Day 1: MacDuff, Aultmore & Royal Brackla
Back to Craigallachie, check in, and half an hour later, a pre-dinner tasting led by Charles MacLean, a doyenne, raconteur, all round top bloke, willing to share, willing to listen, generally good fun to be around. Food, drink, conversation, drink, and for me, bed at a relatively civilised 12.30. One hell of a day....
Day 2: Craigallachie & Aberfeldy
The Snapper: I want to take a few photos - the Spey, the Iron bridge, the early morning sunshine, the clear, bronzed flowing river, the sputter, spit and lick of water over stone and under bridge, the half laugh, hyena heckled call of oyster catchers frenzying about their familial duties.
I want to share the experience, and who better to share with than my friend, who I shall call " the snapper". I hasten back to the hotel but he is nowhere to be found, a few guests have materialised in the breakfast room, one of whom is also looking for him. Another cup of tea on the patio in the early morning mid-summer sun - a quintessential Speyside tableau (well it would have been if you'd substituted a dram for the tea).
I re-enter the hotel and there he is, flumbling down the stairs - a ghost within a ghost, a man both distant and present, he recognises me but doesn't seem to know what comes next....as I approach he seems both relieved and fearful at the same time. His demeanour smacks of someone who has had, to put it mildly, a somewhat heavy night. His hair is telling a story, every follicle narrating the events of the evening/early morning, refusing to shut up, refusing to stay in place, wafting like anorexic kelp in some unseen breakfast bar current. The face muscles are relying on memory to effect the bare minimum of expression, all masked behind a hapless but totally endearing smile and eyes that were pleading, penitent, begging for answers to the question "What the fuck happened last night?"......and possibly "Who am I?"
Wordplay on the wode to Aberfeldy: Squrabble (portmanteau - Squabble + Scrabble)
We've now finished our tour of the distilleries. The experience has been exhilarating, the company an utter blast, and the whiskies delightful. There are some really stand out drams on the horizon. What's more, I was particularly impressed with the commitment to "age statement whiskies". I've deliberately not entered the "which tastes better" debate, for me it's an absolute non-starter - whisky is the most egalitarian of spirits - if you like what you're tasting then who's to say you're wrong? No, for me, the mileage lies in exposing marketing bollocks such as "the tyranny of the age statement" for what it actually is.
We leave Aberfeldy with a bottle each of hand fill single cask lusciousness, enjoying the moment, rain threatens and then retreats. One of our merry band is gently persuaded to open a "spare" bottle (destined for a festival in the not too distant future)...after a moment's hesitation she acquiesces and bonhomie once again asserts itself within the coachette.
Roll mop: Like the wonderful drams we were experiencing, conversations ebbed and flowed, obscure connections appeared to weave themselves seamlessly into a coherent tartan thread. I dismiss a comment about there being snow on the hills (in July!) as being fanciful, only to realise that it was indeed an accurate observation. If ignorance is bliss then I must be the most euphoric of individuals. The geology of Scotland, the history of the distilleries we passed, the value of whisky, the impact of independence, the "characters" of the whisky world were all picked over (in a lighthearted way).
What a bridge! All splayed steel teeth and girth, spearing the North Sea like some outlandish meccano zip, fashioned into wrought beauty, gripping both sky and sea. A series of Andy Warhol lip-like sofas pouting at nature. From certain angles there's even a Tartanesque quality to the spans, uprights, the general weft of the metal.
It was as we crawled along the A90 that one of our group, let's call him "roll mop" (for culinary reasons that can't be revealed in this blog), began to wax lyrical about Edinburgh's new tram system. His enthusiasm was self evident, despite the demands of the day and the general air of tiredness within the group, his movements were animated, his voice shifted up a semi-tone, his breathing became shallow as he tried to eject words in an increasingly agitated attempt to infect his audience with his tram passion. It suddenly occurred to me....could it be that Roll mop was.....a tramsexual?
When I use the word "privilege" I do so with an understanding of all that the word means. It was a privilege to spend time with fellow passionistas in surroundings that were/are majestic, uplifting, serene, tasting whiskies that told stories of the past and provided hints at what the future might hold, developing deeper understandings of whisky production and the people who make it happen, making connections, unearthing passions that had lain dormant for some time, and adding an indelible stamp into the memory bank.....thanks one and all.
As for the "smoke me a kipper" reference -