D&J Scotland Whisky Tour 2009 travel blog

Visitor's Centre at Aberlour Distillery

Dennis, Our Entertaining Guide at Aberlour Distillery

Computerized Monitoring Station at Aberlour Distillery

Water Filtration Towers at Aberlour Distillery

Removal of Waste Pot Ale at Aberlour Distillery

Jeanette at Tasting at Aberlour Distillery

Mash Tun Whisky Bar in Aberlour

Doug on River Ericht Walk in Blairgowrie

We heard people out in the hallway a few times last night; I expect they were rock festival attendees with no intention of going to sleep anytime soon. I had set my alarm for 6:30 am, but got up at 6:00 after waking up to loud voices in the hallway. I had to pack our stuff up anyways, as we were leaving this morning.

We went down for breakfast at 7:15 am, the usual bountiful buffet of hot and cold items. Then we went back up to the room and packed up the rest of our stuff and checked out of the hotel. The coach was on the road by 8:30 am, and even though we were five minutes early, almost everyone was already on the bus, and we felt like we were being tardy!

Our first stop of the day was at the Aberlour Distillery, about an hour and a half drive. The weather was overcast and cool, but I didn’t mind. I just wrote my journal on the way.

We arrived at the Distillery about 10:00 am. The Distillery, like others we’ve been to in Speyside, is a series of lovely stone buildings, and beside a pretty burbling stream shaded by large trees. We were the first people there, and headed up to the shop/office building at the entrance and were met by our tour guide, Dennis Hendry, a really gregarious man who very thoughtfully asked us if we wanted the standard tour, or just to have a tour of the buildings and give a history of Aberlour. We readily agreed on the latter.

He started off the tour in a room that had displays outlining the production of whisky, but instead of repeating what we already knew, told us a very entertaining history of whisky and how the Aberlour Distillery came about. He threw in lots of jokes and we enjoyed him very much. There was lots of laughter, and we hadn’t even been into the tipple yet!

He then led us around the Distillery, through the mash tun rooms (with metal tuns painted white) that had computerized monitors. I suggested to Doug that he could get a job perhaps at a distillery doing tech support…

One interesting feature of this distillery was the water recycling process, whereby they have large, round, fenced containers of rocks that is used to filter the waste water, mimicking the natural process of water purification in nature.

He finished the tour and led us back to the tasting room, where everyone had a place at a table that had six samples of whisky of different ages and cask types. He gave us a very enjoyable and thorough talk on all the whiskies, and again had people in stitches with his jokes. I think it was easily the best tasting we’ve had, even though some of the distillery tours themselves were even better than his very good one.

We had some time in the town just down the road from the Distillery to have a bite to eat and explore a bit. We came upon a café called “Fresh”, where we saw some of the other people in the group having lunch, so we figured that it was as good a place as any to have a bite to eat, it being lunchtime.

I ordered a thistle beer, called “Blessed Thistle”, which was the best beer I’ve had so far; it was very malty and robust with a nice aftertaste of hops. I ordered the broccoli and caramelized onion quiche, to eat, and it came with a side of coleslaw, crisps and green salad. It was very good indeed. Doug had a bagel with smoked salmon, which he enjoyed as well. I got a cup of cappuccino to go, and we walked toward the town centre. We did a little window shopping, found the toilets, and watched the school kids on their lunch hour throw chips (French fries) on the road for the seagulls, laughing gleefully when they would almost get hit by the traffic. Evil little sods…

Back on the coach, we started heading towards Edinburgh down windy, up-and-down country roads that went by bleak, heather-covered hills dotted with sheep. It was very atmospheric with the low clouds touching the tops of the hills. We also drove through some pretty wooded areas and by rushing rivers. We drove by the fast-moving Dee River, which sped through the meadows around the Balmoral Estate through which we were passing. We also drove through the very quaint village of Braemar, where the Queen attends the Highland games every year.

Along the drive, I saw some deer, grouse, rabbits, pheasants, and lots and lots of sheep and cattle. More than a few people were nodding off on the bus, and Morag put on a CD of an Irish comedian which was amusing.

After a while, we stopped for a half our in the little town of Blairgowrie to use the toilets and stretch our legs. It was raining on and off, but Doug and I headed off for a nice walk along the rushing River Ericht. There were also some manicured gardens along the way. It was very nice to get moving again, and it perked us up.

It was about 6:00 pm when we got into Edinburgh, and we could see that the traffic heading out of the city was heavy. Many of the buildings are Georgian architecture, and some are still pretty black. I learned that the city was called “Auld Reekie” because of the smoke that has turned the pale buildings black.

Our hotel is the Parliament House Hotel, which is in a higher area of the city with a cobblestone street out front. The coach couldn’t make it right to the front door, so it parked around the corner. The hotel is a stone building that is Victorian in character, and even has an old iron elevator with comfortable bench seating and cushions, and although it is no longer in use, it serves as the phone booth now.

Our room was just a little ways from reception down a side corridor, and it has high ceilings and a nice big king-sized bed. However, the view isn’t great, as we are right facing a modern building completely covered in scaffolding. Although we don’t have a nice view, it is still a nice hotel, and good to be done traveling for the day.

We freshened up a bit, and then went downstairs to the dining room. They had set up one long table and two smaller booth tables for our group. A few people had had some drinks in the bar, and conversation was loud and lively. I had cream of asparagus soup for starter, lamb liver with vegetables for my main course, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

We were tired from our long day of traveling, so we just went back to the room after dinner, and Doug tried to get a hold of Amanda so that we could make arrangements to meet her the next day. We went to sleep around 11:00 pm.

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