Monday, 21 April 2014

.1 - Planting the barley - 2012 and before

our fist distillery
It has never been much of a secret that I like a sip whisky every now and then. I have been drinking the stuff regularly anf visited a festival every once in a while, and at the point where I was in between jobs I decided to investigate whisky on a deeper level. Keeping responsibility in mind, I wasn’t looking at how fast I could reach the bottle’s end, but tried to find out more about what it was made of.

What I found intrigued me, or using better wording; I was overwhelmed about the huge amount of information I found and long before I was done with gathering information, I was at work again on my new job. No reason to stop looking on the internet on my time off though, and slowly but surely I gathered enough information, to get interested enough and convince the Mrs to try our luck at a trip to Scotland. I had heard the island of Islay was beautiful (with eight distilleries), and we could try one or two and learn a little more about the process first hand.

Little did we know then – before starting the trip – we would in those two weeks time drive over 2300 kilometres and visit all five whisky regions. Starting in Cambeltown (taking the B8001 - the wondrous coastal route down: first on your left after passing the Kennagraig terminal), our first visits were with the Springbank and GlenGyle distilleries. Great distilleries as for our first experience, although at GlenGyle they were not distilling during our visit. 

The Ardshiel hotel in Campbeltown has a great whisky bar and once a month (on a Tuesday, if I am not mistaken) they host a whisky tasting with the local whisky-club. Good timing on our side - I could join the evening.

holy ground
On Islay we had a look at all eight distilleries, plus the one distillery on Jura, and found out two days is just too short for the two islands, drove around through the Highlands via Oban, Tomatin, Glenlivet, Clynelish/ Brora, Balblair, Glenmorangie, Dalmore and Glen Ord. Having touched the Speyside already, we continued the trip through Benromach, Glen Moray, Strathisla, Balvenie/ Kininvie, Glenfarclas, Glen Grant and Aberlour. Moving south again towards Pitlochry, we found Blair Athol and Edradour, and just because we had to, we visited Glenkinchie in the Lowlands. 

For those counting, yes, that were twenty-seven distilleries (not counting Kininvie and Brora) in only two weeks time. At “only” eighteen we stayed long enough to indulge ourselves with a tour of the distillery. We had a lot of fun, but realised this was not the way to go. Yes, we had been to a lot of different distilleries, but it was impossible to collect and ingest all information that was thrown at us. We already knew we had to come back to Scotland and some distilleries where we had not asked the right questions.

More importantly, the Mrs was hooked too. From sipping my glass every now and then, she was a true convert, having a dram with me whenever I was trying a sample of something or other we had brought back with us – we had brought 136 bottles, of which only six were full sized, the rest miniatures. At first I was not amused seeing how fast the bottles emptied, but soon came to realise that the hobby had expanded too, with two people drinking – and buying... 

Without putting a name to it then and there, “I” had become “we” and Whisky Speller was born.

- Thomas

Next chapter will take us further into our journey. Back to Islay, during the 2013 edition of the festival of music and spirit, no less!

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