Five years ago, almost to the day, I was mid-way through my inaugural visit to Scotland. On that Sunday I journeyed by car and ferry from Islay to Campbeltown, on the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula. Now, on this Sunday, I fly from Boston to Glasgow for my long-overdue return to the heartland of Europe’s distilling industry.
Springbank’s Whisky School was the impetus for the original pilgrimage. With one week already occupied, I only had to plan out an itinerary for the other week that I added on to the trip. A stay on Islay was an obvious choice since I’d be driving right past the ferry terminal as I made my way south. Wanting to see something a little off the beaten path (in terms of whisky tourism at least), I soon decided to spend a few nights in Tobermory (with its namesake distillery), on the Isle of Mull. A few distillery tours and a night in Oban on the way there rounded out my plans and then I just had to make a schedule of tours for the days on Islay.
This time around it was a little different; I was starting with a blank slate. The only must-see distilleries for me were Edradour and Glenfarclas. With so many options available and a full two weeks to work with, I found myself in a terrible state of indecisiveness. I considered focusing almost exclusively on Speyside, but I soon realized that even though the area is dense with distilleries, many of them do not offer tours. Feeling the need for some structure to work around, I finally opted to include an island expedition. The general plan was to head north, so all the way to the Orkney Islands I would go.
After that it was just a matter of planning out a route north that would allow me to tour a few distilleries each day while not involving more than a few hours of driving between the overnight stays. Once I got back to the mainland I could camp out in Speyside for several days, then finally head south for one last night closer to the airport.
Countless hours were spent pouring over distillery web sites to find tour schedules, getting drive times from Google maps, reserving appropriate lodging, booking ferry travel and even researching some non-whisky related tourism. It got a bit overwhelming at points, but I think I’ve put together an itinerary that would make Alfred Barnard proud.
My intent is make daily posts on the blog, but not to spend too much time writing. I’m hoping to put up a brief recap of each day; where I went, what I saw and did, and most importantly what I drank, along with a few photos. In the ensuing months I’ll follow up with posts that go into much greater detail. I’ll be visiting distilleries that are very well-known as well as some that keep a much lower profile. I also have a few special tours lined up that I’m really excited about. I hope you’ll follow along.