#27.1 Speycation

Dramming in Elgin


TL;DR: After the fun of the Edinburgh Whisky Group trip to Campbeltown in 2021, a year later we replicated with another one, but to Speyside! Plenty of whisky activities and fun, starting from Elgin, where we attended a bespoke tasting at G&M and we visited Glen Moray distillery, both great experiences. 

During the pandemic, one of the things that helped keep us sane was the very nice people we met after joining the Edinburgh Whisky Group, on Facebook. While the group grew almost exponentially in numbers, during the lockdown a small part of it, mostly spread all over the Lothians (with some exceptions in London and…Norway!), started having regular Zoom whisky tastings. When the restrictions slowly phased out, we started meeting in person for drams, which was very nice and at times surprising (on Zoom we hadn’t figured out that John and Joe were that tall!). And in October 2021, we even went all together to Campbeltown. Storming the Wee Toon was very fun and therefore a big success, so we obviously replicated the experience in 2022. This time, however, the idea came from our brilliant friend Cath (part of the group, of course), to do a Speycation! So, Speyside it shall be!

Left Edinburgh very early, and we still managed to be late!

The plan Justine organised was easy: staying in Elgin (most of us booked a room at the Premier Inn, a good solution to keep us all together although a bit pricier than expected and not that close to the centre), spending the first day there, and then travelling around the region with a rented bus that could fit the entire group of 22 people. The appointment was at 11am for the first activity of the holiday, a tasting at Gordon & MacPhail old shop in Elgin in South St (now undergoing renovation, in our understanding). The travel from Edinburgh or elsewhere was done by car or car sharing. We travelled with Justine and because of a wee late start, a break a wee too long, and a freaking huge and slow truck on the road, we got there late, fortunately just a few minutes.

“Breakfast” drams.

The tasting was a bespoke one Justine had agreed with them: 5 20ml drams for 50 quid. The drams came from their Connoisseur Choice range, except for the last one, and of course, were all non-chill filtered (NCF), not artificially coloured (NC) and cask strength (CS). We kicked the day off with a delicious 13y Strathmill from a refill ex-bourbon barrel, distilled in 2008 (57.3% abv). This is one of those Diageo’s workhorse distilleries whose product mostly goes into blends (there is a big J&B sign on the road leading to Strathmill distillery in Keith), but we are starting to appreciate it more and more thanks to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and other independent bottlers. The following dram was again a 13y, distilled in 2008 and from a refill barrel, but was a lightly peated Ardmore (whooping 62.5%), another distillery with little core range these days, but fortunately very prevalent with indy bottlers. The third dram was the best for both of us, a Tormore distilled in 2000, matured for 21y in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel and bottled in 2022 at 58.6%. Tormore is another of those distilleries we’d love to visit. It changed owner recently, from Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) to Elixir Distillers, so we are hoping they’ll open to the public at some point.

Our favourite!

The fourth dram was from a demolished distillery in Dufftown: Pittyvaich, distilled in 1993, matured in a refill American hogshead for 29y and bottled in 2022 at 48.6%. Finally, a sherried dram, a Speymalt from Macallan distillery, 20y and 55.9%. A nice one, but it didn’t blow our socks off as we were expecting. Overall it was great tasting, with a good overview of the whisky produced in the area (Ardmore is just outside Speyside), and we particularly appreciated the ex-bourbon casks heavy line-up, which gave us a better idea of the distilleries character.

What a line-up!

Lunch was “free”, so we walked towards Elgin main square, where many diners and cafes looked full. We had a very average lunch in a quite anonymous one on the square (we chose a half-empty to be quick…probably it was half-empty for a reason), and we soon walked towards the next destination: Glen Moray distillery.

Glen Moray is one of those we initially underestimated due to their cheap expressions in supermarkets, but that now we are big fan of! And actually, we like them more because of their ability to provide cheap but still decent quality drams, as well as more serious stuff for the whisky nerds, like their Warehouse 1 series, featuring the amazing 8y peated whisky from an ex-PX cask we bought a couple of years ago: a treat! We’d been at the distillery in 2019, only for a (not so) quick tasting though, so visiting the production was a real novelty for us.

Clouds over the big silo.

We had booked the Intermediate Tour, which included an in-depth visit of the production, followed by a tasting of three of their bottle-your-own casks (all NCF, NC and CS). Emma took us around the distillery, which combines old and new elements, as it underwent recent renovations, including the addition of new shiny mash-tuns. The courtyard is dominated by a huge black silo used as malt storage, which can be spotted from far away, including from the near highway.

Someone is listening very carefully!

A peculiarity is that the wash stills in the old stillhouse, the one right in front of the entrance, have all been converted into spirit stills. The tour ended in the warehouse, where a number of empty (d’oh!) casks were aligned. They used to contain various types of sherry, Sauternes, Bordeaux, Rioja, bourbon, and many others. We nosed all of them, it was definitely interesting to understand how different they can be!

Yes, we nosed them all!

In the café, the three drams were waiting for us: first, a controversial (some people loved it, some definitely didn’t, including us) vintage 2014 (bottled 2022, so 7 or 8y) unpeated whisky from an ex-cognac cask (60.2%). It was followed by a vintage 2006 (so 15 or 16y) in an ex-oloroso sherry cask, definitely a sherry bomb (60.9%). Finally, a 2012 (so 9 or 10y) peated matured in an ex-Rioja red wine cask, another delicious one (58.4%). As a bonus dram, we got another peated, but matured in an ex-Sauternes cask (vintage 2013, 58.9%), of which they still had a few bottles.

Happy after a great whisky day!

After walking back to the centre, we finished the day with a nice meal at the Drouthy Cobbler, a cute restaurant hidden in a small lane near the main square. We finally got to Premier Inn after a quick cab ride, where we had a restful night looking forward to the following days!

Gordon & MacPhail

Link: https://www.gordonandmacphail.com/#

(No summary because this was a bespoke experience)

Glen Moray Intermediate Tour

Price: £35.00 pp (October 2022)

Duration: 1h 30min

Tasting: 3 drams from the current bottle-your-own range, for us Glen Moray Vintage 2014 (7-8y) ex-cognac cask (60.2%), Vintage 2006 (15-16y) ex-oloroso sherry cask(60.9%), Vintage 2012 (9-10y) peated ex-Rioja red wine cask (58.4%)

Target: Whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: Very good

Highlights: Smelling the empty casks in the warehouse

Distillery Exclusives: Three bottle-your-own casks (see above), and the travel retail range (Elgin Classic, 12y and 15y but bottled at 48%, NCF and NC, and one litre bottles)

Recommended: Yes!

Link: https://www.glenmoray.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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