MCLEANSCOTLAND “A slight detour into Scotland” – Scotch Whisky News

Anders and Ross

A slight detour into Scotland by Anders Malmsten, Finland

August….what is August good for? Asking myself that question and also coming up with a very good answer, why not go to Scotland. Why, yes please. So, five days in and around Perth sounded like a good idea. And I also would get the chance to help making my own cask at Strathearn distillery.

Day 1 Flying from Helsinki via Amsterdam onwards to Edinburgh. I had to wake up at an unearthly hour as my flight left Helsinki 7:00AM. Well, the positive side was that I would be in Edinburgh already at 10:30AM so time to explore. At the airport I got a brand new Yaris as the rental car and off I went scared completely witless as it was the first time I was driving on the left side of the road (Yes, it is the wrong side). And as a bonus some traffic designing moron had placed some very tricky roundabouts right outside the airport. Well, after the commotion, and changing underware once I finally got out on the highway, and next stop was the quaint little village of Glenfarg. Luggage to the room and off I went again. Had to drive to St Andrews to see the nice town with the old cathedral and castle/monastery thingie, and the on the way back I took a detour to Lindores Abbey to see the place where it all started. Legends(read: Wikipedia) say that the monks there were the first ones to make whisky in Scotland. Who am I to argue with legends? Then back to the hotel pub for a nice evening with local people who were very friendly.

Day 2 Paul and Liz had promised to take me for a quick tour so I left early to Perth to pick up Paul and then off to leave my car at my temporary hotel. With Paul behind the steering wheel we headed towards Edradour. I went on their tour which included a couple of nice drams and a very nice walk around the compound. We also got to see the older barrels in their warehouse belonging to Signatory. There were old Glenlivets, Dallas Dhus and so on. Then picking up a bottle at the shop and lunchtime at a pub quite nearby called The Old Mill. Then we trundled onwards to Aberfeldy where I took the whatchamacallit tour where in the end you get to taste whisky from a cask. And then we still had some tasters at the bar, including the Bits of Strange and Unravel. Both were grand drams, so I had to make a quick decision which one to buy….and because I am strange I had to go for the Strange one J. In the evening there was still some tasting at Liz´s place. The Edradour Fairy Flag was one of the best ones we had that evening. Nice new expression from Edradour. 

AA strath day

Day 3 Thursday was the big day, as that was the day my cask was to be made at Strathearn Distillery. So, after the quite not so light dramming the night before, I oozed down for a quick breakfast and after filling up on bacon and other nutritious and healthy substances I was ready to tackle the challenges ahead. On my way to Strathearn I dropped Paul off at Perth and continued my sojourn alone. When I arrived at the distillery Tony Reeman-Clark had already started to fill the spirit still with the low wines. Tony then instructed me on the fine art of distilling, and then with the 10min crash course(including mandatory safety instructions like don’t touch the still, it is hot!) I was then ready to make whisky. After meticulously making sure that every last drop of juice was pumped into the still we fired up the steam. After approximately 30-40 minutes the excitement hit the roof as the first drops of new make spirit was trickling out from the condenser. This was the “heads” which contain methanol and other not so nice compounds so these were separated. After about 12 liters the heart of the run was starting to come out of the still. The way to measure this is quite interesting. You have a glass tube that you put some cold water into. Then you take a small sample of the distillate and if there is any impurities they show up as a zone of shady liquid in the middle of the tube. Also the alcohol content is measured constantly by having a hydrometer, a temperature gauge, and a big book of charts. Lots of moving bits in the process. The distillation took the whole day, as in the end after getting about 110 liters of new make, we still got a big tank of feints. That is the alcohol where the ABV is so low and containing impurities that it cannot be used. It is then used in the next distillation again. Then there was still the most fun part…filling the cask. So now I have a nice 50 liter cask maturing. That was a very nice and unique experience. So big thanks to Strathearn Distillery and Tony who arranged the day for me. As the hour was late, I started driving back to the hotel and after consulting my trusty gps I decided to take the scenic route. So over the hills and far away. And ye gods the roads were small and crooked. And the speed limit there is just insane. One car can safely navigate the road and then you are still allowed to do 90 km/h. No, I did not. After getting lost and after receiving help from a local I finally got back to the hotel. Mission accomplished!!! 

AA ando casks

Day 4 TGIF! Friday is always nice. Paul was coming with me again as the navigator. I am quite sure that he just wanted to sit and laugh as I tried my best to drive on the left side of the road. Anyhoo, we went over to Glengoyne for a quick visit as I enjoy their products (no, not only the fudge but the whisky also). No tour but just some shopping and idling at the distillery visitors center. Then we headed off to a very silly place. Silly as in Monty Python silly. Doune castle. The place they filmed The Holy Grail. So I got to stand outside and listen when imaginary French soldiers were taunting up on the parapet. “I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”. After that humiliating defeat we went for lunch at a nice little pub in the countryside. And again, to my surprise in a small shed outside the pub was a grand real ale shop. Why do they hide that kind of awesome shop in a gardenshed??? Then we drove over to Deanston where we just planned on having a wee look and a coffee break. But alas, plans change as the visitor center manager walked by and recognized Paul. So we got an ex-tempore quick tour of the still house and the warehouse. Thank you Peter if you read this! On our way back to Perth we still went by Tullabardine for a shop and run at their visitors center. While not actually finding anything to buy there the nearby local grocery shop had a bottle of the Secret Stills series. Isle of Sky 1986, I wonder what is in the bottle J Saying goodbye to Paul I then drove back to Glenfarg for my final evening in Scotland this time. So I went to the pub as I always do.

AA his haul

Day 5 Step one, pack all the loot in the suitcase. Step two, ask the receptionist to break his back while trying to get the suitcase down two staircases. Step three, drive to the airport, leave the rental car and then check in to the flight and after that just wait. And wait. And after a quick one hour flight to Amsterdam wait for another 4 hours. Fortunately there are whisky shops at the airport so I kept myself entertained. To sum the trip up in one word: AWESOME!

Thank you Paul and Liz for a grand time. You are the greatest!

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