A WHISKY & HISTORICAL (hysterical) TOUR OF SCOTLAND Taken by Paul McLean (Scotland) and Ravn Sivertsen (Norway)
Above; the awards for Tomatin. Top right, Dufftown, pipebands in the town square after the games, below; drum majors leading the bands... "I knew it was up there somewhere!"
Originally meeting up in Bergen, Norway at the whisky festival, this tour was planned by the two to take place in July 2012. It started well, meeting up in Aberdeen on day one (evening), the two whisky “nutters” shared a dram or two in the Grill, a superb whisky pub of world acclaim, in Union Street (Aberdeen). Some time later retiring to the hotel for relaxation and further planning. Day two saw the duo take off for Huntly, calling in for an unscheduled appearance at Duncan Taylor. Ravn had expressed a desire to take a bottle on tour with him, so where better than DT, Duncan certainly looked after the request and a brief stop was completed on a happy note; a bottle in the bag! Continuing on, they stopped at Strathisla distillery for a tour and taste, as you do. Then along to Clava Cairns and Culloden Battlefield – the history starts here! The day ended as the whisky searching fell into place - they arrived at Fiddlers in Drumnadrochit, what a whisky place this is, a superb restaurant with a fantastic choice of drams available. A fine meal with one or three drams, ending with a complimentary whisky “on the hoose”! “Is there another pub nearby?” the question was asked. “Aye” came the reply, “just around the corner past the fire station”. As Paul says; off we went just around the corner, it turned out to be at least a mile dondering along dodging midgies until we found the said pub, eh, a bar in a hotel. To say it was strange upon entering was an understatement. Apart from the four dogs lingering, a few locals - the whisky boys wandered to the bar and ordered, sat doon and looked aboot. “do you know the movie Deliverance?” “aye” said Ravn, “I can hear banjo music”. This one phrase started off a whole tour of “banjo pubs”. Back in the safety of Fiddlers, a dram to settle the nerves and a worrying night ahead. Day three saw an early start heading west to Oban, via several historic sites, canal locks and great Scottish scenery, with a common (laughter) reminder of the banjo pub the night before. We all know when we are in “banjo land”, and certainly the previous night was certainly a banjo experience. And so to Oban and the distillery of the same name, as Paul filled the fuel tank, Ravn wandered around the distillery, followed by a drink at Auley’s pub in toon. Meeting up later at the ferry for the Isle of Mull. A dram on board for Ravn, Irn Bru for Paul and a landing at Craignure, then a road trip to Duart Castle. As Ravn experienced the Maclean castle, Paul dropped into the castle tea room to collect some more (pre ordered) 18 year old Tobermory Maclean Gathering whisky. It has to be done! After a quick chat with the Chief, Pau then took Ravn down to Tobermory, checked into the accommodations and began a pub crawl (there are only 3) at the best of them; MacGochans Pub, www.facebook.com/pages/Macgochans-Tobermory/224301588713 a friend of Paul’s owns and runs this pub (Niel Morrison), along with a really good whisky http://angelswhiskyclub.com/awc/isleofmull.asp Food and drink flowed, a wee call into the Tobermory distillery and some real ale all followed. A great end to the day. Day four; a tour of the island around the coast road, up to a point, as a section of this was closed, due to rain/weather seeing off a good part of the road, so a reverse and back to Tob. Och but there were stops for a whisky tasting en route, the Isle of Mull blend, Bruichladdich waves, a Famous Grouse Black Alpha edition, just a few drams sampled by Ravn as Paul was only allowed to imagine what it was like, oh the devil of being a driver! More drinks before a fantastic array of food at the Café Fish www.thecafefish.com you are “urged” to test this oot for yourself; obviously mcleanscotland.com can take you there! Oh did we no metion a trip to Mull Cheese? Walking through a garden ( strange gardener) into the shop with no one there, a wee sign asking you to leave money for what you take in the honesty box. So, both enjoyed a wee slab of Mull cheese with a dram in their rooms that night. Day five; the ferry at Fishnish, taking our lads to Lochaline and Corran, where they boarded another (smaller) ferry and a stop at Inverlochy castle, site of a battle (clan battle really) where amongst friends, the Clan Maclean killed 1500 Campbell’s, before another stop at the Ben Nevis distillery. Different. Onwards to Spean Bridge woollen mill for a rest, shop and a dram. After a ride along scenic roads and Inverness, Tomatin distillery called, a good visit and tour here, resulting in a purchase of course. Then on the road again to Elgin, overnight here. Another real banjo pub encountered tonight, just what was that conversation aboot in the pub with the guys playing pool? When that fella entered and asked for “the cheapest whisky you have”, then added water, .. time to leave. Into a Wetherspoons for grub and drink before another “local” pub. No quite a banjo, but a strange one anyhow. Ending the night at a hotel bar with say, 200 whisky bottles, heaven for angels eh!
Day six; a highlight certainly, as Glenglassaugh yelled at the lads. A pre booked tour (as was most actually) taken by Ronnie, it was good to see Ronnie again, “known him for ages” said Paul. A 10am tour lasted until back of 1pm, Ronnie surpassed hiself here and Ravn was suitably impressed. Both Ravn and Paul enjoy Glenglassaugh, but Ravn had no idea what awaited him... after a tour of everything, including a great whisky history lesson of the distillery, Ronnie took a tasting sesh and oot came so many drams, Paul could only let his tongue hang as Ravn enjoyed them all. A highlight was the trip to the roof! Getting doon again was no a highlight! Ronnie; many thanks, once again you have stolen the show and we shall no forget it. Slainte! So what could follow that? Well. A stop in Cullen for a bowl of Cullen Skink of course. Actually, the very recent Cullen Skink world championships tok place here with the Revival taking a huge part http://angelswhiskyclub.com/awc/cullenskink.asp After a skink, Glen Grant distillery came next. Ravn had another personal tour, one on one tour of this distillery and of course, a taste or five followed. They decantered back to Elgin and a meal and dram selection again at the 200 malts bar! A strange one this; the barman said; “if you can dink them all and walk out, they are free”. Not the thing to say eh! A return to that bar is planned. Who wants to go with them? Right; on the roof of Glenglassaugh.
Day seven; A scheduled visit (this time) to Duncan Taylor, bottling plant, history lesson and cask warehouse, followed by drams of course and – aye you guessed it; purchases! Lunch, a mobile phone breakdoon, before another planned trip, this time to GlenDronach distillery. Another personal tour followed by drams and of course, a bottle! A really good tour here, this distillery is a favourite of mcleanscotland and angels, friends of course. See the interview with Paul and Stewart (BenRiach).on www.angelswhiskyclub.com Moolachs!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isle_of_Mull Another whisky tour was crammed in, this time at Cardhu. They both took the tour, apart from the usual Diageo stuff, Rebecca did a good job here, she and Paul exchanging lafs and nods at certain members on the tour. Remember parma violets? Back to the “digs” at Craigellachie. Food and drams followed! Liz turned up tonight – the other half (better lookin) of mcleanscotland and joined in the whisky celebrations as a meal at the Mash Tun was followed by more drams – well, it was a whisky tour! Day eight; a fantasic insight into Glenfiddich with Bert, many thanks Bert. A quick run up to Benromach distillery where ravn took the tour, while Liz and Paul called into Macleans Bakery www.macleansbakery.com many thanks to Carol, Paul, being a McLean has been here before and enjoyed the bakers crafts. Then, collect Ravn and doon to Dufftown for the Highland games. Och, just brilliant! Beer, whisky, heavy events, tug o war, dancing, pipe bands, everything you imagine from a highland games. Pubs followed; banjo in the extreme but so much fun and so enjoyable, what a laff! Massed pipe bands at 6pm, drams,, back to Craigellachie for food and drams (again), a good day had by all, polished off with some more drams of course. (Liz; Paul has your bag you left in the bar!) Day nine; all things must end (all things must pass). Ravn and Paul head back to Aberdeen, Paul then home, Ravn into the Grill bar.
A great tour, Ravn will certainly be back, look out for some reviews from Ravn and, some banjo bar reports!!! Other distilleries did feature, such as BenRiach, Dufftown distilleries, the Dufftown Whisky Shop and a fantastic “hidden” tour with Bert at Glenfiddich (another pal of Paul’s), some great stops at the wayside each day with hip flasks, bottles and samples did occur quite regularly! All in all, a grand tour and one both enjoyed, plans afoot to do it again sometime, maybe Islay and other distilleries next time? Plans afoot also for a banjo pub tour. Below; Clava Cairns
above; pipe bands at Dufftown, below; "anyone seen a flyin mace?"
Above; hairy coos at Cardhu distillery. Left, on the road sampling on Mull. Far left, Glenglassaugh. Below; sampling in Cragganmore
"Hi Paul, My summer vacation is over now and its back to work tomorrow. I have had some time to let my trip sink in now, and I just wanna thank you once more for the best vacation ever! The trip became everything I had hoped, lots of distilleries, fantastic scenery, real scottish village culture and nice pubs...yes, even the banjo ones :-) All of my bottles survived the trip back home, but I havent tasted any of them yet...I have been working on my already opened bottles :-) I saw on Angels that you had tried the bottle I gave you...and as I said, its kind of an aquired taste since its some unusual spices in there. I have never thought of the old pirate boot while drinking it, but I will have that in mind the next time I try it :-) Liz already asked for some feedback after my trip, see below. Ravn"
I wanna thank both of you for making my tour exactly like I had imagined, I cant think of anything that would have made it more perfect. What I had in mind was a whiskytour, mixed with scottish culture and history, and that is excactly what I got. I was really impressed with Pauls knowledge of whisky, destilleries and history, and I feel I know a whole lot more about both whisky and Scotland after this trip. The fact that I came alone on this trip made it very flexible, and we could basicly do wathever I wanted, and be as effective as possible. There was some great tours of destilleries, especially at Glenglassaugh, where Paul managed to get Ronnie to do a private tour/tasting for several hours...brilliant! Also the tour at Glenfiddich, of the new and not open to public yet part, was really great. The Dufftown Highland games was a nice surprise, it wasnt in my plans, but I didnt know about it, so I`m glad Paul put it in my plans. I spent a couple of days alone in Aberdeen before I went back home, and even if I really enjoy the bigger scottish cities, I realized that the countryside and villages is more my thing :-) I still have some places I really want to visit, like Islay, Arran, Jura and Campbeltown....so I hope I am able to come back next year :-) Ravn