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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Driving and Distilleries Craigellachie, Scotland, Friday, 07 August 2015 6:56am

Today I saw a nice chunk of Scottish countryside (mostly inside of the Cairngorms National Park); visited three whisky distilleries: Royal Lochnagar, The Glenlivet, and Glenfarclas; and did the tour at two of them.

I had gone to Royal Lochnagar because it was close to my route and was supposed to have a decent restaurant (it has no restaurant), so I just watched their video and sampled a dram, rather than taking the whole tour. They were very friendly.

The Glenlivet tour is very polished. It covers the basics: malt, wort, wash, spirits, aging, and plays up the history of the distillery ("We use Oregon Pine washbacks because that's what our founder used", "We recreate the dents in our stills when we replace them so that nothing changes", "We separate the head, heart, and tail of the whisky based on timings set down by our founder" and so on).

The tour at Glenfarclas is a lot more down-to-earth. They're one of the few distilleries that is not owned by a giant multinational corporation. A lot of their equipment clearly dates to the 1970s (you can tell from the graphic design). Some of it is held together with duct tape. They talked about production problems (running out of water in dry years, having to separate out stones from their grist, that one time someone imploded and destroyed a still by pumping it out without opening the breather valve).

In between I drove around some fine wee roads, and some disturbingly wee roads. Now that I mostly have the hang of roundabouts, I'm confronted with single lane roads with passing areas and have to figure the etiquette for them.

I didn't reach the Speyside Cooperage in time to take the tour there (I had realized that I'd get to either Glenfarclas or the Cooperage and opted for Glenfarclas, which was a win because I don't think I'd have gotten to the Cooperage in time anyway because of some road construction), so I'll have to do that tomorrow.

The staff at Glenfarclas were joking about a break in the clouds being the whole of the Scottish summer (this year seems to have been bad, weather-wise), and I caught a bit of that after I checked in to my hotel and had some time before my dinner reservation. I did a lovely walk along the River Spey and took in some afternoon sun.

I tasted another 5 whiskies in the bar at the Craigellachie Hotel (which turns out to be said like krayg-ELL-uh-xhee, not KRAYG-uhl-aah-kee), and then had a nice dinner at the restaurant downstairs. I chatted with an Australian couple about travel and the state of the States, and where to go next.

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