Monday was our day that revolved completely around whisky tasting in Speyside. We started off rather early with a 10am reservation for the ‘Essential’ tour and tasting at Benromach. Although we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the distillery itself, the storage area and grounds had some interesting views.
This tour included four tastings:
- Organic 6.5yr – nice wood richness (in an previously un-used cask).
- Benromach 10yr – more medicinal scent, caramel flavor increased as it warmed up.
- 100 proof cask strength 10yr – still medicinal, with a little more oak on the finish, noticed a floral scent after adding a little water.
- Peat Smoke – scent of light oil, very light peat. Flavor had medium peatiness, no iodine, light floral taste. Little more smoke and sweet scent with water, flavor also gets a little lighter though.
There was a light tingling on all four, and medicinal notes too. After our tasting we had a small bonus taste of the single cask (61%) they had available. While it had a little of the medicinal flavor, it was balanced by an interesting chocolateness. We bought a bottle of it and filled it ourselves, including the cork. Since Leandra was driving they gave her “to go” bottles of the tasting, a nice touch!
After our tasting we drove out to the nearby Findhorn beach for views of the coast. Big beach, lots of very smooth rocks.
Hungry, we made our way to Elgin for lunch at The Muckle Cross. Fairly typical pub fare, so Leandra went for a salmon bagel (since she didn’t have it for breakfast!) and a Hobgoblin ale (which probably wouldn’t work well with breakfast…), while I had the classic ham and cheese panini and a Stowford press cider.
Two of our friends really wanted to visit Balvenie, so we drove over there only to discover they didn’t have a proper tasting room. For that, we needed to go to nearby Glenfiddich, as their cafe serves both Glenfiddich and Balvenie. It was quite an interesting difference from the small Benromach to the massive Glenfiddich! I tried the Caoran Reserve 12, which had good smoke, well balanced and smooth, a nice dram.
Given that this area has the highest density of distillers, it’s probably not surprising that it also has several world-class bars too. Our first destination was the Mash Tun, in Aberlour.
Tucked down a side lane, I was excited to try this famous bar. Perhaps it can be blamed on being Monday, but we were underwhelmed – the bar staff weren’t too enthusiastic and it lacked a cozy atmosphere, so we only stayed for one drink. I tried a local Tomintoul 16 (distilled only 15 miles from the bar), which had a clean scent and a smooth light orange and honey flavor. More Leandra’s style! Ever the careful driver, Leandra split a bottle of the Black Gold stout with Andrew and skipped the scotch.
For dinner we decided to stay in the heart of Speyside, trying our luck at the famous Craigellachie Hotel where we were lucky to snag an open table in their Copper Dog Grill. There were many tasty choices on the menu and most of the menu items are sourced within a small radius of the restaurant. I decided on the burger which had a great tomato spicy relish sauce and Leandra ordered the local beef carpaccio with a side of wilted spinach. We both ordered a glass of rose ,which was a bit sweet compared to a typical French-style.
Our dinner was great, even when we overlapped with a memorably drunk table of six that had all the servers rolling their eyes!
After the girls split a cheese plate (with homemade shortbread cookies!) for dessert, we headed upstairs to the famous, and quite beautiful, Quaich Bar. Rich wood, leather, a fire in the corner, and hundreds of bottles… this was practically whisky heaven!
Eric started with a Benriach 17 heavily peated port finish. Nice smoke, good richness, very tasty dram, this is one of the bottles we ended up seeking out in Edinburgh two days later to bring home. My second was the Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2013?), a beautiful peated whisky finished in sherry casks with lots of depth and complexity. This is another bottle I sought out to bring home with us!
Leandra sipped the Tomintoul 12 yr oloroso sherry cask finish. It was pretty good but she heard later from the Whisky Castle lady that the port finish was better.
Altogether, we had a wonderful day tasting whisky across Speyside; our only regret is that we didn’t have a few more days to try more!