I’ve Got Whiskey On The Mind

“Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey.”

One of the best parts of the trip:  the whiskey.

We visited three distilleries and a cooperage (where the barrels are made).  This was my second whiskey tour (I did the bourbon trail with my fiancé a couple of years ago).  So I was already semi-familiar with the distillation process.  For those who aren’t, I’ve tried to sum it up in a diagram – Distillation Process.

Our first stop was Glenlivet, or “Valley of the Smooth Flowing One.”

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Glenlivet officially began distilling in 1824 (although it had long been distilling whiskey illegally prior to that date).  Whiskey distilling started in the Speyside region with tenement farmers, farmers who did not own the land, but instead worked it and paid a percentage of their income to the individual who did own the land.  Many times, the percentage was rather high, and the farmers started to distill whiskey to make some extra cash – free of taxes.  Additionally, due to its remote location in the Highlands, it was easy for farmers to hide their illicit behavior from the customs office.

In 1824, however, legislation was passed to allow whiskey distillation, and George Smith, the founder of Glenlivet, was the first in the Glenlivet parish to get his distiller’s license.  For this, he was harassed by his neighboring distillers and was forced to carry a pair of pistols for the rest of his life.

George Smith’s son had been studying the law when his father died.  He gave up his law career to move home and run the family business.  His law degree informed how he ran the business.  For instance, it was under his leadership that Glenlivet fought a protracted legal battle over the Glenlivet trade mark, giving Glenlivet the right to be called “THE” Glenlivet.  For those of us who are Ohio State fans, you know how important the “THE” can be.

Next was Glenfiddich, or “Valley of the Deer.”

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“Few men have built their own distillery with their own bare hands. But that’s exactly how William Grant started writing our story.”

During the summer of 1886, William Grant and his children built, by hand, what was to become the Glenfiddich Distillery.  Unlike many other distilleries, Glenfiddich actually has its own cooperage on site.  The triangular shape of Glenfiddich bottles was instituted in 1961.  And in 1963, Glenfiddich was the first Scottish Whiskey to be actively promoted outside Scotland.

Before visiting our last distillery for the day, The Macallan, we stopped at Speyside cooperage.

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Speyside cooperage was founded in 1947 by the Taylor family.  It is the largest independent cooperage in the United Kingdom.  It also has branches in Alloa, Kentucky, and Ohio because much of the wood it uses to make barrels actually comes from former bourbon barrels.  Under United States law, bourbon may only be aged in virgin barrels; thus, after one use, the barrel cannot be used again – at least not to make bourbon.  So many bourbon distilleries will sell their barrels on to other whiskey distilleries.

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But, like Bourbon, oak is the only wood that can be used as casks because oak prevents seepage of the whiskey while still allowing the whiskey to “breathe.”  The ability to breathe also produces what is known as the “angels’ share,” i.e. the whiskey that evaporates.

The coopers at Speyside still use all the traditional methods and tools to make the casks.

Finally, we went to The Macallan, which just opened its new distillery this summer.  It was breathtaking in a very modern sense.

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The original name of the area was “Maghellan”, comprised of two Gaelic words: “magh”, meaning fertile ground and “Ellan”, from the Monk St. Fillan.

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The Macallan was founded by Alexander Reid in 1824 on a plateau above the river Spey in north-east Scotland.  In fact, to ensure that the river Spey continued to provide The Macallan Distillery with pure water for its whiskey, the Distillery bought up much of the land that surrounds the river.  Unlike Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, Macallan does not use a Scottish cooperage; instead, they import their barrels from a cooperage in Spain.

Ultimately, my favorite was Glenlivet.  Although I have to admit, my forever favorite will always be Jameson.  And not just because it’s one of my cats’ names.

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Jameson and Guinness

Scotland – An Itinerary

My best friend and I are planning our trip to Scotland this week – so obviously we incorporated wine and a charcuterie board into our planning sess.  Since this is my first attempt at blogging – a sentence I never thought I would say … or type – you don’t know my affinity for cheese and wine yet.  But don’t worry, you will.

More to the point, I am going to Scotland next week, and I thought I would share the itinerary that my bff and I came up with.  So here goes.

Monday:

11:30 am: arrive at Airport

11:30 am -12:57 pm: bask in the glorious feeling of having no work to do

12:57 pm: Flight to Connecting City

2:55 pm: Arrive at Connection

2:55-9:55 pm: Sleep in the airport and pray they did not lose our bags (which happened on our trip to Ireland …. both ways.  But, despite not showering or changing clothes over a period of three days, we still managed to have a great time)

9:55 pm: Flight to Scotland

TuesdayARRIVE IN EDINBURGH

Today, we are going to grab some coffee and explore Edinburgh, including most of the following sites:

  • Edinburgh Castle  
  • Gladstone’s Land
  • St. Giles’ Cathedral
  • Palace of Holyrood House
  • Queen’s Gallery
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Scottish National Gallery
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday:  Hike to Arthur’s Seat and visit any of the sites mentioned above that we didn’t make it to on Tuesday

Thursday: We are taking the Jacobite-Steam Train (AKA the Hogwarts Express) Tour

  • First stop is for coffee at Tyndrum 
  • Next stop is at Glencoe (WHERE PART OF HARRY POTTER WAS FILMED (when Hagrid is skipping stones)  – and where an apparently less happy event occurred – i.e. the bonniest of Prince Charlies)
  • Next we will arrive in Mallaig where we will have approximately one hour to enjoy a walk and take in the local atmosphere
  • We will then board a train to Fort William, and afterwards back to Glasgow by coach

Friday:

  • Explore Stirling, including Stirling Castle
  • National Wallace Monument
  • Doune Castle (20 minutes from the Wallace Monument)
  • Inchmahome priory

Saturday: Isle of Skye

  • Fairy pools
  • Quiraing
  • Black Cuillin Mountains
  • Old Man of Storr

SundayInverness

  • Leakey’s Bookshop : located in a converted 1649 church
  • Culloden Battlefield
  • Clava Cairns
  • Loch Ness

MondayUrquhart Castle

Tuesday: Today we are doing a Whiskey Tour, which I am VERY excited to do.  In 2016, my fiancé and I did the Bourbon Trail, which was a blast.  And I am hoping that this turns out to be just as fun!  Here is the itinerary our tour guide sent us: 

7:00ish am: at this ungodly hour, we will be meeting the wise Duncan Cartwright for our Whiskey Tour!

7:30 am – 9:00 am: Find Duncan

9:00 am: Departure from Grantown On Spey

9:00 am – 9:35 am: drive to Glenlivet

9:35 am – 10:00 am: Browse the exhibition and shop before you join the first tour of the day at 1000.

10:00 am: Glenlivet Classic Tour (£10) i.e. “Where it all started”, the first legal distillery in Speyside. Good exhibition.

1:00 pm: – 13:00 pm Glenfiddich Explorers Tour (£10) They say Dufftown was built on seven distilleries and Glenfiddich is one of the most well know producing  variety of innovative malts. It’s also a very photogenic distillery.

3:00 pm: Speyside Cooperage (£4) Watch the coopers at work. Some say the cask provides 70% of the flavour.

4:30 pm: Macallan Tour

Wednesday: Visit Balmoral!

ThursdayBack to Edinburgh we go for our final night and a different fun part of the city!