Sipping Tour through Scotland - Speyside

31-03-2017 By Whisky of the Week

We depart Rothes early, for we are going the long way round to the next distillery. We take a detour through the town of Aberlour on the way to Craigellachie Bridge. Aberlour has plenty of beautiful historic buildings to wander past. From here we depart to the Craigellachie Bridge which is a cast iron arch across the River Spey. Built in 1812, the Bridge has a single span of around 46 meters with two mock medieval towers at each end. It was a revolutionary design for its time. We stop and walk over the bridge to gaze at the water some of which will end up, down stream, in future bottles of Speyside whisky.

The Craigellachie Bridge

Onward to our next Speyside distillery of this virtual sipping tour through Scotland. Tamdhu Distillery is located in the town of Knockando in Banffshire. The distillery was founded in 1896. They contracted Charles C Doig Esq – the pre-eminent distillery architect and engineer of the day – to design this new distillery.

Tamdhu Distillery

The first malt whisky was distilled and casked in 1897. Tamdhu survived the ups and downs of the twentieth century but was mothballed in 2010 and sold to Ian MacLeod Distillers in 2011. In 2013, the distillery started producing spirits again. Tamdhu was relaunched with a core range that includes a 10 Year Old, two Batch Strength releases and a Limited Edition aged in 100% First Fill Sherry Oak Casks. Let’s taste the Tamdhu Batch Strengh 002 on this virutal sippng tour through Speyside.

Batch Strength 002 is bottled un-chillfiltered at 58.5% ABV. It is matured in hand-selected sherry oak casks, with a high proportion being first-fill. Batch Strength 002 has notes of warming golden syrup, brown bread with peanut butter, cinnamon, white pepper and cocktail cherries. The mouthfeel is delicious: mouth coating sherry oak, lightly heated berries and creamy vanilla. Spicy notes continue long into the finish with dried fruits, hazelnut and vanilla.

As much as we want to linger here at Tamdhu, we have to leave for our next distillery. A mere 30 minutes drive we enter the gateway to the Cairngorm National Park where Tomintoul is situated. The local village of Tomintoul was built in 1776 by the 4th Duke of Gordon and is the highest village in the Highlands of Scotland. A more recent addition to the distillery list, Tomintoul was founded in 1964 by the Glasgow whisky traders Hey & Macleod and W. and S. Strong. It is currently owned by Angus Dundee.

Tomintoul Distillery

The Tomintoul range includes a 10, 12 and 14 Year Old and a 15 Year Old Portwood finish as well as a 40 Year Old Quadruple Cask. Today we are fortunate to taste the 16 Year Old. Known as “the gentle dram” the Tomintoul 16 Year Old has been aged in Bourbon casks and has notes of brandied fruit, candied apple with hints of hazelnut and vanilla. Also look for soft fruits with hints of hazelnut, vanilla, bitter chocolate and oak. This really is a rich, smooth, gentle dram.

We cannot linger too long here in the magestic Cairngorm National Park: we still have one distillery to cover today and it is one of my favourites. It takes about 40 minutes to get to The Balvenie Distillery on a beautiful drive, through lush green farmlands and quaint old towns. The Balvenie Distillery was built in 1892 by the owners of the nearby Glenfiddich distillery. Today the originals owners, William Grant and Sons, still own both distilleries. The Balvenie has an extensive range of releases including a 17 Year Old Portwood, a 30, 40 and 50 Year Old release and various experimental cask releases.

The Balvenie Distillery
Today we try one of my personal favourites: the Balvenie Caribbean Cask which has been aged in traditional oak casks for 14 years, and then finished in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. There are notes of of ripe mango, pineapple and guava, toffee and plump, rum-soaked raisins. Hints of florals and malt intermingle with oak spice. Rich and delicious, it pairs wonderfully with Brie cheese.

We spend the night in Dufftown, immersing ourselves in the Scottish culture and food. Tomorrow morning is an early start. We are driving back to Egin, catching the train to Inverness and onward to Thurso. That concludes our virtual sipping tour through the Scottish regions for this week. Join us again next week for more exciting whisky tastings.