I stopped at Glenfiddich for the free tour. Surely if you’ve seen one distillery, you’ve seen them all? Not so – everywhere a completely different kaleidescope of smells to Glenlivet. How can whisky be so different?
At the end of the tour there was, of course, the tasting – 3 drams, 3 whiskies: a 12, a 15 and an 18 year old. Different descriptions – vanilla, honey, raisins etc – powerful suggestions which get you nodding “yes, can definitely smell that”.
I sat near a couple from Melvich with their two children, the little girl curled up shyly on her mother’s lap, and the boy, about 9, sticking his finger in his father’s glass.
“What do you think of it then?” I asked him.
He licked his finger. “I think it’s fairly…” he paused for the right word “…. disgusting”.
“ Hmmm, know what you mean”, I whispered, looking round furtively.
Then I sipped the 18 year old. “Try it without water” said the tour guide. OK. Give it a go. Nothing to lose but the lining of my throat. Surprisingly not bad. I didn’t shudder. Another sip. Mmm. Let me try again…..
I could definitely imagine appreciating that from a hipflask on a snowy hill on a cold day.
One last sip before I go…
I walked out of the distillery in a warm glow.
Back in Craigellachie, I stopped by the Whisky Bar of the Highland Inn, one of only 51 ‘Gold Award’ whisky bars worldwide. It claims to have over 550 single malts.
I was surprised to see, behind the bar, a young Japanese woman. I was hoping to find to some tweed clad local and asked if there was someone I could talk to about whisky.
“Yes me”, she said, pointing to herself. “ Please ask me”.
What on earth was a Japanese girl doing in a tiny Highland village, population about 400?
“Ah, whisky. Big passion for whisky”. I asked her what her favourite was. “Oh so many” she waved her hand behind her at the hundreds of bottles standing on the shelves like regimented troops. She liked Island malts as well as Speyside: “But not all the time, maybe once a week”, and one of her favourite Speyside malts was Cragganmore: “…little bit oily, little bit fruity, nice”.
I told her I liked the the 18 year old Glenfiddich, liked the nose, the warmth, the short soft finish.
“Aaah”, she nodded, smiling, “now you are getting into whisky world”.
You know, maybe I am….