#23.2 On the run again: Dramathon 2022

Back to the Glens
(Grant and Garioch)


TL;DR: The day after the Dramathon we took advantage of being in Speyside to visit two distilleries we’d only had tastings at: Glen Grant, in Rothes, with their unique rectifiers, and Glen Garioch, in Oldmeldrum, which has been recently renovated. Both worth returning. 

(missed Part 1?)

So, after a (not so) resting sleep in Dufftown (guess why), we found ourselves with a spare Sunday (the drive home is about 3 hours only): plenty of time for some whisky stuff! Deciding which distillery to visit in Speyside and its surroundings, however, is becoming more and more difficult. Despite being the biggest single malt producing area, most distilleries are closed to the public, and a bunch of them are closed on weekends. Let’s also say that we already had the opportunity to visit a few of them (ehm, ehm, ehm, ehm).

Nevertheless, because we’ve been there also around Covid times, we only saw the visitor centre or the tasting room of some distilleries, so this was a good occasion to catch up with the production tours we hadn’t done yet. First off: Glen Grant! We’d been there for the first time in July 2021: at the time we could only visit their marvelous Victorian gardens (if it’s a beautiful day, they are worth the price of the ticket alone), have a quick tasting at the shop, and an Illy espresso at the café (spoiler: this time the café was closed, so no Illy, ouch!).

It’s dram o’ clock.

The distillery is owned by the Campari group, reason for the Italian flag in the courtyard: after Wild Turkey, this is the second distillery we visited from this owner. Glen Grant is in Rothes, almost in front of the famous copper still-producer Forsyth (also, where Caperdonich, nicknamed Glen Grant 2, was located). Founded in 1839, except for the modern and polished shop/visitor centre, it has maintained a classic distillery feel. A notable fact is that their master distiller, Dennis Malcom, is one of the longest serving workers in the whisky industry, with over 60 years of experience under his belt: impressive!

The guide of the day was Kirstie, very knowledgeable and professional. Since it wasn’t raining, her explanation of the history started in the courtyard. We swiftly (or schwifty) moved to production, where we went through the usual path: milling, mashing (closed stainless still mashtun), and (wooden) washbacks.

Mashing in progress (looks like the first water).

Here came the interesting part: the still room. Like Glenfarclas and others, the room is separated from the rest of the production. As we walked in, we noted the curious shape of the wash stills, with a copper cylinder-ish bulge at the bottom of the neck, rather than the usual round one. The spirit stills have a classic round bulge, but the most fascinating characteristic, however, is the rectifier installed at the end of the lyne arms, looking like another small still. This was an intuition by John “the Major” Grant, who took on the business in 1972, and their purpose is to allow only the lightest vapor to be condensed. To produce a light spirit, they also set quite a short and high cut for the spirit heart: from 73% down to 68%.

Have you seen a rectifier like this before?

We then visited the warehouse before the self-guided tasting at the visitor centre. At the time of booking, we asked if we could pay more to upgrade our drams: not because they are bad (because they are not, in our opinion), but just because we had had the very same drams during our 2021 visit (Arboralis and 10y). Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible, which was a pity because it would have been a simple but relevant improvement to the experience, in particular for more experienced drammers (other distilleries do it), but oh well.

Bottles on display (we tasted the middle ones).

After sipping (Teresa) and nosing (Gianluigi) the two drams, we went back to the car and drove towards the Aberdeenshire for the second distillery of the day. While driving we did some distillery spotting, first Glentauchers and then Strathmill, in Keith, reached after a nice short walk along the river Isla (the day was truly gorgeous!).

Not so hidden Strathmill warehouses.

Glen Garioch is in a very different setting: even older than Glen Grant (it was founded 1797), it is almost stuck in the village of Oldmeldrum (near Inverurie): it looks like the village grew around the distillery. Funnily, it was the distillery we visited after our 2021 Dramathon as well, but at the time it wasn’t possible to visit the production due to a combination of Covid safety rules and ongoing renovations, so we were quite excited about the tour!

Look what’s on Distillery Road!

Our guide Iona started the tour from the new malting floor, one of the parts under renovation the previous year. There was one originally, but it was dismissed back in the day when industrial maltings became too convenient to be ignored. This happened across the entire industry, so that now only a handful of distilleries malt their own barley in a malting floor (Benriach, Balvenie, Kilchoman, Laphroaig, Bowmore), and to our knowledge, only Springbank/Kilkerran do it for the 100% of their production (waiting for Dunphail), so bravo Glen Garioch! They also re-introduced the use of peat in their kiln, to get peated malt from time to time.

The renovated malting floor.

We moved on to follow the phases of whisky production: milling (classic red-painted Porteus), mashing (again, closed stainless steel mashtun), and fermenting (stainless steel washbacks). In the still room, we saw the other result of the renovations: they removed one of their three stills, and the spirit still is now directly fired (a flame is burning below, heating the still, instead of the usual steam coil inside it). Again, this modification is a step back into the past of whisky production, as direct-fire stills aren’t usually as efficient as steam coils. Their cut is wide, 73% to 63%, which contributes to giving body to the spirit.

Directly fired, trust us!

This is reflected in the malts that we sipped in the tasting room, back at the visitor centre (after a wee tour in one of the warehouses). The 12y is a solid whisky, but the Founders’ Reserve (NAS) is good too. Similar to last year, the visitor centre offers a choice from their core range, the Renaissance range (a series of four expressions, the youngest 15y and the oldest 18y), the American cask trilogy (single casks sourced in Missouri, Minnesota and Kentucky), the virgin oak finish (a vatting of multiple casks), and a couple of distillery exclusives (see below).

The Spirit is flowing!

Again, another very interesting visit, to a distillery that made efforts to bring back some features of the original production. We know that, with the re-discovery of flavours in single malts, there’s a question about the effects of each part of production. While most of the flavour has been attributed to casks, now people started exploring the effect of other factors, such as malting and distilling, and doubts about more recent modernisations have arisen. For us nerds and geeks (and generally consumers), this exploration is quite exciting as it brings us a lot of new (or old?) flavours!

The tasting.

Until next time, sláinte!

Glen Grant Tour

Price: £7.50 pp (October 2022), including the Victorian gardens

Duration: 1hr 10min

Tasting: 2 drams, Glen Grant Arboralis (NAS, 40%) and 10y (40%)

Target: Anyone, but geared towards tourists and novices

Value for money: Very good

Highlights: The still room and the rectifiers

Things we did not like: The very limited tasting options…or “option”

Distillery Exclusive: Glen Grant 13y (2008-2021), 56.5%, single cask (NCF, NC) 50cl for £120

Recommended: For the price, definitely yes

Link: https://www.glengrant.com/

Glen Garioch Founder’s Tour

Price: £15.00 pp (October 2022)

Duration: 1hr

Tasting: 2 drams, Founders’ Reserve (NAS, 48%, NC, NCF) and Glen Garioch 12y (48%, NC, NCF)

Target: Anyone, but whisky geeks might appreciate it more

Value for money: Good

Highlights: The new malting floor and the direct-fire stills

Distillery Exclusives: Glen Garioch 1991 (single ex-bourbon cask, 46.4%, NC, NCF, £325) and Sherry Cask 2009 (1st fill ex-sherry butt, 58.3%, NC, NCF, £130)

Recommended: Yes

Link: https://www.glengarioch.com/

#23.1 On the run again: Dramathon 2022

Visiting Glenfarclas before a run-y day


TL;DR: Oops we did it again…the Dramathon! After all the fun we had in 2021, back in October 2022 we participated for the second time. This year we both ran the half-marathon, always quite a challenge, but we rewarded ourselves with 3 distillery visits: first off, Glenfarclas! 

First of all, Happy New Year! We hope you had a great start of 2023 and that your year will be as good as you wish, full of joy and (possibly) great drams! We just started a 4-week dry January-ish which, after a couple of weeks back in Italy and the New Year celebrations, we both felt was much needed.

Last year was full of drams and great whisky experiences, so for the first post of 2023 we are going back a few months, in mid-October. Following the great experience we had in 2021, last year we decided to run the Dramathon again. However, this time we both decided to run the half-marathon: Gianluigi with the objective of improving his 2021 timing, Teresa with the objective of completing her first long race.

Similarly to the previous year, we left on the Friday morning to sneak in a distillery visit in the afternoon. You know, while in Speyside…Because of our multiple trips, there are no many distilleries left to visit in the area, but we were still missing a very special one: Glenfarclas!

This distillery is famous for a few things: still family owned, it was the one that converted Pip Hills, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society founder, to whisky appreciation, which in turn led to the Society foundation. They mature almost all their stock in ex-sherry casks (a few exceptions in ex-bourbon are mostly for independent bottlers), and all their doors are painted in red (and no, we didn’t want to paint them black).

Wee stop to nose around Ballindalloch.

The drive there was mostly uneventful. We only realised too late that on the road from the A9 exit to the distillery, the main Speyside road, there are very few places where you can get a warm meal. Fortunately, another distillery came to our help: the Lagmore Cafè at Ballindalloch was open, and it was a very nice one too: lovely staff, good food and reasonable prices (we’ll be back!).

Unfortunately, the distillery is open to visitors only during weekdays, so it’ll have to wait (and tours are a bit pricey too). After lunch, we arrived at the distillery and checked in. We were a bit early, so we had time to scout the shop: we were glad to see that they are maintaining reasonable prices (in spite of the increase of their 25y from £125 to £220) and that they are quite competitive compared to the speciality shops prices.

First distillery visit of the weekend, yay! (Yes, one of us needs a haircut.)

The guide of the day, Rosie, started the tour in the milling room, where barley is grinded into grist (with a usual component of 10% of flour and 20% of husk), in this case by Milly the mill, a more modern looking machine than the usual Porteus ones.

Not a Porteus mill.

We proceeded to the closed mash tun and the 12 wooden washbacks. The temperature rose substantially as we walked into the huge still room, where some of the 6 bulged directly fired stills were working. Rosie explained that their cut for the distillation “heart” (i.e. the middle part of the run that will be effectively casked) is 74% to 54%, quite large compared to other distilleries we visited.

Two of the six stills.

We then moved towards the warehouses, with the signature red doors. At the visitor centre, our tasting was ready with two very well-known drams: their 10y, still today one of the few whiskies bottled at 40% that, in our opinion, still hold, and the 15y, probably the yummiest of their core range, together with the 105…which of course is not 105 years old, the number refers to the imperial proof (corresponding to 60%abv). Because of the race the next day, we didn’t drink them right away, we put them in our sample bottles brought from home (always with us!) and we went to the shop. There were many of their celebrated “family cask” expressions on display, with vintages of every year and bottled at cask strength. Even for recent vintages the prices are a bit steep, but the selection is very big…A pity we couldn’t try any!

So much whisky behind those red doors!

After the visit, we drove to Dufftown, to register for the run and check in at our accommodation, the Commercial Hotel. We decided to have dinner at the hotel (not before a short warm-up run for Gianluigi). In spite of us booking about 9 months in advance (and paying 90 quid per night!!!), we were given the ‘cursed room’, room number 5. No, it’s not the plot of a horror B-movie, and no ancient burial ground was involved: it’s just the room directly above the pub, including their juke-box machine with questionable music selection and no soundproofing whatsoever. That meant that until the bar closed (11pm), we couldn’t sleep. The music wasn’t that loud in the corridor, and in fact in one of the bartenders accused us to be the first complaining…well, not according to other reviews on Booking.com, but we appreciated that the issue might be for this room only.

Finally, race day! As we reached the buses that would have brought us to the starting point (the Tamdhu station), it started pouring rain, so we mentally prepared for a wet run.

Warming up…not goose-stepping.

However, as soon as we got there, the rain stopped, and the run was quite pleasant. We both reached our goals, Teresa finishing her first (hopefully not last) half-marathon, and Gianluigi shaving a couple of minutes from his 2021 timing (not getting below 1h and 20m though, one of his goals).

Tired but happy!
Tired but veeeery happy!

After the run we had a well-deserved early dinner at the local French restaurant, the Seven Stills: it was truly great, yummy food and delicious wine. As a dessert, Gianluigi had a crème brulée, with the French chef coming to the table to light it on: bravo!

Lighting up a crème brulée with whisky.

We went back to the Commercial hotel for some drams…Teresa was falling asleep in the pub, so we went to bed. The issue of the night before was still there, but Gianluigi decided to go put a few bucks in the juke-box: “if I have to stay awake listening to some sh*t, I want to listen to my sh*t!”. Probably some people felt puzzled when Slipknot, Nirvana and Tool started to play, so whoever walloper was in charge decided to skip the rest of the selection (Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam) only saving No One Knows by the QOTSA. Not cool at all. In the morning we complained with the manager about the noise (not about the skipped songs), who agreed to discounting 15 quid per night. It was nice but still not ideal, so we won’t be back unless we really have to, in which case we will ask not to be put in room 5.

Anyway, going back to the tour at Glenfarclas, we had selected the basic one because we knew in advance we wouldn’t drink. It was excellent, but we are both very keen to go back and do an experience with a more comprehensive tasting. Slainte!

Glenfarclas Tour

Price: £7.50 pp (October 2022)

Duration: 1hr 15m

Tasting: 2 drams, Glenfarclas 10y (40%) and 15y (46%)

Target: Anyone

Value for money: Very good

Highlights: One of the prettiest we’ve seen

Distillery Exclusive: Several bottlings of the family cask range, depending on which is available

Recommended: Definitely!

Link: https://glenfarclas.com/our-home/

#17.2 A first taste of Speyside

Walking and blending


TL;DR: The last two days of the trip were dedicated to less standard whisky experiences. First off, a walk through the village of Dufftown and its distilleries. On the last day, we did a blending experience at Strathisla, learning the hard way how difficult it is. Overall, definitely a great trip! 

(missed Part 1?)

The morning of the third day was quite open, so we went back to Aberlour, officially for a walk to the Linn waterfalls, behind the Aberlour distillery, but we sneaked in a second visit to…no, not the distillery, to the Walker’s cookies shop! Just to pick up Christmas gifts for family and friends, and because Gianluigi loves cookies indeed! We had some take-away food from a local shop, before our afternoon activity: a walking tour of the 9 distilleries of Dufftown! If you’re asking yourself why 9, just stick with us…

A cute meeting point for the walking tour.

The tour was organized by Michelle, a local guide living in the village. We and another young couple met her at the clock tower. First, we walked towards her house, where she very professionally gave us a glencairn and a yellow vest: at the end of the day we were about to walk through a few whisky producing plants, most of them not open to visitors. To start with, we walked towards the site where the now demolished Pittyvaich distillery used to be (close to the Mortlach Parish Church). While looking at some of the old warehouses, Michelle poured a taste of a 25y Pittyvaich from a Diageo release. A bit down the road, we then stopped at Dufftown distillery, owned by Diageo.

Best shot at Dufftown distillery.

This is one of the three distilleries making the Singleton (Singleton of Dufftown), sold mostly in the UK and Europe. Moving on with our tour, walking along the Dullan Water, we found the third distillery: Glendullan, another one from the Singleton series (this one distributed in North America, while the third one is from Glen Ord and is distributed in the Asian market). One exception was the House of Tully Singleton, part of the Game of Thrones range, which we had a taste of after a wee look at the still room. Next stop was a popular one, Mortlach, which we were very curious about for their quite complicated 2.71 distillation process. We saw their third still (from the outside), called the Wee Witchie, where the last 0.71 of the distillation happens (in our understanding, but not so sure…).

The beast of Dufftown and us.

In this case, the dram was a Gordon & MacPhail 25y from the distillery label range, paired with homemade shortbreads, which were fantastic! It took a bit to get to the next stop, this time walking along the Foiddich. During the walk Michelle showed us the building where another silent distillery was, Parkmore, closed too long ago to get a sip. We were already acquainted with the next working one, Glenfiddich, but not the next ones: Kininvie and Balvenie.

Balvenie, the beautiful.

Unfortunately, during this trip we hadn’t managed to book the latter (although we caught up almost a couple of years later), so we were very curious to see it. As we walked past the malting floor, we saw smoke coming out of it, meaning it was working! Michelle was very excited as well, she had seen it only a dozen of times. We walked past Kininvie still room (the mashtun and washbacks are at Balvenie). The final distillery was another silent one, Convalmore, now used as warehouses. This is where Michelle’s husband was waiting for us in a van to bring us back (it was quite dark at that stage). It was a great experience, a bit different from a regular distillery visit, definitely worth it! We ended up having dinner at the Commercial Hotel and, again, a couple of drams at the Seven Stills.

Sunday was the last day of our wee holiday. We had a very nice conversation with Linda and her partner, who drove us to Keith for the last whisky activity of the long weekend: Strathisla. The distillery looks very pretty, in particular as you walk in from the parking through the courtyard. Like Aberlour, it is owned by Chivas Brothers (a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard), and it is the core malt of one of their most popular brands, Chivas Regal. The 12 year old expression is present in almost all aunties’ and grandmothers’ houses back in Italy too.

Iconic Strathisla.

For this tour, Teresa picked something different: the blending experience. So, after the tour of the distillery and the warehouses (where we had a dram of Chivas straight from the cask), we were guided to the blending room. It looked like a fancy version of a high school chemistry lab, with all the glass equipment, but instead of burners there were bottles of whisky. Our task was to create a blend of 5 whiskies: fruity (Strathisla), citrusy (Glen Keith), smoky (Allt A’Bhaine), creamy (Longmorn) and floral (Strathclyde, a grain whisky distilled in Glasgow). Of course, as we were making it, it was like: “it’s going to be super tasty”, but when a few months later we opened our 20cl souvenir bottle of our very own blends, it clearly was kind of crappy. Well, blending is more of an art, and the blenders job is definitely one of the hardest in the sector! Definitely a fun activity though, although we both agreed that one time was plenty.

As we came out, we had over an hour to wait at the Keith “station” (a porch) for the train to Aberdeen. We couldn’t really walk around because of the backpacks and the heavy rain, so we just sneaked in a walk to Glen Keith distillery, right in front of Strathisla.

Glen Keith distillery under the rain.

On the train back we came up with the idea of a whisky blog. It would have taken over a year to kickstart it, but this trip is the culprit! It substantially improved our knowledge and made us even more enthusiastic about scotch whisky. Speyside is one of those places where every time we visit, we say to each other: “we should get a house here”. This was the first trip to this magical region, with many more just about to come!

Until the next story, slainte!

Strathisla Distillery Tours

Michelle’s Dufftown Distilleries Walk

(Because this trip happened almost 3 years ago, we are not compiling the distillery visit evaluation box.)

#17.1 A first taste of Speyside

A birthday surprise


TL;DR: in December 2019 Teresa organised a surprise weekend for Gianluigi’s birthday, so we travelled to Speyside for the first time. One of the few times we travelled by train, it wasn’t easy to reach all the places we wanted. Nevertheless, in the first couple of days, we managed to visit four distilleries in Elgin, Aberlour and Dufftown. 

2019 was a weird year for us. Because of an intense period at work, Gianluigi could take very few leave days throughout the year. But it was also the year where something changed for us about whisky: we became members of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, we started listening to whisky podcasts, reading books, and visiting distilleries more often. So, when December arrived, going off on a wee whisky holiday was a very easy decision to take. It was also Teresa’s gift to Gianluigi for his birthday…so for him the destination was a surprise!

In the morning, first train to Aberdeen, then another one to Elgin, so Speyside, which we’d never been before! This is home to over 50 distilleries, without doubts the biggest producing single malt whisky region. Although not all of them are open to visitors, a good bunch are. Which ones then? Still a mystery to Gianluigi.

Happy faces, and we were not even drunk!

The first distillery was only a 20-minute walk from Elgin train station: Glen Moray. We are now very fond of this one, probably underrated because of their entry-level expressions available in supermarkets. Thanks to a few very tasty SMWS bottlings, however, at the time we had already started to appreciate it, so Gianluigi was very happy! Because of time constraints we only did a tutored tasting at the distillery’s café. We chose different flights, the travel retail (with the Elgin Heritage NAS, 12y and 15y, but all bottled at 48% and not chill-filtered) and the distillery casks (2008 ex-rye cask finish, 2001 2nd fill ex-oloroso, 2014 peated ex-gamay cask). We loved these expressions, in particular the 12y in the travel retail range and the 2008 Rye cask finish, but we felt it was too early in our trip to buy anything (much regretted decision).

Glen Moray tasting.

From there, we took a cab to another distillery, completely unknown to us: Benriach. Together with its sisters GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, it had been recently sold to Brown-Foreman (aka Jack Daniel’s).

After seeing a malting floor for the first time.

At the time the visitor centre was just a small room with a couple of sofas, table and chairs, and a small shop. The tour was intimate (only 6) and quite in depth. We were guided throughout production, including their malting floor (first time we visited one), and we tasted the wash (someone said: “like a bland and watery beer, basically an English ale”). It was before the revamp of their core range, so we tried their 10y, 10y peated (Curiositas), the magnificent 12y triple-sherry cask, and the travel retail 10y triple distilled (of which we were able to grab a bottle only a few months ago), and another couple of older distillery exclusive expressions, including a peated ex-port cask. Truly a great tasting!

What a line-up at Benriach!

By the end of the tasting, it was dark outside (December…), and we almost missed the last bus to go to our final destination for the day. Fortunately the driver saw us waving at him in the dark. We arrived in Dufftown, where we stayed at the Conval House, a lovely B&B run by the very kind Linda. After the check-in, we had dinner at the Stuart Arms (not open anymore) and a couple of final drams at the Seven Stills.

The next day we woke up a bit dizzy, how so? (wink, wink). This didn’t prevent us to move on with our mission, and after breakfast, Linda generously drove us to the next distillery: Aberlour, in the near village of… Aberlour!

Ready to start day 2.

It was just us on the tour, definitely not high season for them. The guide gave us a dram straight away (the 12y), which we enjoyed before another really in depth tour. The distillery sits in a marvellous location, surrounded by woods and near the Linn Falls waterfall.

Linn Falls waterfall.

Again, the final tasting was quite generous, with samples of the newmake spirit, the 16y, the Casg Annamh, and two 14y single cask, one from an ex-bourbon barrel and another from an ex-sherry butt. Unfortunately the A’Bunadh, which we hadn’t tried yet, was not in the line-up, but we would have caught up later that day.

After a quick stop at the Walker’s cookies shop in Aberlour, we caught the bus, next stop: the Speyside Cooperage. It was a very cool experience, and very different from a distillery. To be honest, the guide did not say much (a bit shy?), but was available to reply any questions. However, as whisky novices we didn’t have that many. The walk in the production area was very interesting: we could admire the toasting process and the coopers doing their magic rebuilding the casks.

The sky is blue above the Speyside Cooperage.

Finally, the last stop for the day: the Glenfiddich distillery. This is a massive operation with a capacity of over 22 million litres of alcohol per year. The tour started with an introduction video. After that, we parted from another quite large group of people, as only the two of us went for the in-depth tour. It was the first time we visited a distillery of that size: the two huge lines of stills striked us!

So many stills at Glenfiddich!

At the end of the tour and after a wee look at the bottling line, we were ready for thetasting. We had the 12y, the 15y, the Project XX (the best of the bunch, in our opinion), the Fire and Cane, the 18y and finally the 21y rum finish. When we visited the warehouses we could try a tiny sip of the 15y cask strength form one of their huge solera-style vatting tubs – very tasty but pricey (at the time 120 quids at the visitor centre).

Our day ended with a nice dinner at A Taste of Speyside restaurant (now unfortunately closed), and another dram, only one this time (the Aberlour A’Bunadh) at the Seven Stills. What an intense day!

Distillery (tours) links


Speyside cooperage

(Because this trip happened almost 3 years ago, we are not compiling the distillery visit evaluation box.)

#5.2 Run through the stills

Race day and Glen Garioch

(Day 2 & 3)


After weeks of training, the race is finally here! And after the run, a well-deserved trip to Glen Garioch distillery. 

(missed Day 1?)

The day of the Dramathon is here, finally! We woke up very rested after a dram-less night. Off to a quick breakfast (toasts and jam for Gianluigi, a huuuuge porridge bowl for Teresa), then we drove to Dufftown to the race meeting point, the Glenfiddich distillery parking lot. Because of Decathlon gear colour choices and a lack of attention, Gianluigi looked like a smurf…at least he matched Cliff!

The RunnerSmurf.

At this point our destinies separated, Gianlugi took the “half-dram” (i.e. half marathon) coaches to get to the start at the Tamdhu station, while a bit later Teresa got to the “wee dram” (i.e. 10k) start in Aberlour.

G.: As usual, I was a bit nervous before the race started. The day was ideal to run: not-too-cold and sunny-ish. The first part of the trail, along the former Speyside train line, was mostly downhill, therefore I could keep a nice and steady pace. A few kms in, I could admire the newly built Dalmunach distillery, on the site of the now demolished Imperial: a truly beautiful building, which I hope to visit someday. The middle of the course is in the Aberlour village, and from this point it’s almost all (very mildly) uphill. My GPS was a bit wrong about both the total ascent (180m on paper vs. 80m on my device) and the distance (900m short)…when I saw the Balvenie distillery I realised that I was about to finish, so I sprinted towards the end line, finishing in about 1 hour and 25 minutes. It was a very nice experience, and I loved the course, probably one of the best I ran so far (not that they are many…). The prize was quite fitting for the event: a wooden medal from a dismissed cask and four 50ml miniatures: Balvenie 12, Glenfiddich 12, Monkey Shoulder and Glenfarclas 12 (unfortunately, no Tamdhu, which I’d have loved!).

The prize: Speyside drams and the original “medal”.

T.: I strongly disagree with Gianluigi’s “not too cold”. After waiting 2 hours for the bus (with just a wee stop at the Dufftown whisky shop to nose around) and then at least half an hour for the race to start, I can safely say that it was freezing! Not too bad, as I normally perform (well, survive) better when it’s cold. I don’t have much to add on the course itself (the 10k course was the same as the second part of the half marathon), except that it was very enjoyable. The view of the huge warehouses as I was approaching Dufftown was stunning. Same prize at the end except for the Glenfarclas (fair enough, it was still the wee dram), and I was soooo happy for making it under the hour!

Hooray? Hooray!

After Teresa finished, we grabbed a warm soup and tea while waiting for the award ceremony and went back to the hotel in Rothes. A bit of relax sipping from the hardly earned miniatures, a shower, and for dinner we had a special plan: we had booked a table at the Station Hotel. This hotel/bar/restaurant is owned by the Forsyth company, and according to some is the place where the really important whisky meetings happen. We treated outselves with adult-cow meat and a delicious dessert. Then, a few drams at the bar (worth of mention, the now dismissed Arran 14y) before going back to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep.

We woke up quite early, and after breakfast Cliff drove us in a very foggy Speyside (the fog won’t leave us until we got in Fife, making Gianluigi homesick of Northern Italy). The first stop of the day was the Macallan distillery. Neither of us is particularly fond of this brand (it’s the only distillery not offering tours and tastings, rather “experiences”…) but we were curious to see the building. So, despite all available “experiences” were sold out for the day, we went in aiming for a coffee and the peek. We have to say, the building is quite spectacular, it felt like being in a modern art museum lobby…or in an airport.

The Macallan stills – hopefully one day we’ll get closer!

The courtesy of the receptionist, which welcomed us very warmly and explained where things were, was counterbalanced by the rudeness of the waitress who served us. After the quick coffee we could walk inside to admire the unique circular disposition of the stills. On the way out we also saw the old distillery building, and wondered if one of their “experiences” included that as well.

Back on the road, our next stop was a completely different one: Glen Garioch, in Oldmeldrum (Aberdeenshire), one of the oldest in Scotland. A few months back, in an interview on Mark Gillespie’s WhiskyCast, we learned that the distillery is undergoing many renovation works, including moving back to directly fired stills and the restoration of the old malting floors, which would be used to produce a peated malt, in contrast with what is produced today. Beam Suntory, the owner of this and a few other distilleries, is also pursuing a peatland restoration plan, since peat use has a fair impact on carbon emission.

Look what’s at the end of Distillery Road…a distillery!

The malting floors and the wee bothy.

As we checked in, our guide Rob walked us in a very nice bothy on the side of the malting floors, which used to be the excise man office. We sat on a very comfortable sofa with four drams in front of us, while Rob told us the story of the distillery and maaany details about the production (thanks for the patience answering all our questions!). We were very curious, since Glen Garioch is not one of the most common single malts for us – we had a bottle of their non-age statement core range expression (the Founder’s Reserve, 50%abv) early on but none since. The first dram was suspiciously transparent…In fact, it was the newmake! We moved on to the second (Gianluigi only sniffing), the Renaissance Chapter III (17y/o, 50.8%), a few years old series that marked a new phase in the distillery history. This was followed by a great dram: a 19y red-wine cask matured (48%). Finally, a very surprising dram: 2012 vintage cask strength, matured in a virgin American oak barrel from Missouri (single cask, 61.6%). This is part of a series as well, with the two others being matured in barrels made from Minnesota and Kentucky wood. The malt was really different, with very prominent bourbon notes (and colour), but still definitely a scotch single malt! Unfortunately, the price was a bit too steep, but definitely one to try!

The tasting.

Thanks to the lovely staff, at the shop we also tried the Renaissance Chapter II (16y/o, 51.4%), which we bought, and the Virgin oak (this time a vat of different barrels from North America, 2013 vintage bottled at 48%).

Back in the fog, destination Leith, happy for the Dramathon (yes, we’ll do it again) and another great whisky trip. Stay tuned and Slàinte!

Glen Garioch Masterclass

Price: £30.00 pp (October 2021)

Tasting: the newmake spirit and three drams: GG Renaissance Chapter III (17y, 50.8%, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry), GG red wine cask maturation (19y, 48%), and GG 2012 vintage Missouri virgin oak cask (61.6%)

Target: whisky amateurs and enthusiasts

Value for money: ok

Highlights: the tasting bothy and the kind shop manager

Things we did not like: we couldn’t take the newmake with us

Link: https://www.glengarioch.com/

#5.1 Run through the stills

Balvenie all the way!
(Day 1)


For the first post of 2022 we go back a few months: a trip to Speyside for the Dramathon and a couple of distillery visits, including our 50th! 

First things first, happy new year! And we hope you had good and resting holidays, possibly filled with drams!

In spite of the ongoing situation 2021 was a decent year, and we managed to “dram around” quite a bit and do a few whisky trips! One of the highlights was an event we attended back in October. This one has been on our radar for a while, but for various reasons we haven’t been able to attend before: the Dramathon! This combines two of our major extra-work activities, running and dramming.

Gianluigi has always been running, more or less. During his rugby years (first as player, then as referee) it was part of his training, of course. Since he moved on, running was the only activity he kept doing regularly. On the other hand, Teresa has never been a sporty lassie, but she recently got into running after realising she couldn’t run up the stairs without getting heavy breath. We already participated to a couple of races back in 2019, before the pandemic. For this one, we prepared for approximately a month and a half, and after recovering from Covid, so the aim was just to finish our respective races (Gian the half-marathon and Teresa the 10k) and have fun.

Of course, could we plan a trip to Speyside without visiting at least one distillery? Never! A couple of months before the race Gianluigi got in contact with Balvenie to ask if there were tours available and the answer was yes for the morning before the race, what a luck! That required our friend Justine handing over Cliff’s keys (don’t know who is Cliff? Read here!) the night before, and us leaving Leith early in the morning. The trip was smooth, except we had to refill gas at a gas station at Dalwhinnie, just a few hundred meters before the distillery. Getting off the car we realised that, when you read that Dalwhinnie is coldest place in Scotland, it might be right…the temperature drop from Leith was significant! From the gas station we quickly drove to Aviermore, Granton on Spey and finally entered mighty Speyside.

Celebrating the 50th distillery visit! (Credits to James for the pic)

Balvenie is a distillery we have been wanting to visit for a couple of years. However, during our first trip to Speyside in 2019 it was fully booked, while earlier this summer it was closed to visitors. The other important reason to celebrate is that we were reaching an important milestone, with this being the 50th (working) distillery visit! Nine of these distilleries were in Kentucky, US (including the Evan Williams micro-distillery in downtown Louisville), two in Ireland (excluding the former Jameson Bow St distillery) and 39 in Scotland (for the nerds: 3 in Campbeltown, 10 in Speyside, 6 in the Lowlands and 20 in the Highlands….still no Islay, thanks to Covid).

After checking in at Glenfiddich, the distillery ambassador and guide James met us at the visitor centre. While walking towards the maltings, he started introducing us to the history of the brand and the site.

We entered the malting building – we were really looking forward to this, and not just because it was freezing outside! The facility looked bigger than Springbank, and James told us that around 30% of the barley used to produce Balvenie gets malted here. We were really impressed by the golden “dunes” of barley, we could definitely see why this is one of the highlights of the tour! Next, the kiln itself (yes, we were inside the pagoda), where we got an understanding of the process, which very veeeeery roughly is a combination of heating and hoovering. James patiently let us take more pictures of the barley dunes on the way out.

Red Riding Hood and the Balvenie’s peat.

Then, we moved to the other stages of production. To our surprise, we discovered that the mashtuns and washbacks of Balvenie are just next to the mashtuns and washbacks of Kininvie, a sister distillery whose malt mainly goes into the Grant’s blends. So basically we visited one distillery and a half, yay! We could also see an extremely lively wort, double yay!

The still house was less of a surprise, but only because we had had the chance to briefly see it two years ago when we visited Glenfiddich. In the warehouse, James showed us a wooden tun used for the vatting.

A not-so-little gem in the warehouse: a wooden tun.

Now the tour (and what a tour!) was complete, so we moved to the tasting room, small and cosy.

An excellent tailored tasting.

When James heard that we had done a vertical Balvenie tasting very recently, he made sure the lineup for the tasting was completely new to us, so kind of him! First, we had the Balvenie Single Barrel. We both fell in love with this dram, and indeed this is the bottle we bought. Then the Distillery Exclusive Sherry Butt (61.3%), the 19y “Edge of burnhead wood” (48.7%, interesting experiment with heather, but not really our cup of tea), a yummy 21y Port wood (40%) and the Tun 1509 (Nas, 50.4%, batch 6). Chats around our whisky journey and the history of UK train lines (another James passion) accompanied the tasting.

Warm-up run along the river Spey.

This was probably one of the best, most complete tours we had so far, we couldn’t have celebrated the 50th distillery in a better way! We happily drove to Rothes, where we had our hotel booked. After a quick warm-up run (well, for Gianluigi, Teresa ehm….) we had a light dinner, resisting the drams temptation. We needed a good rest before the big day!

Balvenie Tour Tasting

Price: £50.00 pp (October 2021)

Tasting: 5 drams selected for us by the distillery ambassador – Balvenie Single Barrel (12y, 47.8%, ex-bourbon), Distillery Esxlusive Sherry Butt (16y, first fill oloroso, 61.3%), The edge of burnhead wood (19y, American oak barrels, 48.7%), Port wood (21y, 40%), and Tun 1509 (Nas but at least 21y, 50.4%).

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: good

Highlights: the kiln and the intimate tour

Things we did not like: nothing

Link: https://uk.thebalvenie.com/