Our destination: the thoroughly awful Craigellachie Hotel:Jewel in the Crown: The Quaich Bar:
The weekend starting 3rd November saw me and my whisky crew gather for our Whiskyfest '06 at the very classy Craigellachie Hotel
in the heart of Speyside. Alison and the two Andrews were traveling up the A9 through Pictlochry taking in Edradour and Blair Atholl as I headed out from Aberdeen on the A96 direct into the hallowed land (once my hangover from the Aberdeen '06 Beer Festival had sufficiently subsided), taking in Glenfarclas (with a tour consisting of Lancastrian OAPs and a nip of their 30yr old malt beforehand), before arriving in Craigellachie itself.
As I was before the Alisonmobile, I checked-in and then with my crossword in hand, shifted over to the very welcoming Highlander Inn
across the road and specifically the 'Real Ale and Whisky Bar' downstairs. There I sat with a beautiful pint of Cairngorm
's Black Gold and a very satisfying Mortlach malt.
Before too long the crew were joining me and finishing my crossword in a matter of minutes. A new round in meaning we'd miss the 18:30 dining session and have to opt for the 21:30 session. We filled in the time in the traditional way, retiring to the room of Leach & I for gift exchange and whisky opening. After the hotel's complementary wine, I believe Scapa was consumed, but my recollection is scrappy; I do distinctly remember enjoying it however! What is for certain is that at this point we symbolised this gathering, in aid of Alison & mine's 30ths, by finishing my gift to Leach for his 30th, the interesting Chardonnay-finish Edradour expression.The Drawing Room:We were herded in like cattle!
With sherry before dinner in the wonderful drawing room, 21:30 came around quickly and we were soon sitting down to some extremely nice food, followed by a return to the drawing room for some port and coffee of course! As Alison and Andrew R retired, the Leach and I took a visit to Thomas Telford
's elegant cast iron arch bridge over the Spey
located just down from the hotel. Naturally, we had to dip our feet into the near-freezing waters, but then leave quickly while we still had feeling in them! We then returned to the hotel and made our first visit to its own whisky shrine, The Quaich Bar
, which with 700 malts had been the main draw of the place all along. It did not disappoint, with shelves of bottles covering all available wall space in neat alphabetical order. The round consisted of a sherry finish Dalwhinnie and a port-finish Benromach. Neither disappointed, but I think the Benromach had the edge. With our momentum finally running out, it was then time to close proceedings for Day 1, well, not before some of the Bruichladdich that was Leach's birthday gift to me and then some of his fine Tokaji finish Edradour, which is a very distinctive flavour, working much better than the Chardonnay-finish mentioned earlier.Saturday started with Ardbeg's Lord of the Isles:Then a clearing of the head walk to the bridge!
Saturday saw us up reasonably early. First event on the menu was the grand unveiling of Alison's super-malt, the Ardbeg 'Lord of the Isles' 25 yr old, now reputed to be able to fetch over £200 a bottle. It was predictably a powerful malt, but just like my Lagavulin of the same age, a more balanced and smooth drink than we would have expected. Next, saw the crew introduced to the Lagavulin itself, with all in agreement of its charms, and the predictable continuation of the Lag vs. Ardbeg debate.Best tour in the world, 5 minutes this way:Who do we love?Ah, to be the nightwatchman!It's me, through whisky!!Their bad treatment of us just kept going:Despite the poor treatment, Alison manages a smile:It was a relief to leave:
Anyway, all this had occurred before 11am, so we cleared our heads with a return to the bridge and then a trip off to Elgin
and possibly our best ever tour at Glen Moray
; the connoisseur's tour from none other thean the manager himself (big points to Alison for securing this at short notice). The usual site tour was the bones of the walkaround, but more detail came at each stage, as well as a total cutting of the usual rubbish (no mention of the angel's share here!!). This was just the warm up however, as a showing of the filling room was accompanied by a tasting of the pure spirit, and the trip into the warehouse by a tasting of a sherry finish straight from the cask, as well as great entertainment by way of a fantastic tourist gimmick of a cask with glass ends enabling many photo opportunities of you and your friends through
Having already had quite a bit of malt, it was humorous that the next stage was the actual tasting session, where we worked through the 16 yr old, the 21 yr old, the 1981, the 1973, the 1963 and the 1984 Manager's Choice. All great stuff. My favorites were the 1981 joint with the Manager's Choice. Glen Moray is a very light malt, basically a typical Speyside, but while it is not my usual chosen flavour, it is also a typical Speyside in that it is an extremely drinkable malt; at least eight malts were taken in in that afternoon, but at no point did I become 'whiskied-out'.
Our return to Craigellachie took us past the Gordon & McPhail whisky shop (unfortunately they didn't have any Brucihladdich Flirtations in, else in my merry state I would have faced the £70 cost without a second thought), and then to Elgin Cathedral
Back at the hotel, there was an hour of official rest time before we engaged with our blessed drink again, although I must admit I used the time to sit in a bath with a shot of Alison & Andrew's birthday gift to me, the 1989 bottling of Lagavulin double-matured range, mmm.The hotel by night:The bridge by night:For God's sake, take the shot, quick!Mince, mince, mince; well, it was cold!
We reconvened in the library, with more sherry served for Leach and I and further whisky for Alison and Andrew R, including Alison's graceful tasting of Ardbeg's 30 yr old (just £25 a shot). After dinner, we returned to the whisky bar where I sampled an interesting peated Japanese expression of Jura and we met a woman from Bowmore on Islay and her friend, who was there celebrating her divorce and new property! Suitably fortified, it was then time for more paddling, this time with Alison braving the chill too; Andrew R sacrificing a swim to his camera duties which gave great results, but which could have been much more brief!
One more visit to The Highlander Inn and it was time to retire, Day 2 had been filled to the brim.
Unfortunately, Day 3 was the closer, and there was little to do but leave. It had been a fine couple of days, with fine friendship and malt on tap. We all agreed that a return trip should someday be made, but extended to a third night (bank account beware!). If anyone out there reading this is sufficiently interested in their malts, then I thoughly recommend a visit to this idyllic retreat. Bring on the first anniversary tour!
Labels: Ardbeg, Craigellachie, distillery, Elgin, Glen Moray, Highlander Inn, Lagavulin, whisky