In case it started raining again, I'd decided to go via the Speyside Way (tree cover) and the Telford Bridge. It didn't rain and the Speyside Way was fine as far as Craigellachie - shoulda hit the road then, instead I got very muddy - clearly drainage not good on this bit.
Made good time through Rothes to Speyburn - I'd never gone this way before, I guess I'd assumed it was just a road to the distillery. I now think it must have been the original road, but a search for old maps still shows what is now the A941 as the main road in 1856, so either I've got that wrong or not been able to go back far enough.
Whatever, it's a nicer road to ride than the A941 - as far as it goes, which is not all that far along Rothes Glen. Even allowing for a stop for some pics of Speyburn, I'd underestimated the length of the section to Coleburn and it was soon clear that I wouldn't make it to Elgin in 90 minutes - good job I'd allowed 2 hours. Cresting the hill past Coleburn it's clear that the Moray Firth is sunny - and a lighthouse gleams in the distance. A quick look at the map shows thay my initial thought of Chanonry Point is entirely the wrong direction, but surely Tarbat Ness (near Portmahomack) is too far? The sun actually shines on me, briefly, near BenRiach, but I'm soon in not so sunny Elgin and heading for the first tasting of the day and Gordon and MacPhail.
Afterwards in the shop I met Richard and Ronnie who've been at the tasting and played a part in selecting a previous bottling in the Exclusive range. Ronnie also has a sample of his own blend "Glen Gowan" - a first attempt with a kit from Master of Malt. It won't have Johnnie Walker quaking in their boots, but it's an interesting experiment - and considerably better than my efforts at a Whisky Lounge Whisky School, and at a Compass Box masterclass.
the afternoon is devoted to a Manager's Tour at Glen Moray with Graham Coull, who explains the expansion of the distillery to six stills and 3.3m litres production last year and the plans for a further massive expansion to 9m litres production capability. All this to satisfy the needs of French blend Label 5 (another web site that promises to come back soon). It's not marketed in the UK so you may not have heard of it before, but the parent company La Martiniquaise are investing heavily at Glen Moray and Starlaw (the new Grain distillery near Livingston) so as to become as self sufficient as possible for producing their blend.
Although it might have been interesting to sample this young blend that the French love, it was probably fortunate that there was none available.
Instead we were able to sample a rum finished cask in the warehouse, and then a range of cask samples in the visitor centre. The rum cask was superb, as were the others on offer - bourbon from 1998 and 1994 and various finishes in Sherry, Port and Madeira - together with the peated Glen Moray which has just become whisky - another distillation at the behest of the new owners, but a very promising dram.
Not too much detail here as I had a difficult choice to make - continue sampling for another half hour or so and ride 18 miles back to Dufftown in the rain, or catch the 16.09 to Keith to connect with the final Keith to Dufftown train of the day. I chose the latter - but it's clear that Glen Moray have a lot of good casks lying around in the warehouses. Hopefully some will find their way into bottles soon.
Following an encounter with a cyclist who was trying to get her bike off the train at least 30 seconds before I and everyone else from Elgin got on board - she didn't make it (not my fault I hasten to add, but there was a train back to Elgin from Keith in less than 10 minutes). Should I add advice to the trains section of the site to get ready to get off in good time or is that just plain common sense - for most people?
10 minutes proved ample time to get to Keith Town station and get the bike aboard - in the guard's area (you may be old enough to be able to remember such things). Making my way to the back of the train I met Colin Mackenzie @, Whisky Historian and Antique Bottle Collector (who's also converting a property near Dufftown for self catering accommodation) and two friends, who've been on a special tour of Strathisla, that sounds like it should be investigated in future years - it included a tasting of long closed Glen Ugie!
Probably a little more to follow - and pictures as well, but I need another dram for now.
A brief visit to the Royal Oak for a pint and a dram. Jan from Douglas Laing is in there - still from Douglas Laing as it transpires, as he tells me that there's been a parting of the ways between Fred and Stewart and they now have separate companies with a share of the brand names. Teun from Maltstock and Mark Watt from Cadenheads appear in the pub later on, but I'm knackered.
Pictures from today are on Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynjenkins/sets/72157633399245195