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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile
me here to comment on any Dram-atics article, I'll include as
many replies as possible
Wednesday November 17th
The peatiest Irish Whiskey ever, or
"Chilling with Cooley"
A couple of weeks ago
contacted by Cooley's marketing manager and asked if I would
like to try a sample of their upcoming new "Second Edition Small
Batch" bottling of Connemara whiskey
called Turf Mór. This is the second of
their "small batch" series, the first being a sherry finished
bottling launched in July 2009 and sadly, one which I haven't
tried. Anyway, this second edition is due for launch around the
end of this month or early December, I guess just in time for
official price as yet, but Cooley have said it will be
priced between the CS and 12y versions, which here in Germany
would mean a €40 to €60 price range.
unchill-filtered and I believe also doesn't suffer from any
colouring being added.
More importantly, it's heavily peated, in fact at over 50ppm
it's the most heavily peated Irish whiskey ever bottled.
But is it any good?
My sample has
arrived and as I have two other Cooley offerings in the form
of samples on my desk I've decided to make this a relaxed
evening of Irish whiskey, or "chilling with Cooley"
as I review all three!
The evening started with
Greenore 15y single grain
whiskey and, I am told, this is the oldest Irish single grain
ever bottled (as yet). I have already tried the 8y & 10y
expressions and loved them, so is this as good? It starts
with butterscotch and light creamy toffee on the nose before
developing some intense, almost perfumed notes with vanilla,
herbs, lavendar and heather blossom. The palate is
deliciously smooth with oak, vanilla, herbs and lavendar
which lead into a long, expanding finish.
Deeeee-Light-Full! Need I say I love this whiskey?
Second to be poured this evening is
Inishowen NAS which is
described as a peated blended Irish whiskey. The nose is very
lightly fragrant with some suggestion of light peat and smoke,
with the faintest background of (Atlantic) sea-air.
Unfortuantely, the palate doesn't quite live up to the
suggestions of the nose as it is quite weak in flavour, perhaps
a little thin, but it is smooth with a slightly creamy
mouth-feel and offers some suggestion of light peat amongst
Cooley, not my favourite from your range.
Connemara Turf Mór is, at over
50ppm, the peatiest Irish whiskey ever bottled and the nose
immediately hints at this with intense peat and smoke, plus a
suggestion of rubber dinghy moored against an Atlantic jetty.
The palate is rich, smooth and creamy with a massive burst
of intense, but somehow gentle peat. This is defintely Irish as
opposed to Scottish peated whisk(e)y! It is intense and
mouth-watering and yes, it exhibits great depths of peat
as it absorbs water effortlessly and intensifies with each
Greenore was delightful, sadly the Inishowen left a lot to
be desired and certainly was the weakest of three whiskeys
tonight, but in all honesty, tonight was about the Turf Mór and
the Greenore was a great bonus that I just happened to have
sitting on my desk.
Turf Mór is a quite astonishing whiskey, it has oodles of peaty
depth to satisfy the most serious of peat-heads, even though it
is still wonderfully gentle Irish-style peat.
Cooley place this right in the middle of a competitive
line-up of Octomore, Supernova, Lagavulin 12y CS & Laphroaig 10y
CS which I guess is about right. It doesn't have quite the crazy
peat levels of Octomore & Supernova, but it certainly fares
extremely positively against the Lagavulin 12y CS which I
recently sampled in the back of a van being driven almost the
length of Scotland.
fact, I would say this is a definite winner, especially if
comes in around the middle of the suggested price-range as it
will not only be a fantastic, heavily peated Irish whiskey, but
also decent value for money.
word; If you like your peat, this is a must!
Wednesday November 10th
A tweeturn to Balblair, or
"Earl Grey tea infused with dried pineapples"
You may have noticed from my recent travelogue
the presence of
a brace of Balblair samples in my posession, well this was
thanks to Lucas of Edinburghwhisky blog who was
co-ordinating an online tasting for tonight, or perhaps
yesterday as I'm really writing this tomorrow, if you get my
idea was to once again connect with John MacDonald,
Balblair distillery manager who is also a user of twitter
and share a tasting, or is it a twitasting, or twasting ...?
all together, online, via twitter at 7pm UK time or 8pm here
ticks, the countdown begins at about 8am UK time; thanks
Lucas. Then finally we have go ......
We'll try the 2000
first, you may pour now
John at the exact designated hour and he has the attention of
whisky lovers from around the world. Apparently this 2000
vintage is a vatting of 47 second-fill bourbon casks and I'm
delighted to be trying this one again after my distillery trip
last week. In the comfort of my own home it doesn't vary too
much from my experience of it in its natural habitat, perhaps
just a sligthly different emphasis on the fruit as I announce it
having "a likeness to one of Munich's Viktualienmarkt
exotic fruit stalls being deposited on a heather-covered
Scottish Ben with a wee lavendar cushion for comfort".
discussion, or is that twiscussion? we are persuaded to move
on to the 1989 which is once again filled with fruity delights
alongside some suggestions of toffee and butterscotch. Aye, just
like one of my favourite childhood sweetshops, but in the corner
of riches rather than sticky sweet sugared offerings. In
fact it's specifically like a rather new style of liquorice
allsort with the liquorice centre, banana & cherry outer and all
coated in dark chocolate.
At the beginning of
also announced that there would be a prize of a bottle of the
1989 on offer for the most interesting or unusual tasting note
of the evening, or perhaps the one which just took his fancy, so
we now all wait with bated breath for John's pontification and
decision. Then suddenly, with a burst of grey, unpeated smoke
from the kiln, he announces "The winner is Oliver Klimek for
his tasting note; Earl Grey tea infused with dried pineapples".
Oliver, a dear
friend in real life (well, one would make anyone an
immediate friend if they suddenly acquired a Balblair 1989,
wouldn't one?) as well as online who lives just around the other
side of Munich in what he describes as "The Munich Rubble plains"
is now one bottle of Balblair 1989 richer, or at least he soon
will be. Congratulations Oliver, but I happen to know you
are an almost exclusive coffee drinker, so was it that mug of
Earl Grey you drank last weekend here at Chez Moi which perhaps
gave you the inspiration? Next time I'll add pineapple for you!
Well done Oliver and many thanks to John for twaking the twime
to tweet along with us,
The Homecoming, or
"Fish & Chips and Alarming Samples"
So, we wave a subdued goodbye to Knockdhu
and once again point the minibus in its
seemingly endless southerly direction as we aim to drop Karen
and Matt at Aberdeen airport, followed by James at Dundee bus
station and then on to a rather reputable restaurant for dinner,
before offloading me at one of the Edinburgh airport hotels, in
readiness for my Friday morning flight home.
least that was the plan until the following telephone
conversation between Lucas and, I assume, the head waiter:
"Good evening, we have a table reservation but are running a wee
bit late and doubt we'll get there before around 10pm, maybe
just after. Is this still alright?"
"No sir, we'll be closing at 10pm and can't wait for you."
dropping Matt and Karen in Aberdeen and then James at Dundee
bus station we had a decision to make as to how we manage to put
sustenance into our weary bodies. Oh look, there's a
chippy, anyone for fish & chips? but not just
yet, as throughout the last two
days the minibus has played strange games when it came to trying
to lock the main side door and,
once again it decided to have
some fun with us, as it occupied another good 10 minutes of
Lucas' and Cathy's lives whilst they tried to secure it in the
back streets of Dundee.
chips are pretty well non-existent in Bayern, unless you
want those thin apologies called 'pommes frites',
but this chippy
was fully equipped with everything one may expect in Scotland. I
say Scotland rather than UK or GB for the reason that at the
front of the counter was a fine selection of chocolate bars
which I assume the proprietor would happily batter and
throw into the frier
upon request. Deep fried Mars bar, Bounty or Twix anyone?
Without the wrappers please. Also on the menu were such local
delicacies as pizza, deep fried of course and mushy peas, of
course not deep fried! My companions chose widely from the menu
and retired with the feast to the minibus where aromas of fish,
chips, sausages, mushy peas and even the deep fried pizza vied
for prominence on the nose, but sadly not on my palate as no
matter how I long for real chips, I was now weary and just
couldn't face or do justice to this feast. Nor did I even fancy
a take-away from the neighbouring Indian establishment.
was almost exactly 10.30pm when we passed the entrance to
the restaurant which was originally planned as our
nearby so that Cathy, our driver and Inver House trooper could
have a break from driving and some fresh air.
hour and a half later I and Johann were dropped at our
airport hotel as the rest of the gang had even further to travel
back to Edinburgh.
Johann and I enjoyed some further whisky discussion over a
couple of beers and a chocolate bar, not deep fried, then
retired to our respective rooms and I began my planning for the
not inconsiderable task of getting my booty (in the traditional
not modern sense of the word) home to Bayern.
what exactly was the problem? Well, my dear wife had sent me
off on this trip with a few €uros worth of those funny English
Pounds and, as Ben Ellefson from Master of Malts was also on the
trip, I decided to relieve him of a few samples in my quest to
try expressions from all Scotch distilleries and brands of
single malts. Then there were three bottles of a rather
excellent WWW forum Tamdhu bottling (not all for me I
must add), plus three distillery samples and
also the two Balblair samples for the twitter tasting on Nov.
10th, oops, that's this evening!
Anyway, this amounted to a fair bit of weight for my case on
an airline looking to charge heavily for extra weight.
versus the airline: Firstly there are no liquids allowed
through airport security, so no bottles small or large in my
hand luggage, but I had prepared well and brought a mountain of
bubble wrap to ensure their safety in the hands of the renowned
baggage handlers of this world. But the old case is getting a
wee bit heavy and still clothes to pack somewhere.
Right, bare necessities in my case, which means whisky,
shoes and a couple of the lighter shirts. More clothing and
towel (my own, not pinched from any hotel I may add) in my hand
luggage, but no room for my very thick jumper or my waterproof
comes the bright idea; my jacket has three rather large
pockets! Now we're cooking on gas (as they say, whoever 'they'
are) socks, underwear and other smaller but weighty items are
found homes in said pockets and it's jolly well orff to
stand in line for the check-in and then worry as when the
chap in front put his holdall on the belt, something was said so
he opened his bag, took out a jacket and the check-in agent
nodded and then accepted the bag. Hmm,
are they so fussy about weight? What chance for me? so it was
with some trepidation that I carefully placed my bag on the belt,
nae worries, just under 19kg, dram, I could have brought another
I did say no bottles in hand luggage, but this isn't
strictly true as I had brought a few of my own sample bottles
along just in case they were needed, which it turns out they
weren't, but rather than throw them away, I found room for them
in my hand luggage. Well they are empty!
Firstly a large tray containing coins, wallet, keys and said
heavily laden jacket disappear along the belt and into the
scanner. No problem and no questions asked about items of
clothing stuffed into all the pockets.
Secondly, my hand baggage follows the same route and stops, not
to reappear. The security man looks quizzically at his
screen before deciding to push his "what 'ave we got 'ere"
button which alerts his colleague.
smile I ask "Ahh, I guess you found the bottles?"
I've nae idea what they are, but we need tae take a look"
empty 5cl bottles which I use for whisky samples" I
in Scotland, what're they doing empty?" came the
good-natured response and after a wee check they were both
satisfied that all was well and I didn't have any Whisky
of Mass Destruction on my person. Who said
Edinburgh security don't have any sense of humour?
local time is just before 3pm as I arrive home to a new pile of
wood awaiting the attention of my chain saw, did I tell you the
story of my chain saw? Now there's a fine narrative, maybe
thanks go out to all involved in the trip, especially Inver
House for their generosity and hospitality, specifically a very
big "thank you" to Cathy and Lucas who put this all together and
personally hosted what was an excellent trip. My respect to
Cathy who drove not only almost the length of Scotland over
these two days, but probably also the length of Scotland to get
the van to Wick before we comfortably arrived in our wee Saab
Finally, it was a delight to meet my fellow
enthusiasts, nay maniacs, if I'm allowed to borrow that term
when talking about whisky, without whom the whisky and blogging
world would be far less entertaining
Mhath and until we meet again, sometime, somewhere.
Knockdhu & An Cnoc, or
"Trust me, I'm a distiller"
almost 3.30 in the afternoon when we left Balblair
and the minibus hit the road again to head even further south
for our final distillery tour at Knockdhu distillery, home of
whisky once bottled under the Knockdhu label, but more recently
under the An Cnoc presentation. Knockdhu distillery was founded
in 1894 by John Morrison when he bought the Knock Estate and
then commissioned the Distillers Company of Edinburgh to
construct the distillery.
Knockdhu had some periods of closure, firstly for a couple
of years in 1931 during the economic depression and then again
between the war years of 1940 to 1945, but it then underwent a
period of modernisation in 1947, only to be closed again by the
owners SMD in 1983.
House purchased Knockdhu in 1988 and made it their first
distillery, opening it on 6th February 1989
Almost 3 hours later we arrived at Knockdhu to once again be
personally greeted by the distillery manager.
time Gordon Bruce.
Gordon gave us
a tour of the distillery which now ranks as my favourite one of
the few tours I have done. He has a true passion for his job,
much like most distillery managers, but he goes a step further,
possibly due to his very practical background based
engineering. He proudly explained how he hunted down a specific
Italian gearbox with better ratios and offering more inline
power than the ones available locally. Then how he managed to
convert it for distillery use to save energy and make things
much more efficient.
his quite prominent "Tesco-sourced" still-room clock with
added An Cnoc logo.
he opened a door and invited me to step into what I can only
describe as "the black hole of Knockdhu". Quite literally
nothing could be seen beyond the door, just pure blackness and,
when I hesitated just to get my bearings and see where I was
going, he offered the quote of the trip and one which I shall
never forget "trust me, I'm a distiller".
doorway led into the now unused but well preserved kiln and
when I stood roughly in the centre, pointing a camera to the
darkness above, the result was the photo on the left.
Needless to say, although the whole
trip was filled with many highlights, the most memorable for
me will be the tour of Knockdhu and the rare insights we were
given into distillery life as it really is and not polished for
public viewing. In fact, Gordon reminds me very much of my
Wife's uncle, an artist and sculptor who has a very similar
attitude and personality to Gordon, only their 'arts' are quite
different, but arts they still are, whether in bronze and canvas
or copper and casks.
conclude the distillery tour we were invited back into the
office for a tasting of some rather special An Cnoc.
First was the new make and
with this I can see exactly where my love of An Cnoc originates.
It's malty and extremely floral, slightly sweet and offers a
hint of raspberry on the palate.
Secondly, I was treated to a
1990 vintage, but one of 20 years at 50%
abv which again was gently sweet and filled with aromatic herbs
on the nose. The palate was creamy with a gentle tingle and a
mixture of malt and biscuit.
Is that the 1975, 30y being
poured next? Yes it is and am I pleased to finally get the
opportunity to try this one. As a fan of An Cnoc I've looked
longingly at this one on the shelves but never been able to even
consider buying one. It reminds me of my favourite childhood
sweet shop, everything open, no warppers and lots of aromatic,
perfumed aromas. But it has more than this, it also exhibits
some slightly deeper aromas of light toffee, oak and even the
faintest hint of smoke.
Finally, Gordon reaches into a sideboard cupboard and
produces and unmarked bottle which he calls a cask sample. This
sample just happens to be
another 1975, but this time aged 35y.
Summer fruits in the form of apricot, mango and papaya greet the
nose along with aged oak and spring-time Alpine flora. The
palate offers nuts, toffee and yet more of those delightful
think this is nearing my all-time Top 10 drams as all I can
think of to say is "Wow".
with some regret that I climb back into the minibus after an
all too short visit to Knockdhu and once again head even further
south towards what we hope is dinner and eventually an airport
hotel ready to face the journey home tomorrow.
at least there could be a few more drops of a certain Lagavulin
12y CS to help numb the miles ahead!
Vintage Balblair, or
"When the screaming stopped, the guys were cool"
mentioned below, the trip south to Tain and the hospitality
of The Morangie Hotel where dinner and a very comfortable room
awaited me, was made even more palatable by the sharing of a
certain newly released Cask Strength Lagavulin 12y from Mark of
Glasgow's Whisky and the excellent WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum.
a menu packed with fresh local produce I just couldn't
resist the lamb as it's really not so common and also hideously
expensive here in Bayern. A couple of drams followed an equally
excellent sticky toffee pudding and that was it, after a 17 hour
day of travelling, touring and dramming my weary body decided
that was enough for one day, so I bade a goodnight to my fellow
bloggers and retired for the evening.
Is The Morangie Hotel haunted? Not
according to their website, but at breakfast the following
morning there were eerie tales of strange happenings in the dead
of night. Wanderings, apparitions and
even screaming was rumoured to be
heard in far corners, but alas, this particular blogger was dead
to the world and thankfully heard nothing of any rumoured
disturbances. Could this possibly have been The
Spirit of Speyside that we often hear so much about?
minibus and Balblair await!
MacDonald, distillery manager
greeted us personally with an extensive tour of the distillery
followed by a tasting of new make and four separate vintages.
Balblair is one of the few (I only know of two at the moment)
distilleries to bottle no age statements, only vintages. As he
explains "Our whisky tells us when it's ready, not the
other way round".
Fortunately the year of bottling also appears on the label
to save any possible confusion for future bottlings or editions
from the same year of distillation.
comprised Balblair new spirit and four separate vintages; 2000,
1989, 1978 and 1997.
The New Spirit was
extremely light, fresh and fruity and showed a complexity not
often found in new make.
Vintage 2000 was again very
fruity, this seems to be a main trait of Balblair, slightly
bitter on the nose, but fuller and sweeter on the palate with
mango & banana. The finish is long and mildly peppery.
I was delighted with the 1989 Vintage
(bottled 2010) which had lots of floral elements alongside
gentle toffee & butterscotch and an everlasting finish.
The 1978 Vintage (bottled
2009) was a complex cocktail of fresh ginger, wood, savoury
pepper, mango and other fruits, followed by hints of ark
chocolate orange on the finish.
Finally, the 1997 Vintage
is filled with a combination of Scottish countryside and
Spring-time Alpine meadow as it combines hay and bracken with
the delights of wild Alpine flora. I thoroughly enjoyed this
dram, although it's fair to say that all the Balblair tasted
here were light, complex, fruity and at times floral. Thank
Alas, after an excellent tasting and
buffet lunch it's once again time to board the minibus and
head further south to Knockdhu distillery, almost 3 hours, one
petrol stop, snack and a few sips of Lagavulin CS 12y away.
Old Pulteney, or
"Never mind the whisky, peat the cask"
guess that in 1826 in the middle of Wick's celebrated herring
boom, whisky probably wasn't at the forefront of most
people's minds, but nevertheless James Henderson decided to
establish a distillery in this extreme northern coastal location.
There weren't any road links to Wick at that time so all
deliveries of supplies were done by sea and
Wick soon established a reputation for its
barrels of silver (herring) and gold (whisky) leaving the
port in vast numbers, which seems like a
decent reputation to me.
of the distillery's original workers were also herring fishermen
so Pulteney distillery has always enjoyed a cherished history
linked with the sea, which I swear is
discernable in todays bottlings of this maritime treasure.
Anyway, 184 years after the founding of Pulteney I have
finally managed to get there amid cold late Autumnal blue skies
and feeling rather like an ancient Nordic invader having arrived
in a quirky-looking craft called a Saab 340.
Unlike many imposing distilleries standing in open
countryside amid picturesque glens, Pulteney stands in the town
like a continuation of a row of terraced cottages running into
what should possibly be a corner shop, but no,
this is a distillery and a jolly good one too.
Waring the distillery manager greeted us personally
and gave an enlightening tour of his pride and joy; Pulteney
Pulteney only warehouses spirit and whisky destined to be
single malt although nearly half of its production goes into
blends. This year they will produce 1,300,000 litres of pure
alcohol of which 700,000 litres will be warehoused on site to be
eventually bottled as various 'Old Pulteney' expressions. The
other 600,000 litres are immediately sold and transported away to
be eventually used in various blends.
a known fact that shorter, dumpier stills produce heavier spirit,
whereas tall narrow ones produce lighter and more floral
spirit. Well, Pulteney's two stills are pretty unique in shape
thanks to tbeir rather stinted dumpiness without the familiar 'swan
neck' seen in all other distilleries in Scotland. In fact legend
says that when the first still was delivered it was too tall to
fit into the stillhouse so the manager decided to cut the top
off, one wonders whether this is a similar legend to the concept
of the shortened house where a tired builder just decided to
bung a low roof on it? (Sorry!)
Pulteney new spirit. also
called new make, is in tandem with this style as it is brimming
with some solid, earthy aromas and flavours including malt,
yeast and a hint of digestive biscuit aongside aromatic honey.
Old Pulteney, 12y,
fruit and biscuit with a small side order of plums dominate the
nose on this whisky, whilst the palate is smooth and slightly
oily before it opens to include that biscuit from the nose.
Although the whisky is reminiscent of the new make, it's still
light and subtle and briefly suggests redcurrant as the palate
heads into the finish, which itself is dry with lingering
biscuit and fruit.
This may not be an
earth-shatteringly 'great' in whisky terms, but it is a jolly
good, solid, honest whisky which is often ignored or under-rated.
I like it.
Another subtle one
from Pulteney as this 17y variant, matured in refill bourbon
casks offers light, fresh wood and a hint of liquorice root on
the nose. The palate is delightfully smooth with a creamy
mouth-feel as the light wood and liquorice root steadily appear
along with hints of fruit. Just three drops of water release
some suggestions of fresh green apple and pear which further
enhance the subtle palate. The finish expands further to include
fine whisky which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Old Pulteney, 21y,
1/3 Fino Sherry
casks, 2/3 Refill bourbon casks: A slightly richer and more
vivid dram with an immediate musty nuttiness (that means nuts
not silliness) followed by freshly polished wood and slight
pepper to tantalise the nostrils. One third of this whisky was
matured in Fino sherry casks and it really shows on the palate
as it's also joined by a cocktail of fruit and spices. It takes
just three drops of water to really make this whisky sing as it
expands with a smooth creaminess before a slightly dry but long
finish concludes the experience.
Old Pulteney, 30y,
one refill bourbon cask, enlarge it by adding three extra staves
then fill it and let it hang around in your warehouse for 30
years and if you're lucky, you may be quite pleasantly surprised.
Smooth and gentle malt and yeast, followed by dry, slightly
bitter fruit on the nose, whereas the fruit turns more tropical
with hints of papaya on the palate which then linger seductively
into the finish. It needs some time too, well after 30 years
crammed in a cask I think I'd like to take my fresh air slowly
Be patient and you'll not be sorry, it's a really good whisky!
Fill your own like
Pulteney offer visitors the chance to fill their
own bottle at the distillery and in this case Jason from the
GuidScotchDrink blog and fellow
WhiskyKnight decided to do just that.
cask contains a surprisingly good, but equally surprisingly
different whisky. It's well, errmmm, got a peaty tang without
being peated whisky! How? I hear you ask. Well, this particular
cask is a peated cask filled with unpeated Old Pulteney which I
assure you makes for an excellent whisky!
Just imagine sitting by a peaty bonfire on an Atlantic beach,
drinking Old Pulteney!
than compensated for sitting around in Edinburgh airport whilst
someone in the airline hierarchy seemed to be tossing a coin to
decide whether one certain aircraft would head towards Wick or
Ralfy, thankfully Wick won and although we missed a boat trip,
the rest of the day was marvellous. It is indeed with some
regret that I now say Tchüss, au revoir and sithee to this far
northern corner of the Scotverse and begin the long treck south,
or at least the first leg of it to Tain and this evenings dinner,
but it seems we have a rather suitable aperitif in the crew bus
as Mr. WhiskyWhiskyWhisky magically produces a certain recently
released Lagavulin 12y.
tasting notes: Glass; No, bottle. Nose;
Ouch, please watch out for potholes in the road. Palate;
It comes in short bursts dependent upon speed and cornering.
Finish; No, best leave some for later!)
Wick or bust, or
"Four airports and a boat trip"
Mr. W. Emporium, your presence is requested in Wick, RSVP. A
wee note dropped into my lap offering a trip to visit three
distilleries owned by Inver House. The most recent blogger
discussions seem to have centred around the word 'ethics' when
it comes to accepting anything from samples to distillery trips,
well, I don't see a problem so long as one is honest and
up-front, so my acceptance was duly returned.
afterwards I received my itinerary and what a one it was;
leave Munich on the evening of Tuesday 2nd Nov. Fly to Heathrow,
then an early morning flight to Edinburgh followed by a further
connecting flight to Wick. Once there we were to have a
distillery trip, wee tasting and then what was only described as
"a boat trip, but bring warm clothing and waterproofs".
Munich to Heathrow: The plan was simple, take the 9.20pm
flight to Heathrow and arrive, thanks to the time difference,
just one hour later at about 10.20pm. I even called the hotel
the day before to ensure that the shuttle bus would be available
when I landed. Eventually, after speaking to three different
hotel employees they found one who seemed to know, but the news
wasn't good, the hotel shuttle stops picking up from T5 at 11pm.
So, I need to hope for no delays and getting my case out of
baggage handling pretty quickly.
flight was brilliant and they even left the monitors running
to show speed, altitude, outside temperature and a few maps
tracing our journey, live. In fact, I discovered it was -62°C at
38,000 feet above Düsseldorf travelling at just over 400mph
against a 115mph headwind. Then, as we approached Heathrow the
pilot seemed to fancy practising his ballet skills with some
deft pirouettes as the monitor showed a certain aircraft going
round in circles to the east of London. Now, about this bus
which stops running at 11pm; the clock is ticking ..... To cut
a long story short we landed, I rushed and upset a few people by
not giving too much leaway and emerged into the arrivals hall at
about 11.07pm. However, a quick enquiry at the information
desk told me that the hotel didn't know what they were talking
about as the bus ran every 20 minutes until 11.39pm. Got it!
clock struck twelve as I staggered wearily into the hotel to
claim my bed for the night and a wonderful sight was the bar
still open, I think a nightcap is in order. A quick
interrogation of the staff informed me that full breakfast is
available from 4am and the shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes on
the hour and half. Sorted, a quick refreshing beer later I
slumped into bed and couldn't get to sleep.
requested alarm call for 5am never quite reached my room
'phone but at least my own mobile 'phone was more reliable.
Anyway, the plan was to grab a hearty breakfast at 5am, sort my
bags and get the 6am shuttle bus to T5. "Sorry sir, breakfast
doesn't start until 6.30am unless you just want a tea or coffee
and some cereal".
After much searching I hunted down 5 (rather small)
glasses of orange juice, cereal and three croissants followed by
checking the shuttle bus times which I found posted on a remote
wall. Sure enough, the shuttle bus was due to leave every 20
minutes (not thirty) and the two possibilities seemed to be 5.42
for Heathrow on the 5.37 shuttle bus. Does anyone in this hotel
actually know what they are talking about?
schedule for today was to get to Wick and Pulteney distillery,
then end the day in Tain. The flight to Edinburgh was again
faultless and I was perfectly on time as I sat alongside Gate 10
in Edinburgh airport waiting for news of the 11am flight to Wick.
Does Wick really have an airport? Apparently it does. I was quickly
joined by other members of the trip arriving from various places,
in fact the first was Mark of the WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum who
shouted "Hi Keith" as he approahed someone he'd never met before,
but recognised me from my twitter profile picture.
here we are all sitting waiting for the much anticipated
announcement to go for our flight to gate 3 when we suddenly see
the dreaded words "Delayed 13:00", at which point someone contacted
the Inver House Reps who were already in Wick and informed them of the
delay. Shortly afterwards I received a text message telling me
that everyone was at gate 7 and I should head that way to join
them, whilst I was sitting with everyone at gate 10.
Delayed 13.00 soon became delayed 14.20 and in parallel the
14.20 flight to The Isle of Man became "cancelled".
I guess someone was using a twin faceted monetary indicator to
decide which flight to
run and which to cancel. Obviously Wick was
currently winning but maybe Isle of Man would request a "best of
three or best of
guess some things in an itinerary are flexible, some not and
in this case the "not" would be the boat trip, scheduled for 3pm
which was looking rather iffy with a departure time of 14.20
followed by a one hour flight, distillery tour, lunch and
tasting. Hold on, there's still hope as delayed 14.20 returns to
delayed 13.00 but Isle of Man remains "cancelled". All hope
seems to be lost again as after half an hour or so delayed 14.20
eventually boarded something called a Saab 340 which again
surprised me as many years ago I drove a Volvo 340, same country,
different model I guess. Anyway, Wick does indeed have an
airport complete with arrivals lounge and the shortest baggage
conveyor belt I have ever seen at something like 2 metres long.
In fact watching the man put our bags on it through the window
us taking them almost directly out of his hand was a
pleasant and amusing distraction.
has a pretty harbour with colourful wee fishing boats and
sure enough, that man over there wearing orange waterproofs was
the one who wouldn't now be taking us on a picturesque boat trip
off the Caithness coast and exposing us to a myriad of local
are now at Pulteney distillery so all is not lost! Coming next:
Chapter 2, "Pulteney", or "The cask not the whisky may
occasionally be peated"
Journey to the end of the Scotverse, or
alternative trilogy in five chapters"
November continues in style with a visit to three distilleries
Whisky Emporium explores the extreme north of mainland Scotland.
Over the next
few days I will share my journey with you as I hit the road
with Inver House and visit Pulteney, Balblair & Knockdhu
distilleries where I meet some dedicated, passionate,
knowledgeable and sometimes almost eccentric personalities, but
more of those later. So do keep looking in on Dram-atics in the
next days as I promise you some interesting and slightly
off-beat distillery experiences.
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