breathtaking! We then all met up for a blind tasting with the whisky guv’nor and the Science of Peat with Mark and Kate from the Manchester Pyromaniacs a fun and interesting look into heated whiskies including a blind tasting, and I managed to guess one to, the Laphroaig and won a fab Boutique-y Whisky canvas of the Back to the Future Sale label of the Williamson 6 YO Batch 1 bottle. A welcome addition to my other framed cards at home.

After a quick wee dram (as you do) it was time to leave now gloriously sunny Aviemore and head to Forres, en route passing by a whole host of distilleries and had we stopped I’m sure a lot of money would have been spent. But first a stopping Rothes for lunch and the best flipping fish ‘n’ chips I have had in years. Fun and capers in the park with the human fish and then onward to The Benromach distillery. A whistlestop tour of this lovely distillery and an ambush on the distillery shop and we were all aboard the coach back to the hostel for a BBQ. So full of meat and and a happy day behind us it was time to mingle and share a dram or two or… well what ever you liked really. Prize giving for the best bottle and the worst and thanks applauded for a wonderful weekend it was time to wind down in the lounge for the lost souls and share a few giggles. One day I might explain why when asked what biscuit I’d be resulted in me saying “I can’t say (laughing), before sheltering my face behind a cushion”. Then it was time for bed as tomorrow we are heading home.

I guess that all that’s left to say is thanks. Thanks for suggesting I go, thanks for eating and enjoying my fudge, thanks for the banter and giggles but mostly and more importantly thanks to those that run these weekends – Jason B Standing, Jonny M.

Thanks to all those that made this fun!


The Glenfiddich Distillery and Aberlour Distillery Tour

Last Sunday I decided it was time to escape the city limits and go where the views are breathtaking and the air is smattered with the remnants of the Angel’s Share…yes I was heading to a couple of Speyside distilleries…

On the way there was a reminder of a distillery I want to visit again this year, The GlenDronach. A definite must redo visit.


What a gorgeous day as the first view of Ben Rinnes welcomed us to Moray (there’s a signpost.) Clear views and hopes of some delicious discoveries filled my mind.


So the next stop was going to be The Glenfiddich for lunch. If you haven’t been for a tour, or even popping in for lunch. Then it’s a must do. You’ll enjoy the tour and a wee treat in the shop or the Malt Barn restaurant which also has a fine selection of drams on offer. As well as a delicious selection of food. I had already decided what to have, the Cullen Skink and as always it was superb!

After a quick browse round the distillery shop – accompanied by willpower it was time to head off to the Aberlour distillery.

Emma the guide gave us a very interesting and informative tour of the distillery and told us of its wonderful history and not only that but of the village itself. I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only thing from Middlesbrough as I looked at the steel beams in the dunnage warehouse (lol.)

We had a fab tasting at the end which included the new make spirit at 63.5 abv. This would help clear anyone’s sinuses. It was nice trying the A’bunadh again but I have to say the winner for me was this and yes I’ve taken a bottle home 🙂

If Someone Had Told Me….

back in January 2016 year that I’d be off on my travels sampling whiskies and blogging I’d have laughed.

But here I am and yes I’m doing that.

Someone asked the question of what were memorable drams of 2016 and it made me think, because there have been a few I have sampled, more to come (oh hell yeah) and some I just wish I could get my eager lips and hands on…. And what else has been happening?

New Year 2016 and I was seeing it in with a small bottle of Moët, and then me and the Bruichladdich Organic Scottish Barley sat and had a little think about things.

During the year I have had the absolute pleasure of visiting some truly wonderful distilleries – Glenfarclas being top of the list, a warm welcome and some great humour, free sweeties and a kind handshake.

This was / is closely followed by Glen Moray, that was really interesting and informative, again with down to earth people ((and a couple of additional samples purely by accident – a good oops!) and the rather happy older lady on the tour, we even shared a taxi afterwards)) and yes I will go back there too. This is what makes it all the more special I feel, that when you are on a tour that you feel like you are wanted there. Whether the distillery is in production or not!

Benromach was very interesting, being there while the malt was being delivered and seeing some casks being filled. Then Glen Garioch, Glenfiddich, The Edradour, Cardhu, Royal Lochnagar, The Glenlivet and last and by no means least the Lakes Distillery.

Then the two Whisky Lounge festivals I have been to, namely York and Birmingham. It was all a bit “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” to get there, but I got there and learnt that you can attend such events and a) not get absolutely ratted b) sample some absolutely wonderful whiskies c) meet some lovely people, d) don’t panic if the train home is delayed – full fare refunds equal funds for future events 😉 – Brum was the most daunting as I had never been there before (big city) apart from passing through it once on a coach. But I survived on some new discoveries, hearty conversation, oddly enough a couple of hugs and forehead kisses and a lovely discount on a whisky tumbler silver cup… (a kind offer from the maker.) York was the more memorable though as it was my first time (the featured image is the view over the race course from the Ebor stand at the end of the day.)

Then some tastings with the lovely Dram Team – great banter, great company and a few absolute delights amongst the samples. I have also been lucky enough to have been chosen by the Steve Rush from The Whisky Wire to sample the Rebel Yell bourbons, and I hope for some more opportunities in the future.

So my memorable whiskies of 2016…

Murray McDavid – Mortlach 21 year old – this had me saying “oh hello…” yes it had me lost for words, taking me somewhere nice where I didn’t want to come back from. It was so beautifully rich and inviting.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Tobermory 21 year old (cask strength) – “someone cupping your cheeks while giving you a gentle kiss”. Cocoa butter and milky bar followed by warm spices and chocolate on the palate, warming and oaky.

Benrinnes 23 year old sherry cask – a beautifully heavily sherried SMW, so full of flavour and warmth. Another delight!

Glen Moray 1994 – Sat in a cottage in the Lakes on a cold October evening in front of a fire I had this sample…a beautifully rich and delightful dram. The succulent sherry on the nose, a hint of tobacco and invitingly decadent. And then that palate which you simply have to savour…whilst smiling.

All in all a wonderful mixture of memories, and thanks to all of you that were a part of this year.


Royal Lochnagar Visit

Today I visited the Royal Lochnagar distillery which is located very near to Balmoral Castle on Royal Deeside.

It was a bright but cold November morning, so what better to do then visit a distillery for a little tour and a warming sample or two…?

The distillery has been in the area since 1845. This was the “new” one having previously burned down in 1824 and 1841. It gained its Royal warrant after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were invited to visit. At this point it became Royal Lochnagar.

It is a lovely wee place and the tour was informative and interesting, the group were allowed a sample of their own malt to try against a sample of some which would become Talisker. The smokiness of the peated malt was clearly discernible on the tongue.

Unfortunately I was unable to take any photographs but there was an opportunity to nose some of the casks, sherry finish, a bourbon finish and also a cask with Lagavulin, sweet yet smoky and the hint of TCP.

Back in the visitor centre we were all five a sample of the 12 year old and the distilleries own bottling. Apple and vanilla on the nose with spices too, I found the limited release slightly smoother however.

Glenfiddich Visit

I had passed this distillery many a time on travels over the years but this time it was a chance to go in and visit.

Tickets bought we went into watch the introductory film before commencing the tour itself.

A young lady took us on the tour. I guess what strikes you is the scale of operation, this is a large distillery. This was my late Father’s favourite distillery, one he hadn’t visited. The only one we visited together was Highland Park (and I admired his ability to receive a couple of additional samples.)

It was nice seeing the fallen angels (nothing wrong with that) in the warehouse…

We were then treated to some samples, we tried the 12, the Original, the 15 Solera reserve and the 18 Small Batch Reserve. I have to say I think the 15 and 18 went down well that day.

Definitely a distillery I want to visit again…

Lakes Distillery

I recently visited this distillery which is located next to Bassenthwaite Lake, in the Lake District National Park.

This, if you didn’t know is a new distillery which ran its first spirit on 16th December 2014 and officially opened that year.

The tour itself costs £12.50 (billy no mates here went alone, but a voucher can be used with another grown up to gain entry for £6.25.)

Personally I thought this was quite hefty, especially to a new one looking to attract visitors to their venture.

You are greeted at the distillery by magnificent iron gates which have been designed by a local craftsman. These depict malt, barley and elements of the ingredients used in gin. The distillery itself was a former Victorian cattle farm. Throughout the building you will find quatrefoils (four overlapping circles) with the secular meaning “faith, hope, luck and love” (which I think is rather nice) and which they now use as part of their branding. Oh and don’t forget to go and look at the alpacas.

We were taken upstairs (by tour guide Alan) and shown a flyover video of the history of the distillery from its water source, Sprinkling Tarn in Borrowdale. The journey sees you passing through all the way to Workington. I’m hoping they edit the video as it is quite nausea inducing. If you’ve been you’ll understand, if you’re going, you’ve been forewarned. Aside from the history of the area and building, it was interesting as it covered most of the areas where I have walked / climbed my 25 fells.

We were taken through the distillation process before embarking on the tour. It’s a tiny distillery and all brand spanking new. It kind of felt as if it were lacking the history “romance” of some of the other tours I’ve been on, but with age comes experience…. and theirs will hopefully age well.

In the warehouse we were shown the barrels quietly resting. There were a lot of the Founders’ Club casks and it will be interesting to hear what they are like in future times, and I hope Cdr. James Bond 007 likes his. Sadly we were unable to take any photos on the tour, so no proof. You’ll all have to believe me!

Back in the visitor centre once more, we were given our sample. We tried the One, this is a blend of four whiskies from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We also tried the distillery’s own vodka – okay and quite inoffensive (not a vodka drinker) and their gin. Having had a sip of the gin previously and trying it again, it is definitely very fragrant and I can’t quite say it suits my palate, however the lady next to me was lapping it up. I actually just bumped into the same couple again in a different village. It was nice to have a brief chat, they asked my thoughts, and I theirs.

Lastly as the group was small (five of us) we were also given the the One which had been finished in an Oloroso cask for 12 months, this was lovely and smooth and you can taste the sherry, it was rather nice. And also the one finished in a Tawny Port cask. This was a lovely colour with a fine nose, the palate was very smooth.

Their first bottling of their legally named “whisky” will come of age in 2018, so we shall see…. I can see this being a “boutique” distillery. I can’t fully explain why. It’s just a feeling I have.

The Edradour

The 12th of August “The Glorious Twelfth” saw me visiting this distillery which is located just outside Pitlochry in Perthshire.

Edradour is”world renowned as the smallest traditional distillery in Scotland and arguably the most unique. Dating back to 1825, Edradour, stands alone as the last stronghold of handmade single malt whisky from a farm distillery still in production today”.

I had previously been past this distillery, but unbeknownst to me it was closed. This time however on a grey day, it was open.

Tickets in hand we awaited the tour starting by waiting in the bar, we were then taken to the old Malt Barn to be shown an introductory film and receive our samples. They give samples at the start so that they can lead you through the process knowing what you’ve tried… Ian the guide gave us a rather animated talk and after slamming his hand on the lintel above the window several times, said “never, never put coke in your whisky”. However, I noticed people had added water to their cream liqueur. Feel he might need to add guidance on that. I tried the Ballechin which is a 10 year old, the nose was quite grassy but obviously smoky. The palate was smoky, with chocolate and hints of oak, with a nice finish. You will probably see me say this again, but I am trying to sample un-peated whiskies as there are many more expressions to try against the ones I am used to drinking. I also tried their liqueur, which was obviously creamy and nice.

On the way up to the warehouses it was pointed out to us that just through the trees across the stream that they are constructing a more or less mirror image of the distillery thus doubling its size. This includes having the current equipment replicated to ensure the continuity of standards and tastes in their whiskies.

The tour finished with us going back to the tasting bar. There I tried one of the Signatory whiskies – Auchentoshan 1999, bourbon barrel 15 year old, and then as that was served in a chipped glass I was offered another as an apology and was given a Ballechin 13 year old which was port cask matured. This had a fruity inviting nose, the palate was a wallop of smoke but smooth, it was very warming with a nice finish. But again peated.

Definitely worth a visit.