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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Catoctin Creek, Virginia, USA

No, I hadn't heard of it either....  In fact I have a growing suspicion that even those of us who think we know a thing or two about "craft distilling" actually don't know a signficant amount about what is going in various small towns and industrial parks around this country and perhaps the world.  On a June day in 2014 I found myself in Virginia on business trip with a few hours to kill and so thanks to the miracle that is smart phone technology I searched for, and found, a craft distillery offering tours and tastings less than 50 miles from my hotel in the Washington DC area.  The site, a former car dealership and furniture store, is quite new as they started (as many craft distilleries do) in a nearby industrial unit in 2009, outgrew it and in 2012 purchased a very nice facility in downtown Purcellville.  They make rye whiskey (and some gin from the whisky tails - interesting) and sell some rye spirit as well.  I started with a $10 tasting flight which included the rye spirit, bottled at 40% abv, their "standard" 2 year old Roundstone Rye and their newest / latest batch of 3 year old Roundstone rye. For another $5 you can take a tour of the distillery (ie go into the next room) and have the whisky making process explained which I did.  Would I recommend you travel far to seek this out?  Probably not.  Did I accidently discover the best kept whiskey secret in Virginia and a product so stunning that John Hall should melt down his stills and go back to wine makling.  Also a no.  But if you are in the DC area and need to get your "whisky geek" on it is a very professional set up and worth the short trip.

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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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