There is though it takes me uphill again, and I think it links to the public path from Dufftown. I have plenty of time – had thought of cycling all the way, but I said I’d be on the bus. Eventually find the right bus – there are only three others who get on, one looks like Ronnie Routledge from Glenglassaugh, and indeed is – he says he’s got a day off so he’s seeing things from a different angle!
We wait in case anyone else turns up, but the driver eventually concludes that they must be making their own way there. The driver is a local, but with a very strong accent – really hard work to understand. We head out through Craigellachie and past Macallan, by which time I’ve been checking which tastings I have tickets for this afternoon, and I discover I haven’t a ticket for the Diageo tasting, and find a spot with a signal to book it.
We get to Knockando, and I have a Google Streets moment – I recognise the distillery but am not sure whether I’ve been there before or just virtually courtesy of Google Streets photography – it’s very disconcerting.
We’re greeted with coffee and biscuits, but I need a cold drink – fortunately they have orange juice – must have been something I drunk the night before. We set off around the distillery – photography allowed except flash use in the still house. Knockando has an ancient malt screen and weigher. The mash tun also turns out to be in the still house – fortunately it’s very bright so no flash required. May of the rest on the tour are Canadians who are very impressed to see the Maple Leaf flag flying at the distillery – unlike some previous days explanations of distillery operations outside are perfectly acceptable in today’s weather.
The tasting consists of new make, 12yo, 15yo, 18yo, 21yo, 25yo and the Manager’s Dram. Knockando is unusual in that as well as having an age statement most Knockandos also have a vintage on the label.
By the time we get to the Manager’s dram my taste buds are beginning to wake up, but I’m not sure previous consumption did the others full justice.
Then it’s back to Aberlour via Carron this time, and the ride back to Dufftown, in time for the afternoon’s tastings and an intermediate stop in the Whisky Shop Dufftown, where Jan is pouring drams including from a bottle of Really Big Peat. Personally I prefer the Clan Denny 21yo Port Dundas.
The first is Diageo with Donald Colville – Mortlach 48 –the special Festival bottling; 21yo Cragganmore; 27yo Rare Malts Selection Inchgower; Talisker Strom; Talisker Port Ruighe, Feis Ile Caol Ila. Some special drams in there, but I favoured the first three.
After a short break it’s back again for the next tasting – Cadenhead’s with Mark Watt presenting cask samples of bottles that will comprise his first release of bottlings since moving from Duncan Taylor.
Small Batch 18yo Craigellachie; a 24yo Cameronbridge Single Grain which he has at 50% bit will be bottled at 46%; 20yo Creations blend – of Cameronbridge 1989; Invergordon 1991; Bruichladdich 1993; Mortlach 1992 – single casks of each blended together – what Mark describes as having fun.
Mark then goes into the history of Cadenhead’s – founded by William Cadenhead in Aberdeen, who was succeeded by his nephew Robert W Duthie – apparently no-one is sure whether he ended up under a tram in 1931 intentionally or not. Suffice it to say that the range of whiskies named after him is to come to an end too in the near future. Cadenhead's was bought by Springbanks’s owners J&M Mitchell in 1979 and the business moved from Aberdeen to Campbeltown.
Back to the whiskies – a 43yo Glenlivet, which will sell for around £300 – but far cheaper than the distillery’s own bottlings – Mark points out that a 1980 Glenlivet own bottling will set you back £999 – and his is 10 years older. This is followed by a 1998 Bowmore – a 3 barrel batch again to be bottled at 46%, but sampled at 50%. Several voices suggest keeping it at the higher strength – Mark says he’ll consider it. The final dram is a 25yo 2 sherry butt bottling of Highland Park at 55.7%, which proves quite popular, but too sherried for my liking, so my vote goes for the Cameronbridge.
Time to give out a few more sips of Teaninich before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the final event of the Festival – the drams party in the whisky shop.
There’s some confusion as to the start time – I think it’s a 20:30 kick off, but things are underway when I pass by 15 minutes earlier, so quickly adjust my plans to get there before it gets too crowded.
On entry I’m entreated by Mike to take a mystery sample from a massive box he has – I pull out a fairly large bottle which is definitely a mystery as it has no label on it. Mike assures me it’s a single malt. Still have some left as I write this – nose is good, taste isn’t too inspiring, still it’s free!
The Whisky Shop Dufftown has more open bottles for tasting than any other whisky shop – either that or there are more on open display. And at the end of Festival there are plenty of interesting bottles to be sampled – someone’s been holding a supermarket own brands tasting somewhere, from the couple I tried, I can’t say I’m sad to have missed that one. Possibly unfair, as sometimes some great whiskies have been known to get into supermarket bottlings. The drams party is no place to take detailed notes – or even pictures of every bottle I’ve sampled. It is a good place to say goodbye to people for another year, and swap examples of what the worst whisky on offer might be. There are a couple that make the supermarket ones look good, but I can’t remember what they were to warn you against them! And only one comes close to the Dufftown Museum bottling of Speyside Distllery (see Sunday) and has to be consigned to the spittoon, though another was donated to the road before I spotted the spittoon.
Music suggestion for today – The Who’s “Welcome” from Tommy – “There’s more at the door”. “Come to this house, we’re drinking all night”. (On YouTube) OK well maybe not all night, but when proceedings do have to finish, the box of samples still hasn’t been emptied – and Mike wants rid of them – so I’m not the only one happy to oblige - could be some good stuff there when I get around to sampling them.
Pictures from Monday are on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynjenkins/sets/72157633438300789/