Morning in Pitlochry. We rose at the Craigatin House (the absolute best place to stay in Scotland) where we met hotel owner Martin for our fourth straight year of pre-Signatory breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausage, blood pudding, toast, beans, and tomato with tea and coffee. That's the only way to fortify your stomach against the onslaught that will be Edradour distillery and the back stock of whisky being aged there on-sight. This is the tasting that separates the men from the boys. We did our best to prepare Kyle, but there's nothing you can really tell anyone that will convey the experience of getting into the ring with distillery manager Des.
I took a morning walk over to the dam to catch a shot of the river coming down through the mountains. Pitlochry is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland – a nature lover's paradise full of hiking trails, bicycle paths, and plenty of other outdoor activities. It's a total ski town in the winter, as well.
Ah....Edradour. One of the most picturesque distilleries in existence. Perfect white picket fences, a small creek running through the center of the campus, and tons of delicious, mature whisky aging in the gigantic warehouse behind the main still house. We went in courageous and bold, but we left six hours later bleary-headed, glassy-eyed, and dry-mouthed – and we spit every single drop we tasted.
You know that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when they're putting the Ark of the Covenant into the gigantic warehouse with all the other cataloged items? The Signatory cask inventory is like that warehouse times five. It's a never-ending sprawl of whisky, all different ages, all from different distilleries, continuing on as far as the eye can see. Going there as a retailer is like being a kid in a candy store.
You name it, it's there – Port Ellen, Macallan, Glenlivet, Lagavulin, all dating back decades. It's a bit overwhelming, mainly because these types of warehouses are a thing of the past. I remember when all of our appointments would have great old stocks with plenty of fun whiskies to taste. Now, it's pretty much just Signatory. We tasted more than forty samples and took copious notes. If the pricing works out, I can imagine us taking more than twenty casks of various items of various ages – Glen Ord, Glenlossie, Glenburgie, Daluaine, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Caol Ila (old and young), Glenlivet, and more.
One of the funnier moments of the trip came as we were exiting the warehouse, still talking about Raiders and David OG said, "Did you know that Indiana Jones could have been left out of the movie and the ending would have been the same?"
"Good one, Amy Farrah Fowler," I said, referencing Mayim Bialik's television character, who first introduced the observation.
"Are you guys talking about The Big Bang Theory?" Des asked, locking the door behind us.
"Yes!" I screamed, "Do you watch it?"
"Aye," he replied, "It's so well written."
Des McCagherty, the stoic man from Signatory, who might break your kneecaps if you cross him, and who might as well be Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey, apparently enjoys American sitcoms about science nerds in Southern California. Who knew?
I conked out on the trip north from Signatory from sheer whisky saturation. We started at 10 AM and didn't leave until after 4:30, but we still weren't even close to being done for the day. It was time to head through the Cairngorn Mountains and up to Dufftown, where we had an appointment with our old friend Mark Watt. He runs the show at Cadenhead now for Springbank and had put aside some cask samples for our perusal. I did manage to stay awake until Dalwhinnie, however – one of the most beautiful distillery sites in Scotland, set against the hills, white against the darkness.
We met Mark at his house, powered through another 40+ cask samples, and eventually ended up having dinner with him and his wife in Aberlour along the river Spey. I jumped out and snapped a pick just as the sun's last light was heading behind the hills. We're here for the night until we hit Glenfarclas in the morning and Benriach soon after. Then we're back down to Edinburgh and the airport Hilton where we'll make our final decisions.
Tomorrow's the last day in Scotland. Then we'll switch over the France for another week of brandy blog posts!