After meeting up in London, dozing off on the quick flight to Edinburgh, and finally getting our rental car from the long line in a computer-less Europcar center, David OG took first dibs on the driving experience and I did my best to guide him through a 20 minute drive that featured me screaming "Stay to the left! Stay to the left!" and a few wrong turns due to the lack of visable road names. Even after we made it over to the Chieftain's head office, our misadventures weren't quite over yet because we entered through the bottling facility next door and searched out their reception desk. After a few more twists and turns we found our man Roderick, his master blender John, and a room full of Cheiftain's bottlings past and present.
We sat for a bit and spoke about the history of the Chieftain's company and their dedication to sourcing superb quality casks. The interesting tidbit I learned from this encounter was that Glengoyne (a distillery owned by them as well) was an important bargaining chip in their cask acquiring endeavors - the reason being that Glengoyne is a key ingredient to some big blended whiskies and the owners of those brands trade casks from their best distilleries in return. Needless to say, there were some very, very interesting young whiskies lining the walls of the tasting room that were planned for usage in future Chieftain's blending projects. David and I about died when we tasted a five year from a very prestigious Islay distillery that never sees independent bottlings.
After getting to know the company a little more, David and I were left to tackle the line up of possible K&L cask contenders - a massive barrage of cask strength barrel samples ranging from 12 years to 33 years old. As we tasted the whiskies for us, we couldn't help but get distracted by the vast library of Chieftain's bottlings that were lining the walls. Brora 26 year? Springbank 37? And some of them were open which meant we could taste them!
After making our way through the best casks, David and I were pretty much in perfect sync with what we did and did not like. Both of us were wowed by a 19 year old Caol Ila and found some younger Speyside malts from Braevel and Benriach that were delightful. However, the two that really spoke to us were a 1992 Bladnoch 18 year old that tasted like the best Rosebank I've ever had and a monster bottling of 1997 Ledaig 14 year that came in at 64%! The Bladnoch was all oils, flowers, perfume, and jelly beans. The Ledaig was like deep-fried pork skins covered in soy sauce at a dragrace. Soooooo smoky and savory.
We'll be back at Chieftain's tomorrow after our stay at this lovely hotel! More later on!