Sipping tour through Scotland: The Highlands Continued

13-03-2017 By Whisky of the Week

It’s an early start. The morning train from Elgin to Inverness takes about 50 min. On the way we pass Royal Brackla. The Royal Brackla distillery was built in 1812 by Captain William Fraser of Brackla House on the estate of Cawdor Castle. We are not stopping here, though, but rather going onwards to Inverness, where we stop for a few days.

Royal Brackla Distillery

Inverness means "Mouth of the River Ness". It was one of the chief strongholds of the Picts and in CE 565, visited by St Columba. First stop on our visit is a trip the famous Loch Ness, a large, freshwater loch in the Highlands, not far from Inverness. Loch Ness is best known for alleged sightings of the cryptozoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as "Nessie". It is one of a series of interconnected, murky bodies of water in Scotland. The water visibility is exceptionally low due to the high peat content in the surrounding soil.

Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area, after Loch Lomond. Loch Ness is the largest body of water on the Great Glen Fault, which runs from Inverness in the north to Fort William in the south. We take a boat cruise around Loch Ness and there are breath-taking vistas of the Loch in all its natural wonder. Our custom-built boat is equipped with sonar equipment to beams live images of what passes below us. We watch look out for Nessie, while sipping some interesting Highland whisky.

Castle Urquhart and Loch Ness

Castle Urquhart stands on a rocky peninsula on the north shore of Loch Ness. It is the scene of many bloody sieges and battles. Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. It was subsequently held as a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Today it is one of the most visited castles in Scotland.

Nearby is the Corrimony Cairn, a passage grave built by Neolithic farmers, skilled in working stone. They were the first people to domesticate animals, till the land and clear the forests for farming and they had a co-operative society.

Corrimony Cairn

Inverness is home to the Inverness Castle, St Andrew's Cathedral and the Inverness Botanical gardens. After spending a few days sightseeing, it is time to move on to our whisky sipping tour again. Scotland’s far north and its remote and unspoiled landscape possess a haunting beauty and tranquil atmosphere that is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. We board the Far North Line on the way up to Thurso. We travel through Beauly, Dingwall and Invergordan. Our next destination is Tain and the famous Glenmorangie Distillery.

Established in 1843 by the Mathesen brothers, the site originally held a farm distillery under the name Morangie. Official production began in November of 1849. Macdonald and Muir purchased the distillery in 1918 and the Macdonald family would retain control of the company for almost 90 years. Today the Glenmorangie Distillery as well as the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay is owned by The Glenmorangie Company Ltd. The French drinks company Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in turn owns them.

Glenmorangie boasts the tallest stills in Scotland. The Glenmorangie core range includes The Original, Lasanta, Quinta Ruban and Nectar D’Or and the Prestige Range includes the 18 Year Old Single Malt and The Glenmorangie Signet release. There is a Private Edition that includes the new Milsean and a Legends range that include the Limited Edition Astar.

Glenmorangie's tall stills

On this distillery tour we first take a pilgrimage to the Tarlogie Springs, Glenmorangie's own water source before we visit the extraordinary Hilton of Cadboll Stone, a hand-carved recreation of one of Scotland's most revered Pictish treasures. The intricate design on the Stone has become the inspirational symbol of the Glenmorangie brand. And the whisky we taste? The very special Glenmorangie 18 Year Old. This creamy and thick whisky was first matured for 15 years in ex bourbon casks before being finished in Oloroso sherry casks for an additional 3 years. There are notes of toffee sweetness, cream, hints of exotic spices and fruits of the forest. The Glenmorangie 18 Year Old is big and bold with loads of fresh fruit, heather honey, oak and citrus. It is a perfect finish to a day spent exploring this extraordinary place.

Hilton of Cadboll Stone

From Tain we venture through Rogart and onwards to Dunrobin Castle, the largest house in the Scottish Highlands. From here, onward to Helmsdale and into a part of the Scottish Highlands known as Flow Country, a vast expanse of peaty bogland. This landscape is home to an extremely precious peatland ecosystem, unique in the world. At Georgemas Junction we head directly North to Thurso, the start of our next stop on our sipping tour through Scotland.

Dunrobin Castle