Sunday, August 25, 2019

Scottish adventure 4. More Speyside whiskies

The Glen Grant distillery and its gardens are just behind our hotel in Rothes
so we made it our first stop of the day
introduced ourselves at the tasting room
and were shown to a table on the terrace
next to the distillery
by Lynne Strathdee
who brought us the Glen Grant 10 and 16 year old malts to taste. The 16 year old is only available at the factory. £65 per bottle. Note the "doggie bottle" of 16 year old for the driver! The whiskys are gentle and complex, we found notes of honey and butter, toffee and spice and they are so seductive. Age definitely helps a single malt to show its true character.  Lynne tastes them neat and then adds just a drop of water. 
After the tasting, we walked
along the burn
and through the forest
to the gardens
The biggest Gunnera manicata or giant rhubarb we've ever seen
a hint of autumn
This little hut is a shelter with a special attribute
not just the antler candelabra
but a whisky safe. Great if you know someone with a key
We stopped for a bite at the coffee shop
Two sandwiches, a coffee and a raspberry drink - £10.80. Best not to convert to Rand! The Fentimans Sparkling Raspberry is superb, just like fresh raspberries and low in sugar. We wish we could get these in SA. 
Then on to the new, very modern Macallan distillery in Craigellachie.  From a distance it looks like three barrows on the hill then as you get closer you spot the glint of windows below.  It is an amazing building, we were in awe at the beautiful architecture, the views from it and the way it embraces the surrounding country.  However some of the locals do not like it at all, one even called it Tellytubby land. And, no, she has not visited it. Yet                                        
The only people you see are visitors and guides. The distillery is completely automated
Huge displays of Macallan whiskies through the ages
in glass cases
and some very special bottles, like this 6 litre Macallan “M” Lalique decanter. Seventeen craftsmen spent over 50 hours to create just one bottle of this whisky and only two out of a stock of four were ever made available to the public, which probably has something to do with the Macallan “M” being the most expensive whisky ever sold at auction, netting £477,405 at Sotheby's Hong Kong in 2014. Christened Constantine, the giant decanter, sold to an anonymous bidder, is the only one of the four to feature the engraved autographs of the three principal creators: Lalique’s Silvio Denz, Fabien Baron and Bob Dalgarno
Elegant modern architecture
Giant copper potstills surrounded by stainless steel mash tuns
Mark Rooney, the F&B manager guided us through a tasting
(driver John was only allowed to sniff)
We have to confess that The McCallum is one of Lynnes favourite whiskys. The tasting she did was 
Join one of our friendly and knowledgeable guides to learn about the foundation stones that underpin the character of The Macallan. After discovering how our unparalleled investment in the finest casks contributes to the natural colours, aromas and flavours that set The Macallan apart, you will experience a nosing and tasting of some carefully selected Macallan whiskies and our wonderfully rich new make spirit.

Cost: £15.00 per person"

It was an exploration of how the whisky reacted to being matured in different wood casks. An 18 year old in a sherry oak cast from Jerez in Spain that once held Oloroso sherry, A 12 year old double matured in an American oak cask and in a European oak cask and another Triple matured in a classic Euopean and American sherry oak cask and in an ex- Bourbon Amercan oak cask. They were very different and all had character and depth.  The 
Then out again to the Scottish highlands
to meet a large, shaggy Scot

This is a short prĂ©cis of what we’ve done. More detailed stories will follow in regular issues of MENU

Scottish Adventure 2. Edinburgh to Speyside

At Waverley station in Edinburgh, we picked up the car we have hired and will drive until just before we come home. The car is a Vauxhall Crossland X (the maker’s plate inside says Opel – badge engineering - a spacious and comfortable mini MPV. Good to drive if a little underpowered, but it does have satnav
We drove to Perth, where we did some shopping – Lynne loves Lidl  supermarkets
and then took the slow, scenic route through the Cairngorms
passing Braemar Castle, the gatehouse for Balmoral
and enjoying the scenery
and stopping occasionally to take photographs
of interesting places, 
and this ancient stone bridge which is not suited to heavy vehicles and only wide enough for one
and arrived in the evening at our home for the next four days, the East Bank Hotel
at Rothes in Speyside
very comfortable, if unsophisticated, in an old country style
Our room is on the first floor of the stone building, the two windows nearest the white building
Breakfasts at the hotel
are very filling, cereals, toast, good coffee, a selection of teas and juice
Fried or scrambled egg, haggis, blood pudding, bacon and baked beans
These photos were taken on the second day when we asked for smaller quantities,
no baked beans, no blood pudding for Lynne
and no mushrooms for John

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Scottish adventure 1, Cape Town to Edinburgh

This is the first of several quick catch up stories of our 5 week British adventure. Our flight left Cape Town at 1pm, so, after taking an Uber from home, we had a quick sandwich at the airport before boarding; ham cheese and tomato with a Windhoek Draught for John
and smoked salmon for Lynne
The bill
and so, onto an Emirates Boeing 777 en route to our first stop
at Dubai, 
where the shopping was still very active at 11.30 pm SA time, which is 1 am Dubai time
Then, the inevitable wait in polyglot Dubai for our connection to Gatwick
on the upper floor of an Airbus A380
huge and with much more space than the Boeing; so much more comfortable
By train from Gatwick to King's Cross

with an anxious wait for the last minute info about from which platform to board the train to Edinburgh - on which only one carriage (H) had empty unbooked seats (we tried to reserve them from SA, but it was impossible), so we had a scramble and were able to bag the last two empty places for the 5 hour ride. Standing after the 24 hours it took to reach the train would have been horrible
English cottonwool clouds
The Yorkshire countryside near Darlington
Serenely bucolic
and then the Tweed estuary at Berwick, marking the approach to the Scottish border
The Royal Border Bridge spans the River Tweed between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tweedmouth in Northumberland, England. It is a Grade I listed railway viaduct built between 1847 and 1850, when it was opened by Queen Victoria. It was designed by Robert Stephenson for the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway and remains in regular use as part of the East Coast Main Line. Despite its name, the bridge does not span the border between England and Scotland, which is approximately 3 miles (5 km) further north
The Scots flag to welcome us, atop St John's Church on Prince's Street
Lynne had booked a flat in Edinburgh, beautifully central
and just below the Castle
It is a lovely flat, beautifully appointed
with all mod cons - we didn't have time to watch the TV
and a well-equipped kitchen

Next morning, we wandered through Edinburgh
The Walter Scott monument with David Livingstone guarding it. Maybe he should give it a wash
Sir Walter Scott wearing an unaccustomed hat
It started to rain, quite hard, while we were in Prince's Street, so we bought ponchos, expecting to need them at the Tattoo that evening but, as soon as we opened one the rain stopped, never to return
Festival time, so there were many buskers
and all sorts of strange acts in the streets as part of the Fringe

Lovely flowers as decorations everywhere
And so, a pleasant 20 minute walk from our flat to the Castle's Esplanade
for the Tattoo. Wonderful international acts,
brilliant drilling and music
and fireworks to close
a spectacular show
and a mass exit at the end, clogging The Royal Mile
Next day, a walk to Greyfriars Kirk
famous for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, a West Highland terrier who accompanied his master's body to its grave in Greyfriars Churchyard in 1858 and guarded the grave until he died in 1872. Read the full, touching story here. We have a similar story about the Mulderbosch Faithful Hound in Stellenbosch
Thistles in the churchyard
and children touching Bobby's statue's nose for good luck
which keeps it permanently shiny
Then off down Queen Victoria Street
famous for being a scene in the Harry Potter films
and home to the Little Magician shop; a mecca for Harry Potter devotees
A ticket on a "magic" broom
Then a pilgrimage to The Whisky Shop which sells a huge range of whiskies, not only Scotch, and we even saw some bottles of Bain's from Wellington. They sell small bottles, decanted from these casks. Don't ask the price, good single malts are less expensive at home. A 30 year old Macallan in the shop was £3950 per bottle, but that is an extreme. It costs less at the distillery but that is part of a later story
An attractive display of The Loch Fyne whiskies 
We were recommended this pub, The Last Drop, and assumed that the name meant that you don't leave anything in your glass
and enjoyed a pint of this for John and a half of Tennent's Lager for Lynne
and then saw the real, macabre, meaning of the name
It was the site of the Gallows, where heretics, thieves and murderers experienced The Last Drop
The pub is on the Grass Market
from where we walked home before joining Lynne's friends for supper
and then home to catch the closing sounds
and fireworks of the Tattoo
This was a brief synopsis; we'll have more detailed stories after we come home