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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Auchentoshan, Glasgow, Scotland

While we lived in Aberdeen we didn’t get to Glasgow much, and with so many distilleries on our doorstep in Speyside and the rest of the Highlands it seemed I would probably never get to this one. However we took a brief holiday in February 2011 and landed in Glasgow airport late on a Friday night and decided to stay in hotel in Glasgow rather than drive the two plus hours back to Aberdeen. The next morning a detour via Auchentoshan was negotiated and agreed with Tammy and my daughter. I really liked this tour, they allowed our daughter to come along and it was just the three of us on the first tour of the day. The tour guide was knowledgeable and the tour was detailed, even explaining in considerable depth the complex triple (well more like 2 ½) distillation process unique to Auchentoshan in Scotch whisky. They also had some unique features on their tour, for example they allowed me to taste the fermented wash right out of the washback prior to distillation. I found it tasted like apple juice or rough cider but soured with some vinegar, brought back memories of the short lived Cider Gate in Exeter in the early 1990’s. They also allowed you to hit a barrel in the warehouse with a sledgehammer to pop the bung out! All good fun.

Did some tasting at the end of the tour from the Auchentoshan family, but had to restrain myself as I had to drive for next couple of hours and we ended buying a bottle of the 18 year old (as well as an unusual bottle of Drambuie made with 15 year old speyside whisky).

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Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

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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