#2.2 A very Scottish summer holiday

A trip to Orkney Speyside et al.

(day 2)

Busy day (fortunately, given the weather…): we officially entered Speyside and visited a couple of Glens, Glenlivet and GlenAllachie! 

(Forward to Day 10 / Days 7-8-9 / Days 5-6 / Day 4 / Day 3 or back to Day 1)

Unfortunately, our first night ever sleeping in a campervan was not particularly resting, aided by an incessant rain pounding on the van’s top. Teresa waked up particularly nervous because this day was going to be the first time she drove on the left side of the road. However, we jumped in the van and the drive was (surprisingly) smooth until, just round a single-track corner, a behemoth of a distillery appeared: and here we are at Glenlivet!

Happy faces at Glenlivet.

Here, the tasting guide Andrew welcomed us very kindly, leading us to the newly built visitor centre and bringing us a nice coffee. The room is quite nice, with a very relaxing and cosy atmosphere, almost like a chalet on the Alps. It has a cocktail bar and comfortable chairs. That brings us to the tasting room, with soft lights and themed to look like an 1800s whisky cellar.

For that day we chose the “Single Casks” tasting, where we were given four samples of the big range of single cask bottlings available at the distillery, all cask strength. Andrew was extremely knowledgeable and passionate; we could listen to him talking about whisky and whisky making all day! As a first dram, he picked a 12y aged in an ex-oloroso butt, very dark in colour and a typical sherry bomb style. Second and third a pair of 16y, one golden coloured, almost like a wheat field in June, and the other again deep amber. Of course, this was to show us the difference between maturation in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks. Finally, a real gem: an 18y matured in a refill sherry cask, lighter in colour than the previous sherry matured drams, but more delicate and nuanced. Overall, a great experience.

What a lineup!

The Single Cask bottles at the shop were a bit expensive (among the ones we tried, the cheapest was £85 for a half-litre bottle), so we decided to buy a “bottle your own” expression. They had three, all cask strength but not single casks: a 12y (£55 for a 70cl bottle), a 15y (£70 for 70cl) and an 18y (£110 we think, but we might not remember correctly); we chose the 15y, whose cask make-up reminds a lot the one of their 15y core range, although this one is not chill-filtered. To note the impressive collection of Glenlivet expressions available at the shop, as well as whisky from other Pernod-Ricard distilleries (these ones in the single casks range).

Gianluigi’s first bottling experience.

Of course one of us could not taste these beauties right away, and today Teresa picked the shortest straw. Back in the van, we drove towards the village of Aberlour, where we had booked a pitch at a lovely camping. The second and last distillery of the day is one producing a whisky we both really enjoyed so far, so we were very hyped up and we didn’t want either of us to miss the tasting. So, after checking in at the camping, we walked towards the distillery on a nice trail, and 50 minutes after (someone miscalculated and thought there were only 20 minutes…ehm, Gianluigi for once) we arrived at GlenAllachie!

Here as well, tours were not available, so the experience offered to us was a video tour and a tasting. The video was very entertaining and one of the best substitutes for a walk into a distillery that we have experienced. The guide Graham interrupted the video a few times to give us the opportunity to taste the delicious drams (although with a very tiny version of a Glencairn glass, almost could not stick our noses into it!). These were: a GlenAllachie 15y, two of their distillery single casks (2009 Grattamacco finish and 2006 ex-oloroso full maturation, both cask strength, priced £100 and above) and finally a 21y McNair Lum Reek (46%). He also gave us a taste of theMcNair upcoming rums, two 7y (one finished in an ex-peated whisky…very interesting!) and a 15y. Gianluigi in particular appreciated this, as he is starting getting more and more into rum as well (oh noooo).

Again, what a lineup!

Something that we both always experienced, since the beginning of our whisky journey, is a connection with the red wine finished whiskies. We grew up in different parts of Italy, but both our families come from the countryside. There, red wine is almost always the drink of choice during meals. All this to say that the Grattamacco had to come home with us (nice excuse, isn’t it?), together with a miniature of the mighty 10y cask strength, a dram now very hard to get hold of when a new batch is released. After we left GlenAllachie we walked back to Aberlour through a wood, near the Linn Falls and along the Aberlour distillery (…no worries, just walking past it, we already visited it in December 2019, but it’s a story for another time).

The quality of pictures decreases after two tastings…

We had a quick pint and a warm soup in a pub before heading back to the camping, tired but happy. Our first attempt to grill failed miserably as the charcoal was too humid after all the rain of the night before. So, we sadly cooked the meat on the portable cooker, and we quickly went to bed, to get ready for another adventure!

Glenlivet The Single Casks Tasting

Price: £30.00 pp (July 2021)

Tasting: 4 drams from the Glenlivet single casks bottlings (for us 12y 1st fill ex-sherry butt, 16y 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel, 16y 1st fill ex-sherry butt, 18y 2nd fill ex-sherry butt, all cask strength)

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: Good

Highlights: the drams and the renovated visitor centre

Things we did not like: the single casks bottling prices

Link: https://www.theglenlivet.com/en-UK

GlenAllachie Premium Experience

Price: £30.00 pp (July 2021)

Tasting: 4x20ml drams, GlenAllachie 15y, two distillery exclusive single casks 2006 ex-oloroso hhd and 2009 Grattamacco finish, MacNair Lum Reek Blended Malt 21y. Complimentary mini glencairn.

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: Good

Highlights: the drams and the video distillery tour

Things we did not like: nothing really

Link: https://theglenallachie.com/