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Singlemalting # 166 – 4th time around

Another year quickly passed and I found myself back in Scotland again to help out with our mad production schedule for the 4th edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

I love being able to make last minute decisions and a cancelled New York trip due to potential Hurricane interference left me able to get on my bike and head to Scotland. Literally completing my Air Canada reservation by phone as I drove to the airport to just make my flight might be one of the crazier things I have done this year.

It is a privilege to be able to bring this Scotch Whisky journey to so many people each year and spending some time with the awesome team at Craigton Packaging makes it that much more fun.

Of course there was still some essential experiences that had to happen including an epic night at the Pot Still with my mate Stuart and a stroll along the Clyde in the fall Scotland sun.

Rainbow on the River
Got to do the Pot Still

Scotland is truly one of the most beautiful countries and I absolutely love getting the chance to go there as often as I do. We were really pressed for time to make the ship this year and the crew at Craigton put their foot down while being careful to detail to make sure that every calendar had all the goodies.

I managed to get a few videos of the action (or inaction when I was trying to video and label one handed)

Following a calendar down the line to was a fun way to see it all happen.

December 1st we get going with our 25 days of 4th edition blogging. This year for the first time our calendars are available in the US so we will be opening our community to a host of new members. I hope you enjoyed this little peak behind the scenes. A photo gallery is below for you to browse through at your leisure.

Every trip I see a different side of Scotland and these next two shots of the Clyde at dawn and my room at the Gleddoch Resort and Golf course make me eager to return.

Morning on the Clyde
Room with a view Gleddoch resort

So until next time enjoy the gallery below and see you all for December 1st and the start of another journey through the most diverse whisky landscape on earth.

Cheers

Singlemalting

Empty Boxes ready to be filled
Hand labelling
Spoiler alert that might be one of the whiskies
Capping
Lots of bottles
Lined up ready to roll
It seems like a lot of work
Christmas Day labeling with Embossed logo
Wax dipping by hand
Day 25
Unpacking and Stacking
In they come
Lets play pass the box
The Line
Insert whisky here
Barely a dent
Floor to ceiling calendars
Making a dent
Don’t look too closely
Panorama baby yeah
Check out my behind
Done and Dusted
Time for some shrink wrapping
On their way to Canada and the US
Job well done
I made this

When Scotland calls one must answer – part 2 | Blog # 78

Up at the absolute crack of dawn (2:30am) and jet lag was truly set in. The good news was the amount of time I had to get some work done, work out, have an amazing Scottish brekky and turn up at Craigton bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7:00am.

What a fun opportunity to be able to physically put together something that is near and dear to my heart.

With all the Craigton crew on hand after a touch of morning tea it was all hands on deck. I took up a spot fairly close to the beginning of the line taking each calendar and removing the face plate and taking off the handy ribbons that made production so much faster, checking it for the booklet, lapel pin, postcard, invitation and Christmas card and placing the hand numbered sticker on the inside left door. With all this done it then moved it down the line to start being filled with what really counts, the delicious whiskies.

Before the calendar got to me the pallets they arrived on had to be moved into the packing room and then the individual calendars removed from the outer box. Before I got my mitts on them, the calendars had the bar code and product information sticker attached to the bottom.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Packing Room

Every single bottle was hand labeled and the Christmas day whisky also had an embossed metal label applied, was hand corked and then wax dipped. To say that this is a labor intensive product would be an understatement.

The Craigton team jumped into the project with great enthusiasm and attention to detail. Nothing was missed with everyone focused on their task. Once all the whisky had been installed and an extra booklet page had been added, the Samaroli Whisky glass was snuggled into its silky alcove and the face plate and outer doors closed. Two calendars were then put back into the outer case which was glued and taped shut before going back onto an empty pallet.
Seeing a production line like this close up and actually being part of it is really quite fun.

Of course I was only a visitor but was soon treated like part of the team including the fun jibe’s and comments about how much longer it was taking with me “helping”.

For a few hours after the team left I was able to forge ahead and complete the remaining calendars on the table. It was nice to personally completely from start to finish work on quite a few calendars and have the table clear and ready for the next day.

After getting back to the hotel I was feeling a little weary from a distinct lack of sleep but could not allow myself the luxury of a quick lie down no matter how loudly the nice comfy bed was calling. Time to head out to a beautiful restaurant in Glasgow called Hutchesons, with Kevan and Rachel from Craigton. What an amazing evening filled with delicious wine, great company and awesome food. We kicked it off with some legendary Hutchesons cocktails and my manhattan was amazing. Kevan and Rachel preferred a Gin martini and they went down a treat. Kevan was left to order his own steak as Rachel and I shared a Chateaubriand. It was actually the scallops highly rated by Kevan that got us all there in the first place. Yep they were good.

Hutchesons Glasgow Scotland Hutchesons Glasgow Scotland

One of the joys of working in this industry is developing long term relationships with fantastic people like Kevan and Rachel. When I finally got back to the hotel at around 11:00 pm I had been up and at it for over 20 hours. We will see in the next part if the jet lag was starting to sort itself out or not.
Until then I hope you are enjoying this little snapshot into putting it all together.

Slainte! 

A Run down the line at Craigton Packaging – Video …

Photos …

Scotchy Scotch Scotch | Blog #63

Wow! Great to be back in Scotland again … after a rainy bus ride from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow that took twice as long. We later learned that the Celtics were playing Milan and Glasgow was packed with football fans. For those that must know the game was tied 4 goals all.

Craigton Bottling Plant - Jonathan, Cindy & Kevan Craigton Bottling Plant – Jonathan, Cindy & Kevan

Day 1 and Cindy and I were up and early heading to Craigton bottling. Not until we had sampled the full Scottish Breakfast available at the Hilton Glasgow complete with haggis which Cindy worked on and a lovely bowl of creamy porridge covered in fresh cream and a healthy portion of Ballantines Scotch Whisky. Definitely a first for me. A big thanks to Rachel who picked us up and along with Kevan gave us the grand tour of the Craigton plant and helped to nail down some of the finer details in bottling so many wee 50ml bottles for the second edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

We spent some quality time cuddling old barrels in the Craigton warehouse – there were some decidedly yummy looking casks (no we didn’t try any).

Suffice to say that the bottling and packaging for this years calendar is in good hands with Kevan and Rachel.

Right, time for us to go source some whisky!

Picked up by Iain from A.D. Rattray we were whisked out to the “Scotch Whisky Experience” in Maybole, Ayrshire which is an interactive whisky experience and shop front for A.D. Rattray independent bottlers. Without giving anything away we looked at and tasted some mighty fine drams while scarfing down delicious sandwiches and cake.

The Scotch Whisky Experience - Maybole The Scotch Whisky Experience – Maybole

A.D. Rattray, as a lot of you already know, was my first foray into the world of single cask Scotch and it’s wonderful to still be working with them almost a decade later. Nick, Francis, Iain and the rest of the team poured on the hospitality and after some fierce negotiations a suitable list of whiskies was agreed upon and our journey to completing this years list had begun.

“After some fierce negotiations a suitable list of whiskies was agreed upon and our journey to completing this years list had begun.”

Time for some serious whisky drinking with our host Iain in all of his favorite Glasgow haunts. First stop was Stravaigin for a pint and dinner to get some fortification in place for the whisky to come.

“All I can say is this is a must for your next visit to Glasgow as the food is sensational.”

Off to the Ubiquitous Chip which is legendary in Glasgow for our first dram of the evening. Bruichladdich Bere Barley was just the ticket to get our palates off to a good start. Not wanting us to miss anything we were then off to The World Famous Bon Accord which is one of the best whisky bars in Glasgow. It was great meeting owner Paul and the team and we were even ushered behind the bar for an impromptu photo shoot. First dram on the bar was an A.D. Rattray Glen Grant 20 Year Old bottled exclusively for the Bon Accord. Yummo!

The World Famous Bon Accord - Glasgow - Iain, Jonathan & Cindy

We got to learn all about the ringing of the bell initially warning us of the impending last call then ushering in the last call and eventually telling us to get the heck out! While all this bell tolling went on we still had time for another dram and I chose a proprietary bottling of Glen Deveron (MacDuff) as I had never tried it before. Always great to try new whiskies.

By this stage Iain had split the scene to get a late cab ride home and Cindy and I were fortunately within walking distance of the hotel.

What a great first day in Scotland and our first in Glasgow.

“Ahem….. remember as you read this that Cindy and I were fully engaged in dedicated field work and whisky sourcing. Any resemblance to a “vacation” or fun junket is purely coincidental.”

Day 2 and we were once again escorted by Iain and his fabulous fiance, Zoe, who firstly took us out to the Southernmost Highland Distillery Glengoyne. Literally sitting on the Highland side of the road that divides the Highlands and the Lowlands the whisky is distilled on the Highland Side and then moved to the warehouses to age in the lowlands. Fun stuff.

A very pretty distillery, Glengoyne has an exceptional visitors center and tour which really shows in an easily understandable way the impact of casks and aging. I would highly recommend anyone visiting Glasgow to make the trip to Glengoyne. During the tour we did of course get a chance to try some whisky and the Glengoyne 12 Year Old was a nice easy dram to get started with.

“Back to Iain’s for some ridiculously good cheeses and a cleansing ale to round out an amazing time with the good folk at A.D. Rattray.”

More whisky to be tasted though, and so it was that Cindy and I closed out our Glasgow experience with firstly a visit to the un-named pub … seriously, it has no name! … where I broke protocol being that it was the best Bourbon bar in the city and had a Sazerac Rye.

(Later we found out it’s name is Chinaskis)

“This spot is brilliant with it’s candle lit tables and cozy but buzzing atmosphere.”

 

One last visit to the World Famous Bon Accord which just happened to be on our way back to the hotel. Couldn’t have planned it any better. It was here that Cindy had her first ever full dram of whisky ordering the Auchentoshan Three Wood. After my visit to Glengoyne earlier in the day, I just had to try something older from them and so had a dram of the Glengoyne 21yo in hand when Cindy and I toasted the success of the first leg of our 4 supplier journey.

On to Edinburgh for the next installment of Calendar Whisky Sourcing 101.

Slainte!