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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

Probably my favorite distillery tour and experience to date. I visited in July 2010 and after a couple of days touring Islay’s distilleries Tammy and Eleanor had seen enough and let me go alone, with a plan to meet in the tasting room at end of the tour. It turned out it was the last tour of the day and I was the only person who signed up, so it felt like I had the entire place to myself and my guide was happy to indulge every question I had, and without larger group I could indulge myself in the minutia of the place. Effectively it was a private tour of Bowmore, and the notes I took that day show that being alone had liberated my inner “whisky anorak” who normally stays safely hidden in the group tours. Not only was the tour perfect, but the subsequent tasting in a great room overlooking the Loch was well organized, fun, informative and innovative (they gave food samples like coconut, chocolate and raisins to help match tastes in the whisky). We tried a range of whiskies from their parent company, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and of course Bowmore. Perhaps with it being the last tour of the day they were also generous with pours and allowed us to retry samples while giving our daughter sweets and juice to keep her happy as well. Personally I fell in love with the rich, highly sherried Bowmore Darkest 15 year old that afternoon, and while it has never tasted quite as good as it did that perfect day in the distillery, it is still a 4 star whisky for me and my “go to” Bowmore.

If you go to Islay and only do one tour (which would not be a great idea in itself, stay and do more) I would say do this one and I can only hope you have same great experience I did.

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Tullibardine, Blackford, Scotland

Tullibardine, Blackford, Scotland On vacation in Scotland but your wife and family don't want to visit a distillery? Well located halfway between Perth and Stirling on the busy A9, near the famous Gleneagles Hotel and within easy reach of Edinburgh and Glasgow is Tullibardine.   This is the perfect distillery location because of the large Baxter's store next door.  Baxter's is a Scottish store with food, wine, Scottish goods and more than enough other stuff to keep wives, daughters or anyone not interested in whisky busy, while you slip away for 45 minutes to tour a great little distillery and taste a dram or two.  An interesting place with a long history as a brewery going all the way back to 1488 before being converted to a distillery by the famous (and apparently locally infamous) William Delme Evans, who also built the Isle of Jura distillery.  Another claim to fame is that they have same water source as Britain's largest bottled water supplier, Highland Spring, which is bottled in Blackford as well.  Most of the spirit is taken for blending and maturation elsewhere but there is a small warehouse on site and they tend to release Tullibardine single malts by vintage rather than by age statement, and various vintages are available to sample at end of tour.  It is also one of the few distilleries that sells their new make spirit.
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