#1.3 Dramming around again after lockdown

A quick escape to the Highlands (Day 3 & 4)


Next in line in our May 2021 Highlands trip: Deanston and Tullibardine. 

(missed Day 2 or Day 1?)

Day #3 started with a 3-hour drive from Muir of Ord to the village of Doune, in the southern Highlands, famous for its castle which was used as a set for popular movies and TV series. Despite not being able to find our coconut shells (probably a swallow stole them from us), we toured the castle anyway.

Doune Castle <>insert coconut shells noise</>.

After that, we checked in to a lovely, local B&B and went straight to Deanston distillery, just a 15-minute walk away. The staff are very professional and welcoming, Brian led us straight to the warehouse where 3 casks were waiting for us and only us (a private tasting, yay!).

The first expression was a 2013 vintage 1st fill ex-bourbon, quite delicious, full of all the notes you’d expect from a great bourbon cask (vanilla, honey, caramel), but very balanced despite the young age. Second up, an incredible 2001 fino hogshead, re-casked from 1st fill ex-bourbon. Brian told us that this cask was supposed to be finished earlier, but because of the pandemic it aged for an extra year or so. It was surprisingly good, very different from a typical sherried style whisky (drier, and orchard fruits notes), which instead came in the form of the last, and delicious, 2004 amontillado butt, a classic sherry-bomb.

The tasting location: Deanston Warehouse 4!

In the store they kindly gave us a wee taste of an ex-calvados and a marsala finished expression (12 and 15 years old), both quite interesting. We were spoiled for choice, but we went with the 2013 full bottle and the 2001 small bottle (too good and peculiar to be left there), plus a plethora of 30ml samples, including the new make spirit. At this point the credit card was crying. As it was a very nice day, we sipped one of the samples (a 2002 vintage ex-port pipe finish) in the beautiful gardens behind the castle, next to a wee stream: a liquid picnic.

Happiness after the tasting at Deanston.

As per the previous day, the rest of the evening was quiet…mostly because the only pub in the village was closed (we were told because of a restrictions breach), so we ended up drinking some previously collected samples in the B&B while re-watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail (of course).

The final day of our trip started with a quick morning visit of the Dunblane cathedral, which was on the way to our next and last distillery: Tullibardine. We were very curious, as despite its presence in local grocery stores, the only expression we know is the (quite nice) 15 y/o, tasted a few months back through our Whisky-Me subscription. In our understanding the distillery is going through some refurbishment, but the visitor centre looks already quite new and spacious. The guide, Gavin, is a veteran: has been working there for 17 years (and as a matter of fact, one of the distillery exclusive bottlings is named after him), and he was visibly happy to have visitors again. We were the first visitors, as they reopened for tours on that very same day. He explained to us that the distillery is owned by the Famille Picard, a French beverage company which, among other things, allows them to access premium ex-wine casks. He first showed us where the malted barley comes through and the milling room. After, we entered a space where it is possible to admire all 3 parts of the process equipment together (mashtun, washbacks and four stills). This was quite unique to us because in most of the other distilleries we visited these are located in different rooms, despite Tullibardine being far from a craft distillery (3mlpa production). Next, we spent some time in the warehouse, which is always among our favourite parts.

Tullibardine distillery.

Finally, the tasting takes place in the shop: Gavin was quite generous, and to our request he was happy to give us one of the Murray range instead of the 15y that we had already tasted, as well as a taste of one Distillery Exclusive, a 12y cask strength Moscatel finish (£95, the other one available was an ex-bourbon cask: same age, same price and cask strength), and a Marsala finish from the Murray series (which we happily bought). This was one of the most engaging tours we had…It was very easy to connect with the distillery “spirit” (in all meanings).

The rest of the day went smoothly. Lunch and a stroll in Perth, followed by a short but enjoyable walk at Loch Leven before driving back to the home base in Leith. As in our previous trips around Scotland, we ended up talking about how lucky we are to live in this gorgeous country, while starting to plan the next trip.

Deanston Warehouse 4 tasting

Price: £35.00 pp (May 2021)

Tasting: 3 drams straight from the cask, 2013 ex-bourbon barrel (£65/25 for 700/200ml), 2001 organic ex-bourbon with 3-4y finish in fino hogshead (£120/35), 2004 amontillado butt (£120/35), and a complimentary glass (high-stem copita)

Target: whisky enthusiasts, geeks, and experts

Value for money: Good

Highlights: the whisky and the friendly staff

Things we did not like: nothing really

Link: https://www.deanstonmalt.com/

Tullibardine Bonded Tour

Price: £30.00 pp (May 2021)

Tasting: 3 drams, Tullibardine Sovereign (43%, NAS but ~7y, wink-wink), a choice of the cask finish series (225 Sauternes, 228 Burgundy, and 500 sherry, all 43% NAS but ~8y, wink-wink), and the 15y (43%), and a complimentary glass (short highball glass)

Target: both whisky novices and enthusiasts

Value for money: Good

Highlights: the friendly guide and “hey, I can see the mashtun, washbacks and stills from this spot!”

Things we did not like: nothing really

Link: https://www.tullibardine.com/

Author: Dramming Around

A pretend-to-be-young Italian couple on a quest to discover whisk(e)y distilleries and their golden nectar

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