Speyside Autumn 2017 Roadtrip - 8 days of distilleries....

  • Suzanne1967
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    Member Suzanne1967
    Joined: 09.05.2015Posts: 68CollectionSuzanne and Lee's drinking CollectionRatings: 167

    Saturday - Day One – Glenkinchie and the road up…
    With a total of 400 miles and 7 hours of driving to reach the cottage in Buckie we decided to break our journey with a revisit to Glenkinchie on the way up. Glenkinchie is a well presented Distillery, with some good tour guides, standard Diageo tours, but their whisky is good, we tried their standard, distillery edition and the £300 24YO, standard was lovely, as was the distillery edition, but crisp, smooth and filled with flavours, but we were disappointed with the 24YO, it seemed much hotter in the mouth than expected and nothing particularly memorable, pretty much fell flat.


    Sunday – Day 2 – Glen Grant and Glenlivet
    Glen Grant is a much underrated distillery, immaculately presented in stunning gardens and a crisp clean spirit, smooth and well flavoured it has become one we trust. On this visit we tried the 10YO, Majors Reserve, 170th Anniversary and V Decades... All good drams, the V Decades and 170th Anniversary were particularly good and although NAS are ones I would recommend picking up..
    Then we moved on to Glenlivet, our first visit here in 3 years and previously a favourite dram, the tur was as slick as you would expect from such a large concern, we tried a CS DE from the cask, a 15YO French Oak, 18YO, 21YO and 12YO Excellence... The 12YO – previously a favourite of my husbands before it was withdrawn from the UK market and replaced by the NAS Founders Reserve – disappointed, it seemed very hot in the mouth with a flavour profile that suggested the head cut was being taken early and the tail cut was being left a little late, the same taste – of mackerel or kippers and cabbage – also seemed present in the standard French Oak Reserve 15YO, not sure if this was to do with the glasses or the dram itself, but it was disappointing…
    The CS was good, the 15 and 18 both decent, but the 21 was nowhere near as smooth as I expected, the 15YO Excellence - matured / finished in Olorosso casks for the Asian market - was excellent, smooth quality with a huge sherry finish, a bottle was picked up 
    A lot of development going on at Glenlivet, with plans to double the number of stills underway…

    Monday – Day 3 – Cragganmore, Glen Moray and Gordon and McPhail
    A chance to go and grab the stamp for the second set of ‘Friends of the Classic Malts’ passports, and to do the tour. Snow atop the hills as we travelled to Cragganmore, the temperature had dropped from 14C the day before down to 2C…. Cragganmore is another much underappreciated whisky, the 12YO a little hot in the mouth, the distillery edition excellent, and their Distillery Exclusive SC CS very drinkable, but not quite what we were seeking…
    Next a trip into Glen Moray, we had just missed the tour, so decided to do a flight tasting of their basic range of NAS, all of which were surprisingly good, another distillery that is often dismissed as one that provides supermarkets with shelf fillers, and yet all we tried were good…. A chanced arm led to an extra tasting of their 25YO Portwood, which as £150 seemed a bargain, and this was a lovely smooth dram, so we picked one up….
    Lastly into Gordon and McPhail, a lovely shop, with a large range of both OB and own bottlings, although the prices somewhat steep compared with what we are used to, nothing jumped out as a must have so no purchases made….

    Tuesday – Day 4 – BenRiach
    Another favourite of ours, their whisky is well priced and never fails to deliver… We completed their Tour in February, so had arranged just to do a shop visit, I wanted to grab an Authenticus and perhaps a few others, including the 21YO Tawny Port that was bought at last visit and sadly didn’t last very long…. On arriving we found that the offerings in the shop were less than anticipated – some bottles of the standard aged range had sold out in the shop – so we got the 3 we were looking at and then turned our attention to the Batch 14 releases, trying 4 and buying 3 of the cask strength single cask offerings along with our other purchases, not a cheap day, but certainly some wonderful drams…. After that one of our friends wasn’t feeling well, so we retired to the cottage rather than try and see some sights in the rain…

    Wednesday - Day 5 - Benromach, Dallas Dhu and Strathisla....
    We were nicely surprised with a great tour and tasting at Benromach, a much more traditional methodology than I had anticipated, making some lovely drams... The 10YO was as good as ever, the Organic 7YO surprisingly more complex and flavoured than its age would suggest, a drop of water removed the slightly hot finish and opened up a more creamy mouth feel... The 15YO as good as ever, the sherry notes making a lovely dram, and the Peated a lovely way to finish... We also tried the Chateau Cissac, but the Sassaicca and Distillery Special had no open bottles for tasting, unfortunately... A reasonable day for purchases, with the Chateau and the Organic purchased...
    Next a visit to Dallas Dhu, interesting but if pressed for time I wouldn't bother...
    Finally a tour of Strathisla, good tour with Robert, and tasting of Single Malt 12YO Strathisla, a 12YO grain used on Chivas Regal, followed by the Chivas Regal Extra and 18YO, both of which were pleasant and drinkable if lacking a bit in complexity for my palate...

    Thursday - Day 6 - The most impressive day yet....
    Started with perhaps my most anticipated tour, The Balvenie... All I can say is believe the hype! A coffee in the boardroom to begin, 7 of us then explored the Distillery in the care of Charles, who did an excellent job of looking after us throughout the 3 hrs plus of the tour...
    Starting in the malt loft, with barley in the steeping tanks, then onto the Malting's where 10% of Balvenie malt is malted, some makes its way into every bottle of The Balvenie... A chance to see the different stages of malting, then into the Kiln room, to see the fire and the kiln floor... Next onto the mash house and tun rooms, a chance to taste the sticky, sweet malty wort, then to the Still room....
    All of The Balvenie stills are the exact same size, both wash and spirit, and after a chance to ask all questions it was off to the Cooperage via minibus to see the casks being made / repaired.... Then back in the mini bus and back to the centre for a visit to Warehouse 24....
    A chance to nose a 54 and 50 YO cask, then upstairs to experience the 3 bottle your own, 2 bourbon and one Sherry casks tasted and bottling done after using a copper dog to retrieve the whisky... A sherry cask for me and a bourbon for hubby....
    Then to the tasting.....
    12YO Double wood - always good.
    12YO CS SC at 47.8% - stunning, smooth and powerful...
    14YO Caribbean Cask - Another great that always delivers...
    21YO Portwood - Nose - poached pears, port, sweet tropical fruits and rum. In the mouth caramel, muscovado sugar, sweet spiciness and an underlying port.... A long warming finish, a fee drops of water opens a rum and raisin ice cream.... Wow, pulled the trigger on a bottle of this.
    Tun 1509 Batch 4 - Nose - smooth toffee, butterscotch, candyfloss, old style sweet shop, rhubarb and custard.... In the mouth smooth, complex and beyond my words.. Finish - long, smooth warming spiciness.... I would have bought, but hubby was being sensible today....
    And finally, the Warehouse 24 dram... A Single cask 1974 Cask Strength, 43YO... On the nose - oak, sherry, stewed apple and custard, pineapple and leather... In the mouth - oak, tannins, smooth caramel, leather, coconuts, burnt pineapple, sweetness, pears and red grapes.. A few drops of water releases a creamier custard over leather and Koff Koff sweets... Finish - Long, warm and silky smooth. A totally Divine dram, worth the tour price itself.....
    I have always liked The Balvenie, but it’s moved into my top few now....
    We followed this with a tour of Glenfiddich, a good tour, but it fell flat after the morning’s tour, but we did get our mini ‘Explorer’ bottles from the shop for free, if they had had any of the Discovery Casks bottlings left then we may have been tempted, but nothing much available, the basic range and then a huge jump in price from the 21YO Rum cask to a 26YO at over £300… so we left without a purchase this time – we still have several bottles left from our last visit in February…. A new still house is being built at Glenfiddich, which will add another 20 stills, effectively doubling the production capacity…

    Friday - Day 7 - the last day before travelling home tomorrow
    Today started with a 1000 tour of Glenglassaugh, sister distillery to BenRiach and Glendronach, yet pretty much overlooked by many as it has only been back in production for 9 years, meaning all the recent whisky is NAS, although they do have. Some excellent older stocks available....
    The distillery itself is a mix of original 1878 buildings and machinery, and 1960's rebuild, not perhaps the prettiest to look at, but a good example of 1960's architecture, very functional... The tour starts with the old malt barns, then into the milling room, where we got to look inside the Porteus mill, then up to the original mash tun -made by Porteus - with an interesting gear inside, akin to the ones at Bruichladdich.....
    After mashing the wort is split between 6 washbacks, 4 made of local Douglas Fir and 2 stainless steel. To see inside is up onto a mesh floor, about 40' up and then walk across. After a 60 hr fermentation - 90 hrs for the weekend runs – it is then into the 2 pairs of stills, which are fairly tall and onion shaped…
    Filling is done in the attached filing store, into a mix of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, mainly stored onsite in both racked and dunnage warehouses.
    Back for the tasting, 3 drams Revival - NAS, 46%, a mix of bourbon, sherry and red wine casks - surprisingly good, reminiscent of the Glenfiddich 19YO Discovery Red Wine. Smooth, lush mouth feel, red wine and Olorosso sherry, very nice indeed, and a steal for £37.49....
    Next the Evolution - NAS, 50%, bourbon casks - very bright mouth feel, lovely burnt sugar and cinder toffee, a hint of sharpness in the mouth, but a lovely lingering warm finish.
    Next the Fill your own cask, the Managers Special - Olorosso cask, 50cl, 57%, £84 - a gorgeous sherry bomb, perhaps a little too much Sherry influenced, lovely, but not quite lovely enough to buy.
    We did find out about 4 new NAS wood finishes being released next week, Portwood, Peated Port, PX and Virgin Oak, all will be 70cl, but no samples or prices available.
    Last sample, a special as we purchased a bottle, the 30YO Port release, teardrop shaped bottled, stunning to behold, very dark, extremely smooth, sweet, lush, complex port and sherry tones with toffee and coconut, with a leather undertone, absolutely stunning, and a steal at £227....
    Given that I was left underwhelmed by Glenfiddich yesterday - hardly surprising after The Balvenie tour in the morning - I was concerned that perhaps my objectivity had been compromise, and I was worried that Glenglassaugh would perhaps also fall victim to being after Balvenie, I am delighted to say it was not the case at all, the tour held its own, and the Whisky spoke about its quality, I have to say I was impressed, a worth stablemate for BenRiach and Glendronach.
    This afternoon was Glendronach, another revisit to a favourite, the tour as always professional and comprehensive, although lacking a warehouse visit...
    For the tasting hubby opted for the basic triple, as we had previously tried the 21, 12 and 18, so he tried the 8YO Hielan - a mix of bourbon and Sherry casks - surprisingly smooth and flavourful for the age, the Peated - virgin oak, NAS - nice smokiness and sweet, and then the 18YO, which was as good as ever.
    Only 2CS SC offerings in the shop, a 22yo PX and a 38YO PX, both tempting, but with our budget already blown we decided to grab the 12YO and call it quits....

    Saturday - Day 8 - The long road home - via Royal Lochnagar
    An early start to pack the cars and tidy the cottage saw us leaving on the 7 1/2 hr drive at 1000, with an enroute stop at Royal Lochnagar, to redo the tour and collect the last stamp in our 'Friends of the Classic Malt' passports and thus receive our Friends Quaich for having visited all 12 Diageo visitor centres - in our case for the second time...

    We arrived early, so had a chat with the tour guides, talking through some of the best tours we had done. The guide taking us out was new, only 2 weeks on the job, so I offered to answer any questions she struggled with - rather than referring back to colleagues later...

    The tour was good, a large group, including 2 large foreign groups, she did a good job controlling them all, and only struggled on a couple of questions, which I was able to answer for her.

    Back from the tour we got to nose 3 casks in the small warehouse attached to the shop, a 34YO Sherry Butt from Royal Lochnagar, a 29YO Bourbon cask from another Diageo distillery and a 23YO PX cask from Lagavulin, all smelt divine...

    Then on to taste the Royal Lochnagar 12, a much sweeter and smoother sherry bomb than I remembered, very nice indeed... While enjoying the dram we were approached by 2 of the guides, who ushered us back into the warehouse and filled 2 glencairns from the 34YO Sherry butt with a valinch, as a thank you for our aid in answering the questions...

    A sniff and sip and the rest bottled to enjoy when we got home, 5 hrs later....
    So, what does a 34YO Cask Strength, Single Cask, non-chill filtered and natural colour Royal Lochnagar taste like?
    In the glass, a warm golden colour with a strong necklace and many long legs...
    On the nose.... Sherry, huge sherry, oak, cream, toffee, coconut, Werther's Original sweets...
    In the mouth.... Warming, PX spiciness, dried fruits, leather, rum notes,
    Finish.... Long, warming, spicy and complex, a hint of pepper, dark treacle toffee, fading to butter toffee....

    A very nice end to a great holiday...


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  • bedlamborn Member bedlamborn Joined: 18.09.2016Posts: 611Collectionbedlamborns CollectionRatings: 21
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    @Suzanne1967 

    That is a lot of distilleries :smile: After a couple of days doesn't the visits fade into each other?




  • Suzanne1967
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    Member Suzanne1967
    Joined: 09.05.2015Posts: 68CollectionSuzanne and Lee's drinking CollectionRatings: 167
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    @bedlamborn Nope, if you take time to write up experiences then it helps keep them separate.... The whole holiday was a Whisky holiday, so making most use of the time available :wink:



  • horst_s Administrator horst_s Joined: 01.07.2014Posts: 507Ratings: 702
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    Thx a lot for sharing.

    Kind regards, Horst Luening, Master Taster, Whisky.com
    Suzanne1967 liked that
  • bedlamborn Member bedlamborn Joined: 18.09.2016Posts: 611Collectionbedlamborns CollectionRatings: 21
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    @Suzanne1967 

    Very interesting to read about the various whiskies. It is nice that some distilleries offer interesting whiskies to buy for those who visit.


    What is your next plan?

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  • Suzanne1967
    Topic creator
    Member Suzanne1967
    Joined: 09.05.2015Posts: 68CollectionSuzanne and Lee's drinking CollectionRatings: 167
  • Suzanne1967
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    Member Suzanne1967
    Joined: 09.05.2015Posts: 68CollectionSuzanne and Lee's drinking CollectionRatings: 167
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    @bedlamborn Next trip I think is going to be to Orkney, Highland Park and Scapa, probably spring next year, with visits to several Highland Distilleries on the way up, probably Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Balblair, Clynelish and Old Pulteney, all due for a revisit... then Islay for a revisit in Autumn next year...

  • bedlamborn Member bedlamborn Joined: 18.09.2016Posts: 611Collectionbedlamborns CollectionRatings: 21
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    @Suzanne1967 

    Sounds very good. Balblair is one distillery I would love to visit. Islay is on my plan for April or May next year. Heard that some of these distilleries like Bruichladdich is very fun to visit.

  • kroman Member Joined: 16.04.2016Posts: 260Collectionkromans CollectionRatings: 21
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    Thanks for sharing.  I envy you!


    It's amazing how Balvenie is able to produce so much whisky while staying true to the craft.  


    I've always liked Benromach, although I wasn't impressed with the Organic; I wanted to like it so much, but I'll take the ten year any day.

    Suzanne1967 liked that
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