What’s better than a lazy day taking a train through the lush Scottish landscape from Glasgow to Edinburgh on a sleepy Sunday?
Day 1. Well after settling in to our hotel we made good use of the lobby lounge to relax and have afternoon tea complete with scones, jam and cream while looking at the splendid view of Edinburgh Castle. Amazing!
Some of you may have read my blog# 60 that covered the experience of my first night in Scotland. Well, I wanted to replicate it a little with Cindy getting in on the fun. Cindy, being the organized one, had a wee travel umbrella that had come in handy quite a few times but alas it was not big enough for both of us so with night setting in and a steady rain falling we grabbed a nice Tartan brolly to complete the set. Armed against the Scottish weather we strolled along the cobble stoned streets towards West Bow and the Bow Bar.
With the picturesque street lamps playing their light on the shiny wet cobblestones, Edinburgh looked like something right out of a Charles Dickens Novel.
Arriving safe and dry at the Bow Bar, Cindy and I both grabbed a dram to toast the success of the first leg of our trip. Cindy’s dram of choice was a Glendronach 21 Year Old and mine was the proprietary bottling of Tomintoul 16 Year Old. Both delicious and cockle warming drams. The other truly fun part of spending time at lots of different Scottish bars was “Real Ale”. A big part of the craft brewing scene in the U.K. that can’t be missed is hand pumped ales and cask aged ales that are a must to experience some really yummy beer. Hand in hand with the many drams were an accompaniment of fab local real ales.
A pie and a pint at the Castle Arms was just the ticket to end a fun evening in the old city.
The Wemyss crew…all rugged up!
Up nice and early ready for more difficult whisky tasting duties, this time with Wemyss Malts at their “arctic office” that had lost heating the night before. Without giving anything away we tasted some really exceptional drams with Jacqueline, Emma, Ginny and Susan. The Wemyss family has a long and lavish tradition with their fingers in many different business pies. Wemyss Malts, although a junior company compared to some of Wemyss exploits, has become one of the most important, acting as the face of Wemyss to consumers all around the world.
Perhaps teetering on the edge of losing my professional non-bias outlook on whisky for this years’ calendar, it was decided that I should take some of the whisky samples back to Calgary to try them in a less romantic setting 🙂
All of these intense tasting and negotiating sessions invariably lead to some sort of amazing dining experience. Jacque, Emma, Cindy and I braved some very chilly and windy conditions pushing into the breeze for a mere 200 meters that felt like a mile to The West Room. Yummo is all I can say after a delicious Real Ale and a crisp Gewurztraminer with some fabulous company. It was really great to get to know the team at Wemyss a little better. I am so excited to be working with such amazing companies and all I can say is that calendar owners this year are in for a real treat. Sadly, we had to leave the Wemyss team to don more jumpers and get back to their daily duties.
The Hanging Bat
Given a free reign for the evening Cindy and I were well up for an early cocktail at Moriarty’s followed by beer Nirvana at the Hanging Bat. Suggested to us by a long time industry friend James Cowan, the Hanging Bat was amazing. Some seriously great beer on offer. My suggestion would be to do the tasting flight. Rather than lining the beer up on a tray as is typical of flights I was presented with 5 Hanging Bat bottle caps which I could come back to the bar and redeem anytime for my next tasty treat. Pulled pork and 5 truly exceptional half pints made for a perfect pairing.
Day 2 with Wemyss and we were up at the crack of dawn meeting Jacque for a train ride across the Forth Road bridge, which is something to behold, and then onto Kingsbarns Distillery after a lovely drive through fields of snow drops. Wind and plenty of it is a regular hallmark of the Kingsbarns Distillery location just down the road from the home of Golf St. Andrews. Kingsbarns owned by the Wemyss family was brainchild of Doug Clement who drove past the old Dovecot and stone building everyday on his way back and forth as he caddied at Kingbarns and St. Andrews golf courses. Doug started us on a very interesting tour and I have to say that they have done a fantastic job on not just the distillery but the visitors center and tour. If you are anywhere near St Andrews on your next visit to Scotland you absolutely have to go and check out Kingsbarns.
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The most exciting part of our visit was seeing spirits pour from the stills knowing that the very first cask was about to be filled. A privilege indeed.
The tasting room is full of delicious Wemyss bottlings and we got to try some that I had never seen before. Wow really impressive casks. Nose almost pressed to the glass I salivated over the Loch Indaal Catch 1982 Bowmore 32 Year Old. Not enough left for it to make it into the calendar but we may be lucky enough to see a few cases come our way later this year. The Flotsam and Jetsam 1991 Glen Scotia and the Smoldering Hickory 1997 Bunnahabhain were both delicious.
Bolstered with some hearty soup and yet another local beer from the Kinsbarns cafe, Jacque took us back to Edinburgh but not without a visit to the Old Course and a stop at St Andrews beach so I could brave the near gale conditions to fill a mini with St Andrews sand for a friend. I can barely imagine what it is like trying to play golf when it is that windy. The course was full as the golfing faithful braved the nasty conditions to play at the mecca of the golf world.
Thanks Jacque for taking us on such a great journey and Doug for showing us what I know will become a sought after distillery. Can hardly wait till the first bottling rolls off the line. Sad for our time with Wemyss to end this time around as we had so much fun.
A little more time in Edinburgh and another supplier meeting all coming up on next weeks blog.