Dramming by bus
Other whisky things to do easy to reach from the capital of Scotland.
(missed Part 1?)
There was a period when we were poorly experienced drammers, and our search for new distilleries to visit was done through the good (although it could be improved) Visit Scotland map or with the map we got from the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. The brands we knew better were the ones we could find in grocery stores or the super classics (Oban, Lagavulin, Macallan, etc.), so we didn’t have much clue about many of the distilleries around Scotland. In this context, we started looking out for places to visit in daytrips. One of the first ones we spotted, and quite isolated with respect to others, was in a village called Hawick, the Borders distillery! So, on one sunny morning in November 2019 we decided to head south and go!
The same morning was actually the day of the Rugby World Cup final England – South Africa, so we already woke up early to find a pub showing it in the city and to get breakfast. We ended up at the Black Cat, in Rose St, where we fully enjoyed the game, including that two incredible Springboks tries.
Finished the game, we moved toward the Edinburgh bus station, to find out that our pronunciation of “Hawick” was definitely very wrong. The bus ride was about 2 hours long, including a 10-15 minutes stop in Galashiels to change coach. The landscape with rolling hills and lot of green was not as dramatic as others in the country, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Once in Hawick we went for a short walk to check out the village. It looked like a nice and quiet, nice to visit for a day or maybe two, but not much more. We then went to the distillery, situated in a late 19th century building that used to be an electric company, a great example of recovered industrial architecture. At the time it was very new: renovated in 2016, it started producing new make only in 2018. On the side they produce gin and vodka, and yes, we bought a bottle of the latter at the end of the tour, argh!!!
Our guide for the day was David, which looked very invested in the project and gave us a very nice tour, delving into the details of their whisky and other spirits production. It finished with a tasting in a very cozy bar above the visitor centre. The taste included their new make spirit, Kerr gin and Puffing vodka, and one of two scotch whiskies, both sourced: the blended malt Lower East Side and the blended whisky Clan Fraser. Of course, we tasted one each, and although pleasant, we decided to wait for their own single malt. After the distillery we conceded ourselves a coffee and cake in one of the nice little cafes in Hawick, and we took the bus back to Edinburgh, to end a very nice day.
We found ourselves into a similar situation a couple of months later. It’s early January 2020, a friend was visiting us from Italy for a few days…A friend that, being from the north-east of Italy, appreciates spirits and is very curious about whisky. After the a quite lame Hogmanay’s celebration, we decided to take her to visit a scotch whisky distillery…Clearly just out of courtesy, not because we wanted to!
We didn’t have enough time for a big trip, but still enough to go outside Edinburgh, so we figured out that Tullibardine or Deanston would have been good options. We picked the second option, for no special reason other than a better combination of train timetable and timing of the tour.
We woke up quite early to take the train to Stirling, and from there we took a bus that very conveniently left us in front of the distillery. Our friend had never seen a distillery, so we decided to do a standard tour (we caught up with the Warehouse tasting later on).
The building looked quite different from other, more classic distilleries. We understood why at the very start of the tour, when the guide covered the history of the distillery and told us that the building used to be a cotton mill until the mid-60s. Before moving to the production area, we could take a wee look at the turbine that produces power for the distillery from the river Teith.
The tour was quite informative and interesting, with two highlights: the huuuuge open-top mash tun (we were all impressed!) and a cask in the warehouse signed by the cast of The Angels’ Share movie…because yes, part of the movie was filmed here!
We finally moved to a nice tasting room, where four drams were waiting for us: the classic 12y, the Virgin Oak, the 18y, and the 14y Spanish Oak Finish, all 43.6% except for the latter (57.9%). The drams were paired with delicious chocolate. To be honest, our palates were not that developed at the time to fully appreciate the quality of these whiskies. We definitely do now, and Deanston is one of our great favourites!
After the tasting we browsed the shop (which btw offers a lot of 35ml bottles), but very briefly because it was already time to head back to Edinburgh. We would have hanged out a bit longer, but we’d decided to bring our friend to the SMWS in the evening to put a cherry on the top of her full-on whisky day. She still drinks whisky, so we consider her initiation to the water of life a great success. Stay tuned for another couple of car-free whisky adventures in the next post, meanwhile, as always, Slainte!