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Follow the trail until you come to a road, then look for a tall chimney. These were the instructions Alistair, an ex-Royal Navy submariner, gave me as we parted ways at the old railway path on the outskirts of Pencaitland. I trudged down the muddy trail, keeping my head bent into the erratic winds and brief, icy showers and wondered when I’d see a road. The things I do for whisky.
He must have felt sorry for me.
Earlier, in the small town of Pencaitland, I had asked the bus driver if it was the right stop for Glenkinchie Distillery, uncertainty plain in my voice. Alistair, then an unknown senior stepping off the bus, shared a gap-toothed grin with me, proclaimed his “local” status, and offered to show me a shortcut to the distillery. I had been planning to take a taxi, but you don’t turn down offered help – especially from a friendly local. A taxi would cost me £15-20, he said, and by his logic that made Britain the worst country in the world. I’m an agreeable lad so I hopped off the bus and hurried to keep pace with Alistair’s jaunty gait.
Whisky? No no, Alistair was more of a rum man. Caught a taste for the stuff in the ports of the world: Samoa, the Philippines, Australia. Once he’d gotten lost in Hawaii until some American servicemen helped him back to his sub. Rum. I shivered, mostly because I detest rum but also because the weather, the old seadog exclaimed, was positively Baltic. It was a term I’d hear repeatedly on my three weeks in Edinburgh, and it was accurate. Today especially.
Alistair pointed out his home and deflected my exhortations that he go there as we continued off road to an elevated path. The old railway. Follow the path until you come to a road, then look for a tall chimney. When you’re done, come back the same way and you’ll be fine. He shook my hand, waved, and turned his silver head back the way we’d come. The directions were noticeably lacking in distances. I hurried down the path fearing the cost of the taxi ride might have been justified.
Will I find the distillery? Go to the next page!