Scotland 2013 - Day 4 - Downtime

Driving north along the A9 from Tain one can see the rugged coastline of the Northern Highlands as the North Sea collapses upon the rocky shore. There are a few distilleries further north of Glenmorangie. Old Pulteney sits right on the tip of the peninsula near the town of Wick, looking across at the Orkney Islands where the Highland Park and Scapa whiskies are distilled. Between the extreme north and the village of Tain is a small town called Brora.

Though it sits right upon the sea, there are rolling hills and vast fields with livestock just above the town limits. Upon one of those hills sits one very special distillery – one of the most beloved in all the world. Immediately next door are the remains of what was once its partner in crime.

With steam puffing out of its chimneys, the very-modern Clynelish distillery captures the essence of late-60s/early 70s factory architecture: tall glass windows, tan and brown colors, red brick accentuating its facade. Mr. Brady couldn't have designed it better!

The back is no more romantic. Large tanking equipment, a truck stop, and other industrial riff-raff make up most of the scene. While I truly love the whisky coming from the six large pot stills pumping away through the front windows, I can't say that the site of the building sets my heart aflutter. However, turning around from this view shows the entry ways towards another facility.

Follow the pipeline out of Clynelish and you'll spot the warehouses full of whisky barrels. Yet, beyond those buildings lies a pagoda roof and chimney. What's that all about, you ask?

Follow the road around the back of the distillery and you'll come to a gate.

You're not supposed to enter through that gate, but we're in the middle of freakin' nowhere. I don't think there's much private property enforcement in the town of Brora.

Through the gates one can see the neglected remains of the original Clynelish distillery, now more commonly known as Brora – the legendary site of what is now one of the most beloved and collectable whiskies in existance. The stills are still inside. The walls are still standing. Yet, nothing has been distilled at Brora since it was closed by DCL in 1983. Clynelish was renamed Brora after the Scotch Whisky laws determined that two distilleries couldn't maintain the same name (Clynelish I and II had been operating under the same banner once the new distillery was built). When the glut hit the industry at the beginining of the eighties, the decision was made to can the original in favor of the modern addition.

It was fun to visit one of my favorite distilleries and site of single malt royalty. There's not much one can do with whisky on a Sunday because not one of the distilleries take appointments on the weekend, so we didn't get a peek inside. Plus, we really needed to head south to reach Glasgow by the evening, so there wasn't much time to dilly-dally.

Further south, however, lied peril. Despite blankets of snow still paralyzing the south of Scotland, we rolled into Glasgow a few hours ago. Tomorrow we'll visit a few independent bottlers before checking to see if Arran is still in play. The entire island was still without power earlier this morning. We're just hoping the ferry is operational, otherwise we'll have to find something else to do with our Tuesday.

More on actual whisky tasting tomorrow!

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll