Sunday morning the weather was turning from winter into spring and almost summer. We had booked an event with Strathisla Distillery called "straight from the cask", which consisted of an in-depth tour followed by a tasting of 6 different expressions of their Cask Strength Editions.
The event started in Dufftown with a ride with the Dufftown-Keith Railway. It mainly runs in the summer, during weekends and is staffed totally by volunteers. It is like ridding a train 50 years ago I reckon.
In about the first two minutes the train passes 4 distilleries, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Parkmore and Glendullan, with a chance of a glimpse of both Convalmore and Kininvie as well, if you know where to look. As you enter Keith, the train passes right next to Strathmill and the Keith station is just beside Strathisla and Glen Keith.
The ride is a scenic tour through some of the more soft and farmed, but hilly areas of Speyside
Arriving at the distillery we were greeted by our guide of the day, Tony, who toured us through the distillery with a good knowledge of Strathisla, Chivas Bros and also whisky in general.
Strathisla is amongst the most picturesque distilleries in Scotland, both inside and outside, with everything cramped into small spaces. This results of a very labyrinthic feeling when touring the place, but it is really just an A to B walk through the production area.
Feeling the temperature differences on the condenser
At the end of the tour we had our first dram. In the warehouse and appropiate it was the Strathisla Cask Strength Edition. This is from a series of cask strenth whiskies in 50cl bottles, all from Chivas Bros. distilleries. The price is competitive at around 40£ and the age is typical between 12 and 17 years old. Tastewise you get exactly what you hope for.
This sight met us when we entered the tasting room
The menu consisted of
Scapa 12yo batch SC 12006 55.1%
Glenburgie 14yo batch GB 14005 60.5%
Miltonduff 14yo batch MD 14003 48.3%
Glenlivet 17yo batch GL 17011 59.3%
Glenugie 30yo 1980 52.13%
My favourite of these tends to change from season to season. This time it was the Scapa and the Glenburgie. I bought a bottle of the Glenburgie.
I don't understand the lack of attention these bottlings gets in the whiskysphere. It's cask strength, the price is fair, and it's very good. Sometimes I feel whiskyfans are digging their own grave by mainly talking about the whiskies made and designed by marketing departments and prices accordingly. By the whiskysphere I mean blogs, forums, twitter, facebook etc.. Instead of whining over Chivas Bros. latest release from their marketing department (Alpha) why not praise bottlings like these. They were probably made for YOU in mind, while Alpha is not, to put things on an edge.
We had a little food break in front of the just reopened Glen Keith Distillery, before getting on the train back to Dufftown where our next event was taking place. During the whole festival, several times a day, the Whisky Shop Dufftown organised a series of events, concerts, tastings and fairs. We usually sign up for as many as possible of these. They are affordable, they are fun and easy to fit in a busy schedule. Tonight we had a tasting with Adelphi and a concert/whiskytasting with Robin Laing.
At the Adelphi tasting I decided to just put just "1-2 words" on each dram
Clynelish 23yo 52.1% Waxy, vanilla, citrus
Highland Park 26yo 47.0% Archtype HP
Longmorn 27yo 53.2% Creamy
Glenrothes 21yo 55.5% Citrus
Bunnahabhain 25yo 44.0% Bunnahabhain like in the good old days
I liked them all, and would probably rate them around 86-89 in a more controlled setup.
After a few pints in the pub, I was late for the Robin Laing concert. A few funny stories and some scottish country music if you are into that kind of things. Not sure if I am. But there was also a whisky tasting of 6 whiskies served, all from travel retail. Not my favourite thing either. It's more about marketing than whisky and everything tends to be watered down to 40%
I remember liking a Dalmore and a Dufftown and really disliking a Highland Park Einar, which tasted like sewer to me. It was probably just me, Three stars of the whiskyworld I asked for 2nd opinion didn't agree with me. But still a bit surprising to have the two brands you least expected to be your favourites of the tasting.
The Royal Oak in Dufftown has really evolved the last years. The selection of whisky is big and for this festival they had real ale on the tap. First time I see real ale in Dufftown, and Cairngorms Sheepshagger was a really nice one as well.