The annual Celtic Whiskey Club Distillery Trip set out on its’ voyage from 8th-11th of October. Taking place in the West of Scotland, participants got to experience six of the country’s best and possibly most remote distilleries. The tour took in some of the finest scenery Scotland has to offer, fantastic local food of course some amazing whiskies. Our very own Emmet was there to take notes and report back on some of the highlights of the trip!
As we set out bright and early on Wednesday the 8th of October we were all too aware of the dreadful weather forecast that lay before us. Luckily though, we arrived in Glasgow to see clear blue skies. When everybody came to introducing themselves it was a pleasure to see a nice mix of new faces and “Whiskey Trip Veterans” (You know who you are).
From Glasgow airport, the two and a half hour journey to Fort William gifted us with some of the most amazing scenery that I have ever witnessed. It also involved a little bit of fun with the eagerly awaited annual quiz. There is still a pending Steward’s enquiry into the results though…the perfect spelling of “Baudoinia compniacensis” makes me suspicious that Mr. Google may have been a member in one or more of the teams ;)
The smell of Barley infused the air as we arrived in Ben Nevis. The distillery is situated on the foot of the highest mountain in the U.K, hence the distillery bears its’ name. We got a tour of the rough and ready distillery from the its manager followed by a tasting conducted by the director. We even got the chance to taste their whole range which was incredible to say the least.
We took the ferry from Mallaig to the picturesque Isle of Skye, a short journey from the port to the Gaelic Whisky company. We got to try their entire range of award winning whiskies. The “Te Bheag” (Pronounced Chev-Vek) was a memorable dram. That night we stayed and dined at the beautiful Hotel Eilean Iarmain.
By day two it was time to visit the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, the famous Talisker distillery. Here we received an extremely interesting, entertaining and passionate tour and tasting. The whiskies were amazing. We got the chance to try Talisker 10, 25 and 30 year olds in addition to their ‘Distiller’s Edition’ and their ‘Port Rouge’ expression. That night we stayed in the Oban bay hotel and dined in the ‘Eeusk’ seafood restaurant.
We woke bright an early on Friday morning to catch the ferry from Oban to Isle of Mull, where Tobermory distillery is located. There was a buzzing atmosphere around Tobermory due to the ‘Mull Rally’ taking place. It did however have a slight effect on our accessibility to certain parts of the distillery as they were using the grounds to check cars before they started. The usual noise you would associate with a distillery like turning, boiling and pressing was substituted by the loud 'revving' of modified car engines. We did enjoy a very engaging tour of the distillery nonetheless, and got to see the majority of areas. What was interesting about this distillery is that they still choose to make their whiskies using traditional methods. The tour guide described their most scientific piece of equipment used in Tobermory as being a calculator. They even still use a book and mathematical formulas to work out the alcohol volume of their product. I found this part of the tour very insightful. Of course it is fantastic to witness the growth and expansion of the Industry, and the huge role technology has to play in it, but it was also humbling to return to basics and realize what is possible with so little. Distilling has become a very exact science; and modern distilleries tend to resemble hi-tech labs more than anything else. To witness traditional methods of distilling and to be reminded of the history and years of experimenting behind whisky production to bring it to be the thriving point it is at today. In many ways this would make this particular visit my favorite part of the trip. To top it off the tasting was excellent. We got to try all expressions of Tobermory including a 20 year-old single cask as well as the Ledaid 10 year-old, which is their peated malt.
After leaving the Isle of Mull we visited the Oban distillery. We got a mini tour of the distillery and a tasting of their whiskies. We tasted Oban 14, Oban Distillers Edition and the special opportunity to try a dram drawn straight from the cask. From there we travelled to the Isle of Arran where we stayed and dined in the Altachorvie Island Retreat in Lamlash. On our final morning, we encountered some slight motor difficulties. It would appear that the bus was starting to feel the brunt of so much whisky, finding it a little difficult to get moving. It must have just had a slightly sore head from tasting all that whisky! Soon we were back on the road however, and on our way to independently owned Arran Distillery.
We got a tasting of all of their malts followed by lunch. The last stop on our tour was the Auchentoshan distillery in Glasgow. Here we got a tour and an insight into their distilling process. We got to smell and taste their new make spirit before going to their tasting room and tasting all of their range.
The trip was interesting and entertaining at all times, with great comradery between participants. It was such a great opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the various distilling processes at different distilleries. Of course the chance to try so many excellent products was brilliant! To have such fun doing so was of course a huge bonus. Many thanks to all who contributed to the trip and hope to see you all again next year!