The first time I came to Scotland, going on 5 years ago now, Haitham and I traipsed up to Oban just off the northwestern coast for a few days. While there we visited my first ever whisky distillery. At the time, I could hardly say I’d even really tried whisky–sure, every American kid (especially from Tennessee like myself) can say they’ve had a Jack & Coke, but I couldn’t ever recollect having tried anything on its own, ya know, for the taste.
Needless to say Oban… well, it didn’t do it for me. Whereas before I’d been neutral, now I knew how just how yucky whisky was! Blegh!! Despite the informative distillery tour, the only real thing I remember is the face I pulled when a sample of cask-strength whisky was passed around, causing two chaps also on the tour with us to laugh. I also remember getting some candied ginger at the end which was lovely. I also remember our guide telling us how you could taste salt from the sea spray-filled air intermingling within the casks; I couldn’t taste dirt. Just fumes coursing down my burning throat.
Safe to say I was not a convert!
It was only years later after I’d settled down in Edinburgh and had friends Megan & Erik come to visit that things changed for me. Erik, being a bartender in an Irish-themed pub, knew his whiskys and fancied doing whisky-related things while visiting (and why not!). When we did a Whisky Walks tour around Edinburgh that allowed us to sit inside and try four different drams at the end, I found much to my surprise that I actually tasted something nice in one–that dram was from Auchentoshan, a distillery just outside Glasgow. Which is still probably my whisky of choice now. It’s honestly delicious.
Since then Haitham and I have gone to six total whisky distilleries together, and I’ve gone to one cheekily on a solo trip without him (there may be some resentment there!). It’s become a rather enjoyable hobby to both of us, as each distillery has something different to offer. Sure, you’d think something that literally only takes three different ingredients–water, barley, and yeast–to make would get boring in the explanations after a while, and yet here we are, still going at it.
Here’s where we’ve gone so far. And here’s where we still have yet to go (not including the multitude of distilleries on Islay, as well as those around Spey)!
So when Sunday rolled around with the sun beaming down brightly, we decided to take the Panda Express out to the nearest distillery to Edinburgh, a wee establishment called Glenkinchie. Despite it being “the closest” it’s still a pretty good shake outside of town, and actually took us around 30 minutes by car to get there. (For any tourists who happen to stumble across this piece, there are shuttles available from town!) Despite us leaving at 10 AM like the whisky geeks that we are (seriously, 10 AM?!) when we arrived we were not the first people there and were joined in our tour by a gaggle of other folks ranging from Switzerland to Norway.
Glenkinchie was a lovely distillery to visit, which quite a lot of history to it. The old photos of the 40-odd men who used to work within (complete with a ratter dog) along with the sight of the old still just recently unearthed was really something to see. And our tour guide was a lovely chap. There’s lots of things to peruse in the exhibition rooms at the start, the most impressive to me being the scale model of the distillery itself–awesome!! Couple all that with two drams at the end, and we left feeling pretty good.
Also, I got to ring the historic, dram-summoning bell inside. Awesome. Thing was loud.
Here’s Haitham scoping out the distillery model. Seriously, what a cool idea!
Afterwards we traipsed along a nearby walking path that surrounds an estate called Winton Castle. The walk itself was sort of boring actually–I was expecting a lot more snowdrops than there were, and we didn’t even find the castle while walking! At least there were lots of happy dogs carting gigantic sticks and eyes fixed on tennis balls and such. I saw a pack of bearded collies, one of whom was very happy to see me, the other two more worried about the border collie rapidly approaching from behind me, all of whom were owned by a guy who just bloody well wanted to be left alone! (Sorry, mate, I just really like dogs!)