Thursday, October 10, 2019

MENU's UK Adventure 5. Banff and Speyside

John’s grandfather was born in Banff, so we drove there for a look, crossing the River Spey en route
by a steel suspension bridge
with trout (or salmon) fishers in the shallows
On the front at Banff. The rocks reminded us of Sea Point beach
We watched a lobster fisherman examining his pots
Old seafront cottages with more modern houses above on the hill
And watched Gannets diving for fish. Very similar to those in Lamberts Bay back on the Cape West Coast
It's a small harbour
watching the not at all frenzied activity
This was the fisherman who had returned from examining his pots
and the pleasure craft
We checked out this pub, but decided that we could do better. It was lunch time and there was no one in it.
although we were amused by this sign in the window
Northern oystercatchers on the beach, another similarity to Sea Point
before making our way into town where we looked in the old cemetery for graves of Duncans
who might have been John’s ancestors
This one showed that many children did not survive long
and then popped in to the oldest pub for a pint; The Market Arms,
the oldest building to have been continuously occupied in the town – since 1585
The beer was good, we tried always to drink local beer.
a bitter from a 300 year old brewery
and the company very convivial
Then back to Rothes where we were greeted by the hotel’s dog
who had his head in a bucket to stop him licking his recently operated on “bits”
We decided to do a whisky tasting in the bar of our hotel
This was interesting, if a little like Fawlty Towers at times
especially when one wants to taste some of their 100+ whiskies and none of the staff,
or even the owner, knows where to find the one you ask for or even knows the price
Nor could they talk knowledgeably about whisky, it seems they don’t often drink it
Fortunately we met a whisky writer, Jim Coleman (of Whisky Boys www.whiskyboys.com) who introduced us to this excellent whisky, Glen Moray (pronounced Murray) 10 year old, matured in Chardonnay casks, a rich, full-flavoured delight at £6.50. Thankfully, a Scots dram is twice the size of an English tot. We shared the tots
We also tried this Glen Keith, at £4.50, and best suited as a mixer in cocktails, it was rather flat neat or with a dribble of water
Enough said. The next morning we felt well enough to explore
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, which is owned by Campari,
by whisky ambassador Lynne Strathdee who was so helpful and friendly
who brought us the Glen Grant 10 and 16 year old malts to taste. Lynne did the tasting while John looked on enviously. He was able to nose the glasses but not taste. The whiskies 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. The 16 year old is only available at the distillery. £65 per bottle. Note the "doggie bottle" of 16 year old gifted to the driver who enjoyed it later after dinner! The Scots do not like you to drink and drive
After the tasting, we walked in the huge gardens, so well planted
alongside the burn
and through the forest
Green tunnels
and tinkling water
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. You do a tour with them and they unlock the safe
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 discovery of the trip was the Fentimans Sparkling Raspberry. It is truly the best expression of raspberry in a glass, 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 computer controlled
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 pot stills 
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 Macallan is one of Lynne’s favourite whiskies
The tasting she had was 
"THE SIX PILLARS EXPERIENCE
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 classic European and American sherry oak casks and in an ex-Bourbon American oak cask. They were very different and all had character and depth
Then out again to the Scottish highlands
to meet a large, shaggy Scot in a nearby field

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