Well this was one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had to do – take a bunch of guys around Scotland on a …… WHISKY TOUR!
It’s great how my website brings in all sort of enquiries from cooking with children or mens’ groups to after dinner speaking at tourism or business events, talking at Book festivals and organising food demonstrations all over Scotland. So it was, I got an e mail from Dubai – bunch of guys on a stag do with the ‘bachelor’ passionate about Malt whisky. After much deliberation and to-ing and fro-ing I created a whisky tour for them which not only they will never forget but neither will I!
The stag stuff was sorted very quickly with a night club in Glasgow; I had nothing to do with that!! But earlier in the day my friend Brenda from Tasting Scotland http://www.tastingscotland.com/ took the guys on a wonderful walking tour around Glasgow showing all aspects of the Glasgow food culture from Indian through Chinese to Italian. They loved it. It’s good to have friends in the right places!
We set of on the Sunday of an amazing week of sunshine driven by the characterful Gordon from William Sleigh Chauffeur Services to our first Distillery Auchentoshan which happily was a perfect first stop. Their ‘Ultimate Experience’ tour was just that, with an excellent in depth explanation and tasting from the cask we were on our way. Two more distilleries later Deanston and Glengoyne and then lunch at the Old Mill at Killearn which was excellent. Then onto Balquidder where I put my trust in my old friend Tom Lewis at his superb Monachyle Mhor Hotel who produced the most amazing dinner which had each course matched to a whisky. Tom of course came in to our private room before each course to explain what it was and why he matched the whisky. The boys loved it.
After a great night at the hotel and a superb Scottish breakfast we set off for Speyside by way of Edradour and Dalwhinnie distilleries. The day time highlight was lunch at the Auld Alliance in Kingussie where Lydie Bocquillon the chef owner cooked a great lunch and we were beautifully looked after by her lovely daughter Sky.
The evening highlight was a visit to Glenfarclass distillery at Ballindalloch which is one of the favourite whiskies of our ‘bachelor’ so we arrived and I introduced him to John Grant as the owner! He was overwhelmed. More was to come on this memorable visit when Calum the distillery manager took us on a tour where we actually were able to put our hands into the spirit stream in the ‘safe’. Now for those in the know the spirit safe is where the excise man usually steps in and has everything padlocked but here Calum opened it up and plunged his hands into the stream and encouraged us to do the same and rub our hands together to smell the barley!
And so to dinner with John Grant himself. The highlight of highlights here as each person was invited to pick a bottle from the shelf from his birthday year and pour himself a dram! There was even one for my year!! Again I had a friend locally who put me in touch with John Grant who now has many more Glenfarclass Ambassadors!
Next day brought two more distilleries – Glenglassaugh and Strathisla and so onto my next surprise for the group. I had hired Glentruim Castle in the heart of the Cairngorms for the night where I cooked dinner of local venison and a simple cranachan, which they helped prepare in the kitchen. On the journey up we had a discussion about Cullen Skink as they had had some in Glasgow, so I was able to get the ingredients and make that with them as well, a real Scottish food experience. I had also managed to source a few whiskies they had not yet tasted , so the evening developed into a good session around a roaring log fire long into the night
A slightly delayed departure next morning! took us to the glorious road to Fort William and after Gordon showed us Neptune’s staircase at the end of the Caledonian canal we had a quick tasting at the Ben Nevis distillery before we headed for Oban and lunch at Coast Restaurant in Oban – the local shellfish and Halibut from Gigha were excellent. On down to Carradale where we spent our last two nights with some excellent local food at the Dunvalanree Hotel owned and run by Alan and Alison Milstead. Alison cooks brilliantly and we made a real dent in Alan’s excellent whisky collection. Our final full day was a tour by Frank McHardy of Springbank distillery which was thoroughly enjoyed.
What a great trip it was. Scotland looking fantastic and I had the opportunity to provide an experience which could not be bought off the shelf
Christopher Trotter / Scottish Food Ambassador