Preparing breakfast in the Kirkwall youth hostel (a cooked full-Scottish one, of course), Jo and I could already see the first destination for our last full day on the Orkneys in the distance: Up on the hill on the other side of Kirkwall, smoke emerged from the pagodas of the Highland Park distillery. Having heard many good stories from delighted visitors, this distillery was high up on my “bucket list” for a long time. Now, as some of you know, I’ve voiced my criticism about Highland Park before, especially concerning a few of the rather expensive and marketing-driven, “collectable” releases of the past years. A distillery almost hidden behind a thick layer of branding, like a veil. Marketing aside, the distillery produces a great distillate and by visiting I was hoping I would get to lift the veil, to see the “real” Highland Park. So, I was excited and ready to have my preconceptions shattered!
Highland Park distillery
Upon striding through the iron gate bearing the distillery’s name, one can see the immaculate state the distillery is kept in. Impressive stone-wall buildings, flowers everywhere, the place is kept to impress, as is the stylish, dark, themed visitor’s centre. Thanks to an arrangement by Nicola (shout out!) we were set to go on a separate tour, led by Mark, joined by a visiting group of distributors. When you’re trying to get a feel for a place and get as much information as possible for an article, it’s always good to get the extra time for pictures, questions and sticking your nose into places and things. It also helps when the tour is held by a knowledgeable person, which Mark certainly turned out to be!
Even on a small island like Islay you can spend quite some time in your car getting to places – especially when you’re staying on the opposite end. Thus it only made sense for us three brothers to spend an entire – hot and sunny – day touring all three distilleries in the south, starting early in the morning at Lagavulin.
Lagavulin, like Bunnahabhain, is a less “touristy” distillery. Not as posh and polished as others with a kind of “old-school” feeling to it. Old, simple, painted steel staircases, narrow paths – putting the working environment first and the tourist attraction last. The charming insides speak volumes about the decades and decades of use and the history of the place, as well as a need of investment in some areas. But, on the other hand, why bother, tourists aren’t allowed to take pictures anyway and Scots are known for being stingy 😉
Anyway, out tour guide for the day was a charming young lady named Sophie and we were in luck, it was yet another very small group. The tour certainly felt positively different from all the others, Lagavulin really has a special “feel” to it, probably due to the old-style, unpolished charm of the place and the narrowness full of nooks and crannies. Continue reading “Scotland trip 2014 – part 4: South of Islay – touring Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg”
Leaving the marvellous Isle of Arran behind is never easy, but the prospect of landing on the shores of Islay in a few hours time made it a wee bit easier for the three of us. After making our way over to Claonaig by ferry from Lochranza and a taxi ride with David Bridge, we arrived at Kennacraig to board the good old Calmac vessel “Hebridean Isles”. The 2-hour trip on the boat was very smooth as the sea was really calm so we arrived in Port Askaig right on schedule where our car from D&N MacKenzie was already waiting for us. By the way: Great service from them – when you need to hire a car on Islay, I can recommend them!
What next? A distillery visit, of course!
Day four of our brotherly Scotland trip 2014 would finally see us visit our first (open) distillery, Auchentoshan. A first for Peter the wee one of us. If you’re in Glasgow and you want to visit the distillery, follow the following advice we received from locals (namely Pete and Andy from Inverarity 121): Forget taxis or buses or whatever – take the train! The local train service from Glasgow’s Queen Street station takes you to a station in the middle of nowhere called Kilpatrick. Take a left hand turn at the intersection of the footpath until you reach the motorway and then proceed for a few hundred metres back towards Glasgow. Continue reading “Scotland trip 2014 – part 2: Glasgow, Auchentoshan, Arran”
I love Scotland. I love the countryside, the culture, nature, the people who are similar to my own folk, and – of course – the whisky. When I was up there last year with one of my two brothers, Johannes, I immediately knew I would be coming back. As it so happened the wee one of us three brothers, Peter, graduated from secondary school this year so we arranged a “little” trip in celebration of the occasion. Well, this “little” trip in July 2014 would in the course of nearly three weeks lead us from London to Inverness and back, visiting 15,5 distilleries along the way – that’s over 10% of all working distilleries in Scotland… By “we” I of course mean us three brothers – the wee one, Peter, the middle one, Johannes and me, Klaus, as the leader of the pack.
It was a backpacking trip, thus we traveled lightly – at least on our way up, filling our luggage with whisky along the way. Obviously. We stayed in hostels (and one b&b), sometimes preparing our own meals and, with the exception of Islay, where we rented a car, relied on trains and buses for the majority of our travel. I prefer public transport whenever I can and Interrail is a great and cheap way to travel all across Europe.