The heart of Speyside has always been spiritual. Amid these emerald woods and quiet burns, the druids of eons past were said to have marked the crossing of ley lines with their typically stark and enduring monuments, inscrutable to our dull modern eyes. Christianity followed suit, perhaps to capitalize on the hidden wells of power or to erase the specter of its blasphemous precursors. A new religion now crowds out the Torula-blackened gravestones and awakens spirits from rest well-deserved. Distillation. Here, in The Glenrothes’ stillhouse, is the Cathedral of Speyside, a house of worship built of monolithic and gleaming copper pillars.
Massive boilers droned beneath the towering stills and filled the arched room with a cloying, tropical humidity. Vapor-stained glass windows sucked in light from white clouds as I drifted among the unfathomable fabrications. Up a set of stairs, the stillman, at a lectern of sorts, converted grain into liquor. Alchemy. Magic. Godhood? I stopped and gazed into the spirit safe. A gush of clear “water” poured into bowls behind the glass. Whisky – Uisge Beatha – the water of life. The gustatory sensation of whisky is ascendance, but I’ve stared into too many empty glasses to forget the face of descent.