Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Our Second Day in Speyside: 
Visiting Glenglassaugh and Exploring the Countryside!

Roy, our driver and guide, picks us up at 830 in the morning our second day exploring Speyside.  Today on the itinerary is Glenglassaugh and a special treat: a couple of very special seaside villages!  We've got a bit of a drive ahead of us so we need to get moving a little bit earlier then we did the day before.

Now when I'd originally booked Roy I'd had a list of distilleries that I'd wanted to visit.  Glenglassaugh was not one of them.  Not for any particular reason, but just because I'd never tried their whisky before due to the price point that they run at out here in Australia (entry level sits at $115 AUS for a NAS, the Glenglassaugh Revival) and their scarcity, I've never seen one in Perth before, I know they exist, but I've never seen them!)

However Roy had suggested that we visit them and that we'd probably enjoy the Glenglassaugh Ultimate Tour which ran at 80 pounds a person and allowed us to taste some very old whiskies, 40 plus years old.  After the distillery tour we'd grab a bite to eat and then explore some seaside villages.

As we drive towards Glenglassaugh Roy shows us and talks to us about the sights.  We pass a Maltings which is a building where the majority of the Speyside distilleries get their malted barley, we stop and I take some photos as Roy talks about when it was built and who all gets their malt from there.

He seems to know everyone, their routine, as we drive along he'll say something along the lines of "and we should be seeing a truck from Chivas come by in about 5 minutes" and bam! Within 5 minutes or so we're passing a Chivas truck coming back from Glasgow and Edinburgh for more spirit.  It is very cool.

We're driving along the ocean shore right now as we head over to Glenglassaugh, going through these seaside villages.  Roy discusses the different architecture, when it dates to, what it signifies, informing us that tourists wouldn't want to stop for a drink in these pubs (that he also would be classed as an outsider).  He talks about the people in the villages we drive through, this village is generally considered populated by people VERY religious, this one isn't.  It is a very cool drive to the distillery with MANY photos taken along the way.

We pull up to the distillery and it's lovely.  Located right next to the shore, it's right near the shore, with you being able to see the ocean and beach from certain viewpoints around the distillery and we head in.  A nice little visitor center, with many older Glenglassaugh's for sell and a couple of casks where you can bottle your own whisky. 

Shortly after we arrive our guide comes out and introduces himself, it's Ronnie, someone Roy has been telling me about for weeks.  I've been informed that while all the tour guides at Glenglassaugh are great, Ronnie is the best.  Roy is soon proven correct on the fact that Ronnie is brilliant.

When we inform Ronnie that we've visited distilleries before he keeps the tour to relevant details: the distilleries history and how it's different from other distilleries in what it produces, interesting tidbits that highlight the differences with trivia as we explore old malting rooms and buildings with him.  He takes us to a little spot on the distillery land where we can see the ocean and talks about the crazy surfers who surf in the harbor every winter.  It's brilliant.  I wind up taking hundreds of photos.

We wander through the old malting room, which may wind up becoming a cask storage space, the mill (laughing about how Porteous produced mills so reliable that the company wound up going out of business because the distilleries never needed to repair them) the tun room (stopping off to taste a wee sample of the wort (beer)), the still room (always my favorite room!) talking with the couple of guys who are working, talking about the Glenglassaugh whisky details.

We then head into the warehouse, that beautiful magical place where all of the stuff we love is aged.  Ronnie is a hoot and almost as excitable as me,  He goes from cask to cask for samples for us, trying to find one that he thinks is brilliant enough.  He also starts cracking different casks open that have previousely held different spirits and wines so that we can see the difference between them, cracking open ex-bourbon casks, Amoroso sherry, Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximenez casks, and allowing us to take a nose.  They're great and the Pedro Ximenez is clearly mine and his favorite!  We are now bung hole sniffers he informs us!  We then move onto the search of a great whisky to try.  

We start this search with an unpeated Glenglassaugh that is young, very young, 3, 4 years old and then we move to a peated Glenglassaugh, again very close in age to the first one we've tried.  But still this doesn't have Ronnie satisfied, he wants a bad boy for us!

Finally he finds a cask that he thinks will be right up our alley, a 40+ year old whisky from 1972 from a refill sherry cask.  It is LOVELY!  Absolutely sexy.  While we're savoring this whisky Ronnie who pretty much does quality control and helps decide casks to be used, tells us about some of the best whiskies that he's ever had in his life,  now I'm taking my time with this 40+ year old whisky.  It's so lovely and you just don't rush a whisky like this.  Especially since my wife is sharing hers with me.  However this is causing a problem as we haven't even started our official tasting yet. 

Ronnie seeing this saves the day for me, offering to bring out sample bottles so that I can take these whiskies with me to be enjoyed at my leisure.  Oh thank you god!  As I type this I'm actually giving this sexy whisky a nose.  I immediately take him up on his kind offer.  The three of us head into the tasting room where there is a whole series of sexy whiskies.

Glenglassaugh Revival, Glenglassaugh Evolution, Glenglassaugh 26 year old, Glenglassaugh 37 year old, Glenglassaugh 39 year old Muscat finished and Glenglassaugh 45 year old, both the last two whiskies at cask strength await us.

Holy crap!

Even better is that he's got sample bottles for me to take samples of all of these.  They are LOVELY and both my wife and I are very impressed, enjoying these whiskies and then bottling samples of each of them.  Reviews of ALL of these whiskies including the 1972 will be forthcoming!

We even wind up killing the bottle of Glenglassaugh 45 year old which is in a lovely decanter.  I wind up asking Ronnie if it'd be ok if I took the bottle home with us, not a problem he says!  However I'm moving way too slow, I'm causing us to run WAY behind schedule if we want lunch before the next part of the day.

We wind up shopping in the distillery center for a bit, putting us even further behind schedule, but my wife and I are both so thrilled that we kind of blow up our budget, picking up a Glenglassaugh pitcher, glencairns a bottle of the 26 year old Glenglassaugh which by the way you can actually look up in the Whisky Bible under the Glenglassaugh 21 year old (Ronnie and I chat about him working with the whisky greats, Jim Murray, Cadenheads, etc) and then they give me a wee nip of the fill your own, which is 35 pounds for a 500ml cask strength.  It's only about 4 years old though.  I also grab a bottle of the Glenglassaugh Evolution which is a special whisky that was aged in ex George Dinkel bourbon barrels and is absolutely delicious.

Yeah it's safe to say I blew up the budget here, and went way past the recommended time to leave as any minute now all the cafes and restaurants were going to start closing.  We grab a last minute photo with Ronnie and run out.

And due to me we're late.

We're hungry and every place is closed.  We drive to all of Roy's places that he knows, nothing's opened, we start just stopping at restaurants, nothings open. See in Speyside there really aren't any fast food joints, no McDonalds, no Subways, none of that.  It's all little cafes and restaurants and business is going to be slow after 1ish so they close until dinnertime.  Good job SquidgyAsh!

Roy asks us if we want to continue on and see a couple of little seaside villages and keep looking for food?


He takes us along these little backcountry roads, no traffic, at times it feels like there is no one for miles around and I'm immediately lost.  The countryside becomes more and more rolling fields, lovely grasslands, some minor hillsides, but no trees.  We drive and drive for about 30 minutes and then all of a sudden we're overlooking some cliffsides, we're near Crovie and this is what we see.

This little village that's literally been hacked in the cliffside.  An insanely steep hillside leads down into the village.  There is no room to park your car and the residents take their groceries down into the village by wheelbarrow.  It is something to behold.  Roy tells us the history of this beautiful hidden gem, discussing with us how when the Scottish landowners in the late 1700's decided that sheep would be the more profitable use of the land, more so then people, that the tenants were kicked off the land.  This is where some of them settled, a little fishing village literally created out in the middle of nowhere.  Roy tells us stories of major storms hitting the village with boulders, literal boulders being washed into the homes of the villagers.  He recounts a story of when he was a boy and his father was called out to help with the village in removing a boulder from a house.  The sea had washed it into this guys house and it was so big and heavy that the villagers had to take pickaxes and remove it piece by piece.


We only view this village from the cliffside as it's so steep that we can't possibly get down there in our vehicle.  When we're ready Roy says we'll head to another similar village.  He's taking us to Pennan.

More back country roads, twisting and winding with not a soul to be found and once again I'm quickly lost.  Again rolling countryside with grasslands surround us and after 20, 30 minutes or so we're overlooking Pennan, another coastal village, created around the same time as Crovie.  A small little community, maybe 60 houses, if that, however a little more space on this one, room enough for a few cars. 

This is what we see here.

Another perfect village, so perfect in fact that there's a movie based off it (sadly it wasn't perfect enough to have the restaurant open when we came through).  Local Hero.  A movie about an American company coming in and buying out the locals, so that they can have the perfect life, however the joke of it is, they're already leading the perfect life.  Roy tells us about the movie, pointing out what buildings in the village were what in the movie.  The red phone booth was very famous in the movie.  It's beautiful and we go down into this village and walk through it.  It's like you're transported into another time, another life, where road rage, locking your doors at night, these things don't exist.  It's enough to bring a tear to your eye.  Through these two villages we take hundreds and hundreds of photos.  Sadly the pictured photos are not mine as our camera deleted itself 2 days after this day.  I have pulled these photos off of google for anyones information.

We start to head back to Elgin, our base of operations.  As we head back Roy talks to us, discussing the sights we've seen, the plan for the following day, history of the area, answering all of the questions that I throw at him.  It's a long drive home, probably taking us a couple hours all told and along the way we manage to find a little cafe that's open where we grab a bite to eat.  Roy talks about Scottish cuisine, suggesting I give Haggis another shot (I do the following day!)  We wind up passing Glenglassaugh after about 50 or so minutes and I realize at that moment (although I'd realized it before) that we'd made a very good decision hiring Roy as there was no way in the world we would have even had an idea about these two lovely villages.

Would my wife and I visit Glenglassaugh again?  Definitely, without a doubt.  It was lovely with delicious whisky and completely worth the 80 pound price tag per person!  At this point this has been the best tour that we've done while we were in Scotland.

Tomorrow we visit the Speyside Cooperage and Glenfarclas!!

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