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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile


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Wednesday November 17th

The peatiest Irish Whiskey ever, or

"Chilling with Cooley"


A couple of weeks ago I was 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 Christmas!

There's no 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.

It's also 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 Irish 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 faint liquorice.

Sorry 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 addition.


The 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.

The 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.

In 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.

My last 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 drift.

Anyway, the 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 in Bayern.

The clock 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 announces 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".

After much 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 the twasting John 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,





Chapter 5.

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.

Or at 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."

After 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.

Real 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.

It was almost exactly 10.30pm when we passed the entrance to the restaurant which was originally planned as our dinner venue and parked nearby so that Cathy, our driver and Inver House trooper could have a break from driving and some fresh air.

An 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.


So 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.


Keith 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 jacket.

Then 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 the airport!

I 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 few samples!

Now, 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.

With a smile I ask "Ahh, I guess you found the bottles?"

"Bottles? I've nae idea what they are, but we need tae take a look"

"They're empty 5cl bottles which I use for whisky samples" I further explained.

"Yae're 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?


The 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 another day.

My 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 machine.

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 and knowledgeable.

Slàinte Mhath and until we meet again, sometime, somewhere.




Chapter 4.

Knockdhu & An Cnoc, or

"Trust me, I'm a distiller"



It was 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.

Inver 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.

This 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 partly in 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.

Plus his quite prominent "Tesco-sourced" still-room clock with added An Cnoc logo.



At one point 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".

The 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.



To 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 summer fruits.

I think this is nearing my all-time Top 10 drams as all I can think of to say is "Wow".


It is 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.

Ah well, at least there could be a few more drops of a certain Lagavulin 12y CS to help numb the miles ahead!



Chapter 3.

Vintage Balblair, or

"When the screaming stopped, the guys were cool"


As 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.

From 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?

The minibus and Balblair await!


John 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.




The tasting 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 you John!


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.


Chapter 2.

Old Pulteney, or

"Never mind the whisky, peat the cask"



I 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.

Many 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.


Malcolm Waring the distillery manager greeted us personally and gave an enlightening tour of his pride and joy; Pulteney distillery.

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.



It's 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!)

For sure the 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, 40% ABV Fresh 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.


Old Pulteney, 17y, 46% ABV, Refill bourbon casks: 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 honeydew melon.

A fine whisky which I thoroughly enjoyed.




Old Pulteney, 21y, 46% ABV, 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, 44% ABV: Take 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 too.

Be patient and you'll not be sorry, it's a really good whisky!



Fill your own like Jason: Pulteney offer visitors the chance to fill their own bottle at the distillery and in this case Jason from the excellent GuidScotchDrink blog and fellow WhiskyKnight decided to do just that.

This particular 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!



This delightful distillery tour more 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.

(Imagine the 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!)

Slàinte Mark!



Chapter 1.

Wick or bust, or

"Four airports and a boat trip"

  Dear 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.

Soon 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.

The 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!

The 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.

My 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 or 6.02.

I left for Heathrow on the 5.37 shuttle bus. Does anyone in this hotel actually know what they are talking about?

The 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.

So, 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 five" rerun?

I 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 returns.

We 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 and then us taking them almost directly out of his hand was a pleasant and amusing distraction.

Wick 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 wildlife.

But we 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"




Friday November 5th

Journey to the end of the Scotverse, or

"An alternative trilogy in five chapters"


November continues in style with a visit to three distilleries as 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.







Previous major features

October 2010

The John Walker, Sampling with Master of Malts, Changing jobs, Whisky Round Table

Sept. 2010

Playing Chinese whispers, Oktoberfest, SMWS Spirit Cellar, 500,000

August 2010

Elementary my dear Islay, Handbags at dawn, Dram-arkable 500, Cheapo Challenge, Ah Dooagh, 1 from 3 left

July 2010

Age matters. A series of whisky reviews concentrating upon 'Age'

June 2010

Jules Rimet, pickles & crisps. Mon coeur, mon amour oh mon sherry. A taste of the great outdoors.

May 2010

The highly-acclaimed and record-breaking "Desert Island Drams"

April 2010

My peat's bigger than your peat, A foursome with a famous Scottish bird

March 2010

Sample Mania tasting notes, The Good, the Bad & The Loch Dh-Ugly, A return to sanity, The Choice of Managers

Jan-Feb 2010

Keep taking the medicine, It's Festival time, Maker's Mark, Sleeveless in Munich

Dec. 2009

All power to the bean-counters, protecting Scotch, seasonal drams, Definitive Xmas Drams, 2009 Whisky Awards

Nov. 2009

How it all started, Bonfire night, Autumnal musings, EU Tax & Duty, What's in a (whisky) name?




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