Speyside Road Trip Bits and Pieces (Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Tormore, Dalwhinnie)

The bulk of the whisky-related activities of our final day in Speyside was all done by lunchtime (Glen Grant, Benriach and Glen Moray). Since most distilleries close to visitors between 4 and 5, we felt compelled to try and squeeze in as many as possible, so we drove from Elgin to Dufftown, where Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie, Mortlach, Glendullan and Dufftown distilleries are virtually within a stone’s throw of one another. Balvenie was closed to visitors other than pre-arranged tours, so we stopped at neighbouring Glenfiddich. As expected, it’s absolutely huge (I believe it currently has 32 stills), and even though it’s well-manicured, it lacks the picturesque qualities of Strathisla or Glen Grant (probably the two most beautiful distilleries we saw, for different reasons).

I was particularly keen on dropping by Glenfiddich because of their hand-fill option, which for years now has been a cask strength version of the popular 15 year-old Solera (a whisky I’m already a big fan of, and one that cries out for a higher strength version). Unfortunately, the price was a bit steep (£130), but even so I left with a slight tinge of regret that I didn’t buy it.

Next stop was Ballindaloch for Glenfarclas and Cragganmore, but we got stuck in roadworks and didn’t arrive much before closing time, so we just stopped at Glenfarclas. We only had about 10 minutes, so it was just a quick walk around the grounds for the photos below, and a browse around the visitor centre and shop.

It looked like a group had just finished a tasting in the adjoining wood-panelled room so all the staff were busy, but in any case I didn’t spot anything of interest – just the core range, various knick-knacks, and the completely unaffordable bottles of the Family Cask range, which sadly were stolen the day after. I hope there aren’t photos of me looking suspicious around the shop plastered all over Speyside.

And that marked the end of our final day in Speyside – the following day, we drove down to Edinburgh with a stop at Aberfeldy for a tasting before going home the day after that. Driving down the A95, we naturally stumbled across various distilleries – we were travelling too fast to be able to take photos of the new Ballindaloch distillery, but we had time to stop at Tormore a few minutes down the road. It’s certainly a striking building:

The final stop before arriving at Aberfeldy was Dalwhinnie. It claims to be the highest distillery in Scotland and it shows: there was a noticeable drop in temperature, and the cold wind, freezing rain and snowy peaks of the Cairngorms in the distance made for Arctic tundra-like conditions. Nevertheless, we braved the conditions to take a couple of photos, including the iconic worm tubs the distillery is famous for.

The shop itself was nicely laid out, with displays of the Flora and Fauna range, the Diageo special releases, and various other bottles across their portfolio. There was also a cask available for bottling, but at £130 for an 11-12 year old whisky it didn’t appeal much. This seems to be a fixed price across Diageo hand-fill casks regardless of the age – I heard from an acquaintance that Glenkinchie had a 9 year-old available for the same price, so I guess it’s luck of the draw whether you get something worth the money.

And that’s the final Speyside report done – just one more post to go now with a review of the tour and tasting at Aberfeldy.

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