On the Road in Scotland: Part 2
The trip really started when we got off the ferry in Cairnryan. I wasn't familiar with the area at all and, having decided to be Luddites, we were using our trusty annotated map rather than relying on sat nav. With this in mind, I viewed the journey with a certain amount of anxiety given my hopeless inability with directions, but once we got going I was willing to admit that this was a good call. Sat Nav cutting in annoys me at the best of times let alone on a 1,200 mile journey.
The roads from the ferry terminal are much nicer to drive on than I expected. When I think of docks, I think of a heavily industrialised zone with a close arterial route close to hand but not so with Cairnryan. The best part of the first hour is spent on small, winding roads which meander through small villages which bid 'Haste Ye Back' on the road signs as you depart. There is something very quaint and idyllic about the area - I wondered what they think of the increase in traffic since the opening of the terminal. I do hope they will remain largely untouched.
Anyway, I digress. The drive to Pitlochry takes about three and a half hours. Once you depart from the small roads it really is an expanse of motorway and carriageway for a couple of hours that I will not dwell upon save to say this: I really have never seen quite so many speed cameras in my life. Couple that with the fact that they appear to have a scarcity of signs indicating the speed limit leaves me questioning how anybody retains a licence to drive in Scotland.
Not far outside of Pitlochry to visit Dewars World of Whisky at the Aberfeldy Distillery. They had an amazing selection that was down one bottle of Aberfeldy 12 by the time I was leaving. I would have loved to do the tasting that they offer but we were not yet done with the car for the day and, so, the shop was the height of our stop. When I go back, for go back I shall, I will plan a stop over to try the Blender's Tour - the thought of mixing my own under an expert eye is very appealing. Also, had I known at the time that they offer a chance to photograph their stills I would be in a position to offer more than this barrel from outside. Another post for another day. Suffice to say, if you are arranging a trip, Aberfeldy is well worth stopping in.
A short journey and we arrived in Pitlochry at the Edradour, which translates as 'land between two waters' in Annie to the local geography. This place is something to behold. Understated, it is the smallest farm based distillery in Scotland (it used to be the smallest distillery but with micro distilleries popping up all over it has had to add the qualification). The white washed walls are complimented beautifully by the red detailing around all the entryways. It is very much a working distillery and production takes place around the visitors in a way like no other I have experienced.
The tour starts with a video and a tasting (the importance of abandoning the car) before moving to the warehouse where the whisky is aged. If you have never had the pleasure of stepping foot into a warehouse filled with ageing whisky you are missing out and should make it your mission to go. As the spirit ages a certain amount evaporates. Estimates put this at around 2% per year leading to the most sensational smelling room you will ever encounter. The Angels' Share, as it is known, illustrated to me that the spirit inside the barrels is very much conditioned by and interacting with the local air and climate.
Everything in the distillery is still done in a traditional manner, albeit now with the merciful assistance of fork-lift trucks. It is refreshing to see the pride that is taken in the traditional methods employed. The distillery had to undergo a refit a while back and the copper 'worms' used in cooling were being replaced and exact replicas were built. The coppersmith found his grandfather's initials on the inside of the originals!
The cart pictured above is filled with the draff that is created from the mashing process and is used to feed the local cattle. The guide did take particular pains to highlight that there is no alcohol in the draff, so there are no tipsy cattle in Edradour.
After liberating a bottle of the Moscatel Cask Finish Edradour from the shop we headed back to the hotel. The town of Pitlochry has many virtues but night life is certainly not one of them. We retreated to the Pine Trees Hotel, where we were staying. Thankfully its bar stayed open later and sampled into the evening from their ample selection.