Friday, June 06, 2014

Scotland 2014 Day 9: Skye Pt. 2 and The Glenmorangie Distillery

Scotland 2014 Day 9: Skye Pt. 2 and The Glenmorangie Distillery

Up for brekkie and started off the day with a Kiwi yoghurt and a nice peach, some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Matt got the classic Scottish Breakfast.

Another classic Scottish breakfast!
The view from the breakfast room
Driving up from the Portree Area towards the north, we made it to Uig ("Oy-g!") very quickly. In fact, Uig was so picturesque that we turned into the town by mistake instead of driving past it. Good photos and glorious times, and also SUPER windy. There were lots of sheep!

Our favourite spot of the morning was a place called Quiraing... WOW. The sun and clouds and general absurdly beautiful absurdity was totally over-the-top. This was the most beautiful part of Skye, and we had seen some outrageously awesome stuff already yesterday. This was just crazy. It's hard to describe the complexity of the layered clouds, the juxtaposition of the sharp, jagged landscape against the soft-but-fierce clouds... it was just out of control. This is best described by just the photos themselves. Enjoy. We certainly did!

Skye is crazy
Coastal village of Uig
This place rocked
Uggggghhh!!! So awesome!
Skye trails
Here's a video of the epicness:

The amazingness continued as we got to the Old Man of Storr, with again more glorious coastal views and INSANE winds. Channeling the Merida-ish girl from Caol Ila on Islay a few days ago, Matt and I joked and said, "Ach, the wind... I haaattte it!" More awesome clouds rolled across the sky at a fast pace due to the insane winds. It was just unbelievable.

The sky here really is awesome
Super windy spot
The Old Man of Storr
Loving it!!!
From there we finished the end of the "circle" drive around the north part of Skye and got back to Portree area. We drove through it and over Skye Bridge, which thankfully was still open. There was some crazy "Skye Dance" on the bridge that afternoon/evening, where a local dance group was dancing on the bridge and they were closing the bridge temporarily for the first time... ever??!?! And only the one day we needed to cross it with no other good alternatives!! Anyhow, sounds like it was later on in the afternoon (and they were going to leave one lane open apparently anyway) so no worries there. :) We gad a great conversation about a whole bunch of different things and continued on past Loch Ness.

Crossing Skye Bridge
Loch Ness
Watch out for Nessie!
We got to Tain soon after (as in Glenmorangie's phrase "Perfected by the sixteen men of Tain!" We're in Glenmorangie land!!!) and I started to get PSYCHED for my most favourite of all the distilleries, Glenmorangie. We had a quick stop at the Asda supermarket for a toastie for lunch and an Appletiser. Matt stopped off at Black Isles Brewery to get some Beer and, as is usually the case, it was down a single track road!

We then continued up the road a few minutes to... GLENMORANGIE!!!!!!!!!! Holllllyyy craaaap so excited. This is my favourite whisky, and I was just totally out-of-control psyched about it.

After parking, we walked into the shop and the FIRST thing I noticed on the display way across the room on the back wall? They had EALANTA. My most favourite whisky of all time, now impossible to find due to it being crowned Jim Murray's World Whisky of the Year for 2014... it was right there. Crazy. The second thing I saw was the price (oof). Whew. They old had 400 bottles left (the Distillery itself only had that many left??? Can you imagine how many are still at regular shops?? None!) This is also a single run of bottles, done only once, and when they run out, they run out. I think she said they only made 12,000 or so worldwide of this, and so they really did go quickly. They had upped the price from what it used to be when they learned that local shops were selling it for much more after it won "the" whisky award. So... it was crazy, but I was definitely going to leave with a bottle of it. She said she had a couple "stored away for her retirement" :).

Matt made me buy a bottle of Ealanta in San Francisco last year when he was visiting, we had tried it at Nihon Whisky Lounge here in San Francisco and I said it was the best whisky I had ever tasted. I was planning to buy a nicer bottle at some point, and Matt encouraged me to just go for it. I wasn't sure I knew enough about whisky yet to decide, but I went for it on his insistence. And as always, it's good to have best friends who know you this well. 1 week after we tried this and I bought a bottle of it at a very reasonable price, Ealanta was crowned World Whisky of the Year and bottles flew off all the shelves. A few weeks later I went back to the same store and any stock they had was long gone! Anyhow -- I still have about 3/4 of that bottle left at home, but it seems highly necessary to get another one and to put it away. When I finish my current one though... I should really check the going rate for this at that point before cracking open this new one. It is though very unlikely that I'd sell this... well, I suppose, unless it's going for $1000. ;)

Oh man, all the Glenmorangie Private Selections in one display!
A taste of the Glenmorangie 25 and the Glenmorangie Signet
After wandering the shop a little, I ordered 2 tastes. Glenmorangie was pretty well organized, and they had all bottles available for tasting, including the Ealanta, which was quite impressive. I had always wanted to try the Glenmorangie Signet, and they also had the insanely fancy Glenmorangie 25 Year (Quarter Century) bottle available for a taste! The tasting prices were set and pretty reasonable, so I tried both. Super fun, and so great that you could actually try these, as it's super unlikely to ever find these in a bar.

We were about 30 min early which was great, and I was glad to have a good amount of time to have  these tastings and also wander the shop and not be too rushed. They surprisingly didn't have any shirts or bike jerseys like the other distilleries, mostly just whisky (not that I'm complaining!) There was a golf towel, cool Glenmorangie Signet logo pins, a Moleskine notebook, but they were mostly just selling their regular standard whiskies, their fancier range, and whatever they had leftover from the yearly Private Selection bottlings.

Of all of the ones there that looked interesting other than the 2 I tried, they had the Artein, the only other one of the Private Selections that I haven't tasted at some point (Nihon Whisky Lounge in San Francisco had 2 or 3 different ones, so that was a great place to try a sample). The famed Sonnalta PX box was there, but sadly none of those were available - I had heard GREAT things about that one. I could have sampled the Artein, but my keenness to take an Ealanta bottle home was too strong anyway, and we'd probably had enough whisky by now on the trip, right?!

I'll take 'em all!
Sortof a crazy Game of Thrones-looking display!
If this is a game of wheel of fortune, I want to win that Scotch in the middle!
Whoa, never seen this before.
My epic favourite, the Ealanta!
Old-format bottles
Great shop
Nice touch, the carpet is done in the style of the pattern on the bottles
Freaking out at a bottle of the "Pride 1981"
The tour started and it was a cool vibe. The girl showed us the mash tun, then to the washbacks. We smelled inside and it was a very punchy smell! We got the usual sort of tour, talking about the barley, and the malting process, and getting to see lots of details as the other distilleries had done. Then we went to the still room, that was super cool, as Glenmorangie prides itself on the fact that they have the "tallest stills in Scotland". It is really a huge operation there.

Can't believe we are here
So psyched

From there we checked out the barrel room and it was awesome. One very interesting thing she said which I caught was "We make the cases out of American Oak and then loan them to the Bourbon Distilleries for a few years to make Bourbon in before we get them back to make Scotch." Now THAT was very interesting... our mate Dr. Bill, the absolute whisky genius of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, king of the extra maturing... there is no chance he'd leave the process of getting his casks completely up to the Bourbon makers, right?! Of course not. :) None of the other distilleries had talked about the creation of the casks themselves, they all just said that they got them from Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace... whatever. It was just important that they'd been used once for Bourbon first before Scotch was made in them. But... very interesting that they implied something different at Glenmorangie. If this is in fact the case, then I am actually not at all surprised. Dr. Bill is probably extremely keen to control the maturation process as much as possible, and selecting the wood for the initial casks before they go to the Bourbon distilleries makes a whole lot of sense in the mind of the master Glenmorangie distiller. Very cool.

We saw some older barrels and then smelled each one of the casks of the Extra Matured Range, the LaSanta, the Nectar D'Or, and the Quinta Ruban. Given the Glenmorangie Taste Test I did with Frank last year, I was pretty sure I'd like the La Santa the best, and I certainly did, and so did Matt. LaSanta was the richest, sweetest smelling one, and the girl there said it smelled "quite Christmassy!'

From there we went to the shop and had a quick taste of the standard 10 yr. old. I left the tour ending a little early to make sure I still had enough time in the shop, and man that place was awesome. I got the Ealanta, obv. :) The Artein sounded kinda cool but I wasn't seriously going to get it as well, so I just wandered a bit more. If they had the Sonnalta PX I would have seriously considered that one too. Oh well, enough glorious whisky for today! I got some of the awesome Signet logo pins as well. EPIC!!! Matt then took a bunch of photos of me outside, freaking out about how awesome it was to go to my favourite distiller.

So cooool
Ugggh this place rocks
Best sign ever!
Just. loving. it.
Wow that was just so awesome. It was a good tour, a good blend of details and relaxed vibe. They showed us a lot, but didn't overdo the details. It was very well-balanced... like their whiskies ;)

I spent more time getting excited that I'd just scored another Ealanta, and then we headed back to the car and drove back to Inverness, going to check into our first backpackers of the trip, a place called
"Bazpackers". We've been in B&B's all the rest of the trip, so for the final weekend it should be fun to just change it up a bit.

We parked the car VERY easily, in a nice street spot just down the road from the hostel. Since the car was safe there, we basically dropped all of our stuff into the car so we didn't need to deal with it at the hostel at all, and just took in a backpack with clothes for the next day and stuff for the evening. We checked in and a South African guy was running the place... from a mining town outside of Johannesburg! Crazy :)

We checked in and had a 6-person room, but there were just 2 other guys in it. It had a really nice view of the city, actually. Quite epic. We chatted with a beardy dude who was there and was from South Western Ontario! He sounded SO Scottish, as he'd been living in Scotland for over a year. He seemed close friends with a Spanish girl named Marta from near Andalucia - she spent the first few minutes of our chat convincing us to go to Andalucia some day because "it is beautiful".

And now, dinner time! We wandered and, as seems to be the case in most cities in Scotland so far, everything is closed in the evening! We walked for a bit and found a nice looking Indian restaurant, and decided to go for it. We got something crazy called Salmon Saag -- exactly what you think it is! It was weird but good but mostly pretty weird. It was salmon, with squidgy spinach curry on it! Funny. We also got a Lamb Tikka Masala that was a good choice and had very tomatoey sauce. For starters we had something that was sortof like an Indian Latke!

Indian Food for dinner
After dinner we walked for a while longer and found a Co-op that was open. They had this great Walls ice cream that I remembered from England called "Twister" - lime sherbet in a swirl with another sherbet inside. Super amazing. The freezer door was fuzed shut with ice.. but no matter... nothing can get in the way of a hungry Jutan keen for ice cream for dessert! So I wedged that thing open with both hands and got an Ice Cream out successfully. :) As I was buying it, the guy at the cash register thought it was funny, "Little cold out there for Ice Cream tonight, isn't it?!" Haha.

We had a good walk and planned our strategy for the next day. We were originally going to go to Aberlour and Dufftown in Speyside tomorrow, but we decided just to forgo Speyside as we'd really seen more than enough distilleries on this trip, and neither of us really needed to go on another tasting tour :) I was also quite keen originally to go to the Walkers Shortbread Factory which is also in Dufftown, but I found out that 1) it was probably closed on a weekend and 2) you couldn't tour the factory itself even if it was open and 3) the shop didn't really sell a lot more unusual stuff than you could find at any grocery store or shop. So... with all that in mind and after over-analyzing that (as we do), we decided to just stay in Inverness in the morning to go to Marks and Spencers here and do stuff like that in the morning, and then drive straight to Edinburgh to get rid of the car at the airport and then bus or taxi into town so we'd get more time in Edinburgh. Sounded great after much discussion.

Back to the hotel and a French dude was cooking lots of food for everyone and kept offering us some. It looked really good but we were both totally stuffed from the Indian Food (and even put our leftovers in the communal hostel fridge with a note saying "Free to a good home" and the date on it). It was great chatting with these peeps and Heev and I figured out our route for tomorrow. I got the Ben Nevis shareable bottle out and shared it a bunch with everyone so I could make some new friends and also lighten my luggage a bit!

Heev eventually went to bed, and I hung around for a while longer chatting with folks more. A crazy Scottish guy who was there rocked, and busted out a guitar while we were in the kitchen and sang a song about Islay. That was wicked and he was a super animated dude. We all hung for a while longer and eventually about 1 or 2am he started saying "Pub?" "Pub?" to everyone, trying to rally the group to go to a pub in town. That sounded kindof fun but with only a couple days left on the trip and wanting to make the most of Edinburgh tomorrow, I opted to go to bed "early" at only 2am :) It seemed tempting and they were all really solid blokes, but I just had to go to bed. Another long and epic day. Good times, and good peeps. Now time for some sleep and then it's off to our last major stop, Edinburgh.

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