Back to Edinburgh through Aberfeldy and Pitlochry
TL;DR: The final day of the trip was dedicated to slowly driving back to Edinburgh. Still, we were able to fill the day with a few distillery visits: Aberfeldy first, followed by Edradour and Blair Athol! Phew!
We woke up early that day, skipped breakfast, and drove straight to the ferry terminal at Fishnish, on the Isle of Mull, to catch the ferry back to the mainland under the morning sun. After a quick ferry trip (we believe it’s the quickest Mull route), we arrived in Lochaline, on the Morvern peninsula (home to another distillery, Nc’Nean, which at that time we didn’t even know existed). We had breakfast, finally, at the Lochaline Snack Bar, which serves delicious sandwiches, rolls, and other goodies at very reasonable prices. We enjoyed our breakfast in the good company of a nice English couple, who told us how they decided to spend their retirement on Mull…not a bad idea at all!
Back in the car, we soon arrived in Corran for another quick ferry (this time just to save us over an hour drive), and then drove for the first time through Glencoe: what an incredible place! It felt like being in the middle of American canyons, but green.
We followed the road to Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum, then we turned left (eastward) and drove almost straight towards the first distillery of the day: Aberfeldy! It was not a new name for us, we had seen it in supermarkets and at the airport, but we had never tried it before, so we were quite curious. The distillery is in the village of….yep, you guessed it: Aberfeldy! Lovely place, the landscape was not as dramatic as the ones we had crossed earlier in the morning, but hilly and cosy. The distillery itself sits in quite a beautiful spot, almost like a postcard, with a small walking bridge to cross before entering the visitor centre.
The distillery is owned by Bacardi, together with Dewar’s, one of the most prominent blended scotch whiskies, and a few other single malt distilleries (Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Aultmore and Macduff). Before the tour, we could take a look at the museum on site, with lots of memorabilia and documents about the history of John Dewar and related brands.
Then, we started the tour of this very pretty distillery. Around production, the signals of being owned by a big corporation were obvious, with a lot of signs that reminded Gianluigi of his environmental consulting days (not a bad thing, on the contrary: emphasis on environment and safety are a must!). It is on this tour that we realised that we could remember all the stages of production…after all, that was the 5th distillery in 4 days.
Then, we moved on to the warehouse, where a dram taken from a cask was served, but only to those with a more expensive ticket (3-4 people on the tour, including Teresa). It was a 1999 (so almost 20y old) Aberfeldy ex-sherry cask, and it was truly delicious. The fact that it was served with people with the regular ticket just waiting and watching was not the best however, a bit awkward. Anyway, back at the visitor centre, we could try a dram each: we chose the Aberfeldy 12 and the Dewar’s White Label. Not very memorable the first one, more memorable (but not in a good way) the second one.
We had lunch at the café in the visitor centre, but we soon left to get to the next distillery of the day: Edradour! It is a very small distillery, located near the village of Pitlochry. It used to be one of the smallest, if not the smallest in Scotland (called ‘the little gem’), but then they lost the record because a few smaller distilleries opened and because they built a second production line in a separate building on site, increasing the stills from 2 to 4. Edradour is owned by Signatory Vintage, an independent bottler, and indeed the shop stocks quite some of their range.
This time, drams were served at the beginning of the tour (so Gianluigi could sip a tiny bit of it): we picked the flagship Edradour 10 (40%) and the peated version Ballechin 10y (46%), and decided not to go for the whisky cream liqueur. We started the tour with a big German group, but after a while, we and another 3-4 people branched off to get the tour in English. As usual, the tour guide went through the story of the distillery, which was founded in 1825, although their first single malt was only released in 1982! We visited the new distillery first, while the old production plant was showed to us from the courtyard as we walked back to the visitor centre. It is on this tour that we discovered what the ‘monkey shoulder’ is. At the shop, we found out that for a few extra quid, we could get the Signatory Vintage version of Edradour, still 10y old and vintage 2019, bottled at 46%, non-coloured and not chill-filtered: a very delicious treat to ourselves! We also got the whisky cream liqueur for a friend, who gave absolutely positive feedback!
Back in the car, we drove towards the final stop of the trip, the neighbouring Blair Athol distillery, in Pitlochry. We went first for a coffee in the village (the early start was catching up on us), and then checked in at the distillery. After a bit, our host for the day, the very knowledgeable Calum, took us to the table for the tasting (after two tours in a day, we didn’t feel like going for the third one…Well, we would catch up later on).
We hadn’t had any Blair Athol before, and actually rarely heard anything about it, so we weren’t surprised when Calum explained to us that the majority of the whisky produced there goes into blends. Now that we are a bit more experienced, we can say that Blair Athol drams can be fantastic, but mostly the independently bottled ones. There, we were given Blair Athol 12y and Distillers edition 2019, followed by a range of Diageo products: Cragganmore, Caol Ila and Lagavulin Distiller Editions, and a wee tiny sip of Johnnie Walker Blue Label – the first and only time we tried it, not impressed (instead, we determined that the much cheaper Green Label we had at home was more enjoyable). After collecting “our” driver’s drams and a quick stop at the shop, we finally drove home.
It was a cracking weekend, one of the most memorable ones, and we took so much in from all these distillery visits. It’s when we switched from being whisky curious to whisky enthusiasts! Some of the experiences were quite touristy, which was OK with us at the time, but would not suit us well today after n more distilleries tours and tastings…We really appreciated Ardnamurchan for their environmental forward thinking (well, now we appreciate them ALSO for the stunning quality of their whiskies), while the range we tried at Tobermory was incredible. Edradour and Ben Nevis were unknown to us previously but revealed themselves as little gems in the scotch whisky landscape. Overall, a fantastic trip!
Until next time, slainte!
Blair Athol: https://www.malts.com/en-gb/distilleries/blair-athol