Tag Archives: Whisky Trail


We had a simple, early supper because Sabrina and Simon had to leave at daybreak the next day to catch a ferry to Orkney … or was it Shetland?  I can barely keep track of my own life, much less others’.

Lynn and Richard and I were in the kitchen at 7:00 to see them off.  We waited, glancing at the clock every few minutes.

“I told them they need to leave by 8:00 at the latest,” Lynn said.  Lynn is one of the most maternal people I know.  I think she learned from her mother, who from all accounts was a real “mom’s mom.”

Simon emerged.  “She’s still sleeping,” he said helplessly.

“I wanted to make you a proper breakfast before you leave,” Lynn declared from the stove, where she was frying sausages and eggs and mushrooms and bacon.  Simon sat down and started eating for two.

It was close to 8:00 when Sabrina came down, and demurred about eating.  “I’ll be fine,” she said.

“Is that a Minnesota ‘I’ll be fine?’” I asked, “Meaning ‘I’m starving”’”

“No, no, I really will be fine without breakfast.  We can stop somewhere for lunch.”

“There aren’t many places to stop,” said Lynn, as she handed them each a bag lunch and bottle of water, “So I made lunches for you.”

“Wow!” said Sabrina, “Thanks so much!  You didn’t have to do this!”  I wondered if the lunches included smoked Haddock sandwiches.

The three of us caught up on work and other projects that day, then Richard dashed off to pick up the next pair of house guests from the train station and also some fish and chips for dinner.

Michael and Gwen were old work colleagues of Lynn and Richard’s from British Telecom.  They would stay for a week, long enough to attend the summer party.  They had come all the way from Rye, in the south, which they described as even more picturesque than Eton.  I have a standing invitation to visit Rye, which I must bear in mind. Apparently The Mermaid is the pubbiest pub in all of Britain.

The next morning all of us except Lynn piled into a Land Rover and made a tour of the Glenfarclas distillery. Glenfarclas is the only distillery that is still family owned.  It was founded by the Grant family in 1836 and the adjacent Speyside cooperage—or barrel making factory—opened in 1947.

We had coffee in the café while we waited for the tour to begin, and then nosed around in the extensive gift shop, where I bought a plaid coin purse.

Our tour guide was an extremely serious guy from New Zealand who seemed completely unaware of how dishy he was.  He taught us what separates the rye from the chaff.

The copper distilling vats are works of art.

Although I am not a whisky drinker, I appreciate the heavenly aroma that arises from fermenting vats.

This wall mural provided a run-down on barrel sizes, in case you’ve ever wondered.

Coopers undergo a 4-year apprenticeship. They’re paid by the piece.

This guy holds the world record for assembling a barrel in 3-some minutes. It’s hard, repetitive physical labor.

We walked through the warehouse where the whiskey is aged.  A small amount of spirits, called the angels’ share, evaporates each year.  There’s a charming Scottish movie called The Angel’s Share.  Watch it with subtitles.

The paneling in the tasting room was salvaged from an ocean liner that sank.  Hmm … I seem to have taken a lot of photos of our guide.

And then there was another gift shop!  Yes, $14,500 for a bottle of whiskey. Priced well beyond my palette.

I bought a small water pitcher which I managed to leave behind at Dunrovin, and a small bottle of the stuff for my cousin.

We had worked up an appetite so we went to a local pub for lunch where the special was a nouveau cuisine-style layered tower of haggis, creamed tatties (mashed potatoes), and creamed neeps (turnips).  We all ordered it, and it was fantastic.  Lest you think I don’t like haddock, I also ordered the Cullen Skink, just to test how good it was compared to the skink at The Bank.

Leith Hall

We slept in, although for me that meant 7:00 am.  I had forgotten to bring milk up to my room so I crept downstairs to the kitchen.  All the doors make that “eeeeeeee…” creaking noise that doors make in scary movies.  When I offered to oil them once, Richard explained that they like the creaking because it tells them when a dog is sneaking in or out where he shouldn’t.

I managed to get into the kitchen without waking the dogs. I fetched milk, turned, and there was dear old Cosmo, lying in his bed in the corner looking at me with his misty bluish-brown eyes.  I walked over and squatted down to talk to him. He briefly moved as though to get up but must have realized I didn’t have food, so he settled back down with his head resting on his paws with his eyes rolled up to look at me.

“Who’s a good boy?  Isn’t it nice and quiet.  No Merry and Pippin to bother you.  Aren’t you the lucky dog.  What a good life.”

He heaved a sigh which rattled his whole body as if to say, “Okay that’s enough,” and I tiptoed back to my room to work until everyone else was up.

Sabrina had booked a pony-riding tour for herself.  Simon was dropping her off, then driving to MacDuff to visit a cemetery and learn more about the Jacobites.  The Star Tribune recently published his article about this.  He and Sabrina were leaving the following day so they packed in two distillery tours after lunch—Glenlivit and Glenfidditch.

Lynn asked if I wanted her to drop me off at Leith Hall on her way to somewhere else.  I didn’t know what it was, but I said yes.  I wanted to do everything.

Leith Hall is a “typical laird’s home.”

I got lucky and joined a tour that had just started with a young couple from Germany and a dour, elderly Canadian couple. It was one of those times when I felt like a stereotypical American, with my enthusiastic appreciation of everything, exclaiming, “Wow!” and asking lots of questions.  The guide loved it, but I got the impression the Canadians found me annoying.  The Germans stared at me as Germans do—as if I was a specimen to be studied.

Photos were not allowed inside except in a few locations.  This is Henrietta, or Henny.

She was Northern Irish.  She outlived the laird and their three children. A niece who could have inherited was lesbian, so Henrietta donated the hall to the National Trust in 1945.  It’s interesting that Henny knew her niece was gay, and sad they she disinherited her.  Henny lived in the house until her death 20 years later.  I would love to know what the niece thought about it all.

I had to—had to—have a photo from the taxidermy exhibit.  I fell behind the group pretending to be seriously interested in reading the plaques about boxing squirrels, then whipped out my camera and surreptitiously snapped a pic.

The tour was brief and then we were cut loose to explore the small military exhibit, where photos were allowed.

In generations pre-dating Henny, the younger sons had been sent to Australia or the Americas. One came home with these articles and the dubious claim that the Cree Indians loved him.

This was a standard issue musket given to British soldiers in America.  It was finely carved.  I wondered by whom.  Was it issued this way or did the soldiers have lots of time on their hands to literally whittle away?

I liked this miniature knick-knack shelf carved by a prisoner of war.

I spent my last £2 on a bottle of water so inspected the tiny gift shop just for fun.  Mostly it was garden-themed items, which was apropos because the gardens were really the highlight of the place. You could wander for hours, and I did.

There was a kitchen garden kept by students of nearby Clatt Primary School.

What a downer of a story for a beautiful tree!

Too late—it was time to meet Lynn—I discovered the walking paths that went for miles through the fields and woods.