Back to Speyside


I woke to a grey morning in the grey city. We packed the car and headed north east towards the night’s destination of Craigellachie. Our route took us close to the village of Strachan, but not through it, so I had a quick photo stop at a nearby street sign then on for coffee and bacon sandwiches at the Tease coffee bar, Banchory.

Once fortified, we visited the well-preserved tower house Castle of Craigievar. As you come around the corner on the footpath from the carpark you can be mistaken for believing you stepped into a fairytale, it’s just that cute. The NT of Scotland say: “Begun in the Scottish Baronial style around 1576 and completed by c1626, this iconic tower house is amongst the best preserved and the most loved in Scotland. Craigievar was a family home until the 1960s, creating a quirky blend of modern comforts and rare antiquities within the ancient walls.”  Visitors climb the castle on spiral stairs leading up from the drawing room. Once at the uppermost bedroom we descended via the staff staircase returning to the drawing room through a door that had appeared to be a cupboard when we were first there. The Castle is full of fine artworks and furniture. A great start to the cultural side of our trip.

Next stop was the Grampian Transport Museum, passing the Police Box (or was it a TARDIS?) on the path to the front door. The museum was set up by a motorcycle champion and had an excellent collection of motorcycles. There are two storeys of vehicles of all age and types, from an 1897 steam tricycle to Pinkie & Perky, two 1960’s Hillman Imp police cars, complete with lifebelts for their work at Lock Lomand-side.

The first distillery of the trip was The Macallan, so there was a bit of pressure on them to start our trip on a high note. The presentation of the Distillery was very high quality, they based the tour on what they called 6 Pillars of quality. Yes, questions were asked to check if we were paying attention. Their main point of difference is undoubtedly their small stills with long necks. They claim the increased copper contact helps: ‘to concentrate the ‘new make’ spirit and provide the rich, fruity, full-bodied flavours characteristic of The Macallan.’ We tasted the new make spirit, the 12YO and 15YO. The 12YO was matured in American Oak that had been seasoned with sherry in Spain, before being used for the whisky, whilst the 15YO was matured in a more conventional way using European and American oak for the major aging and then finished in old Sherry Butts. They were fine examples and did exhibit a fruity full-bodied flavor as promised by the small stills. All-in-all a good start to the whisky trip, and the hope of more to come.

Our 2011 Whisky Trip ended in The Highlander Inn, this time we are starting there. After dinner we had a dram of Glen Dronach 12 YO as a nightcap. We were back in familiar territory for the next three nights, but with all new distilleries to visit.