You must be thinking, "Good God! These guys were posting every hour and then, POOF!, nothing for days. I hope they're safe. I hope they didn't die in a fiery wreck going through the mountains!" Don't worry, we're just fine, but it's been quite a few days. We've had no internet for sometime as we've either been in the car, or in the sticks. There's too much that has happened since then to go into strict detail, but here's a quick recap since we last left you:
- took the ferry back over from Islay
- went back through Glasgow down south to Ayr and met with A.D. Rattray
- from there went to a secret new source of whisky (shhhh! don't let other retailers know!)
- drove north through the mountains to Glendronach
- visited Gordon & MacPhail
- broke my camera and now have to use David OG's
- visited Duncan Taylor
- now staying at Edradour
We went from the heart of the Lowlands north into the Highlands and, believe me, they are two different worlds, which you can see in the picture below.
We took the scenic route through the middle of the Cairngorm Mountains and we are very lucky the weather was beautiful because had we gone today we would have been SOL. Still fresh powder on the mountains with slopes still operating. The valley along the Dee River can make you a wee bit teary-eyed and as we drove by Royal Lochnager, I found myself wanting a bottle just to remember the amazing trip through the Eastern Highlands region.
Because of the time change we had sunlight until after 8:00 when we arrived at the hauntingly gorgeous Glendronach distillery. That was lucky for us because it is out in the middle of NOWHERE and it would not have been fun to try and find our way on those tiny roads in the dead black of night. Think Wuthering Heights, but in Scotland, and just as sinister.
I won't go into complete detail about the visit, but I can tell you that we will be buying a fantastic barrel of Glendronach directly from the distillery for K&L. I can also tell you that the Glenronach 12 is the absolute best single malt that nobody is drinking. I have a new replacement house bottle, no joke (sorry Springbank 10, but the Glendronach 12 is just toooooooo good and very reasonable). They do everything by hand, they have a remarkable facility, and their wood program headed up by manager Alan is unmatched. They do everything with the knowledge that their barrels are the most important element at the end of the day. Fantastic stuff with an oily, fruity, fat-textured edge. Recently revamped by a pair of South African entrepreneurs, this is a major distillery to watch.
To walk the grounds is to become lost in the bucolic splendor of the Scottish Highlands. I kept waiting for Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery to come out of the shadows with their swords. Their cooling system is run by the cold water stream going through the middle of the building and they have a large barley field growing right next door. We might see some amazing local barley projects from Glendronach if they can re-establish their in-house floor malt. Could be wonderful. Did I tell you how much I love the 12 year?
I wasn't kidding about the Wuthering Heights reference. The house on site (which we stayed next door to) is haunted by the ghost of spanish woman who was brought over in a sherry barrel. Spooky, to say the least. There's also a secret tunnel that goes directly underneath where I was standing as I took this picture. They say that she walks through it at night. Scary!!
Meeting with G&M was fantastic if only because I learned so much about how the indy system works. I had no idea that indie bottlers were sending their own barrels to the distilleries! I guess that's how the majority of the business got started and it's how they controlled quality. If you buy a barrel from the broker market, you might get stuck with a 20 year old malt aged in a 4th or 5th fill barrel, which sometimes gives you nothing but 20 year old white dog. Euan from G&M let us try an example of Glen Keith that was pretty worthless. Easy to get seriously screwed, I guess. Now that many distilleries are no longer filling barrels from outside clients, the market is all about past relationships and connections. We tasted some good possibilities for K&L selections and are excited about working with such a historic company on a more direct basis.
Because we were so close, we HAD to drive over and see Loch Ness. No monster however.
When we finally made it over to Huntley today to visit Duncan Taylor, we were nearly tapped out of energy, but these guys got us energized fast with their insane selection of casks. I'm a bit tired and can't go into to much detail, but Mark (pictured above) is a serious whisky geek just like us and he gave us all the stuff he would want for himself. The octave program they have is awesome, and now that the prices are more inline with what we can afford, we might have 6 or 7 contenders. The best part is, we'll be expanding our exclusive line up of rare mothballed/closed/destroyed distillery offerings beyond our most recent Imperial octave.
Yes, you read correctly. That says BANFF! Why wait for the prices of these guys to go up to Port Ellen and Brora levels? We're striking now and man was this whisky great. Banff has been closed since 1983 and was completely destroyed by a fire in 1991. Not much left. Did we buy it? Wait and see. We're going to have serious collectors wetting their pants by the end of 2011 with some of the extinct whiskies we've found on this trip.