The meat of the trip starts with a Gordon & Macphail tasting. Plenty for the panel to look at, I’m bringing back the following for consideration (out of 40 whiskies):
Clynelish 1997 Refill Sherry Hoggie
Dailuane 1998 Refill Sherry Hoggie (2 casks)
Miltonduff 2004 Refill Bourbon ASB (2 casks)
Mortlach 1998 FF Bourbon ASB
Mortlach 1998 Refill Sherry Hoggie
Tormore 2000 Refill Bourbon ASB
Caol Ila 2006 FF Bourbon ASB (of course)
Gonna be no sweat getting a few out of these.
The next day is a day of academics. Went to two lesser recognized Diageo distilleries, too bad as they make wonderful malts. To fuel the monolith know as Johnnie Walker each Diageo distillery is charged with producing a specific style and flavor profile, to be late blended into the signature JWBL style. Inchgower is an old distillery (1830) hard on the Moray Firth. Their style is distinctly oily and nutty, achieved by lightning fast ferments with cloudy worts and fast hard distillation condensed through a hot condenser. Shame more of this isn’t available as single, but Johnnie Walker’s and Bell’s are hungry.
Strathmill is an old J&B distillery (with Knockand, Auchroisk and Glen Spey) still supplying J&B, and of course adding to JW. It sits low on the side of River Isla in Dufftown, and like J&B, is a light and pleasant malt. One of the least technologically advanced Diageo distilleries, but still very adept.
Cragganmore is a complex malt with interesting quirks in production, capped off by a T-topped spirit still. The back story is interesting, Glenfarclas distillery manager John Smith talked a powerful laird into giving him the land in 1869, started the distillery and hit it big. His original house, sitting right above the distillery, is called Cragganmore House and is one of the nicest high end B&B’s in Speyside.
Cassandra and Sarah are two reasons why the Highlander Inn in Craigellachie is, in my opinion, the best whisky bar/restaurant in Speyside. Duncan Elphick is the proprietor, spent years building the neighboring Craigellachie Hotel into an international Scotch whisky destination. When he had the chance to buy and do the same at the Highlander he jumped, and the bar and restaurant speak for themselves. Can you say best haggis in Scotland?