After a weekend which has seen the North East of Scotland receive three quarters of its November rainfall in 24 hours, I was glad it was last Monday morning I caught the train from Aberdeen to Inverness on the first leg of my visit to Glenmorangie Distillery. It was interesting to consider the effect of the railway on the whisky industry as the train rolled through the scenic countryside, made all the more so by the vivid autumn colours.
The number of distilleries within easy reach of the tracks are numerous, and from the train it is just possible to see Ardmore Distillery, the giant Chivas Bros warehouse complex at Keith, Glentauchers & Auchroisk, Longmorn, Benromach and the final resting place of the long-closed Millburn Distillery in Inverness.
I was joined at the distillery by the rest of the party, representatives of some of Scotland's best whisky venues. Andy MacDonald, the distillery manager, proceeded to show us round the recently enlarged distillery - 2 new stills have been added to an extended stillhouse, however everything has been built to look as if it had always been there. We finished up in one of the dunnage warehouses where we tasted some barrel samples to highlight the effects of different woods on the spirit. Then we were forced to sample more whiskies in a more formal atmosphere of the conference room. These included the Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or, the 18yo, the 25yo and the recently released Sonnalta PX. The Nectar D'Or has a lovely sweet texture which should give it a wide appeal, whilst the Sonnalta is a bigger, bolder flavour. Only available from the distillery or in Travel Retail Outlets (duty free), the Sonnalta will be up on the gantry shortly.
We then headed over to Glenmorangie House, voted one of the top hotels in the UK, where we were to spend the night. Although it is only some 8 or 9 miles from the distillery, the drive is across country and by this time it was pitch black. We enjoyed a little detour which took in the picturesque village of Portmahomack (it would have been even more picturesque in daylight). Whilst our driver refused to admit he was lost, the following two car-loads of guests were not so sure.
The hotel, which is more like a private house was everything and more we had been led to expect. Before dinner we were treated to the most futuristic tasting I have yet to experience. In order to fully appreciate the creation that is Signet, we were treated to a sound and light show which talked us through a sensory tasting of this wonderful malt, a whisky that truly compares with the best vintage wines.
After a sumptuous meal, which included bread made with Ardbeg (same company), we were treated to some more whisky - Ardbeg Corryvrekan and Supernova. An ideal choice in front of a coal fire - so much so that some of us were seen to doze off! To round off our trip, we spent the following morning trying our hand at clay pigeon shooting.
Thanks are due to LVMH for making this trip possible.