Tullibardine Distillery, Blackford, Perthshire, Scotland

My pair of trips to Perthshire in the past year afforded me time to visit distilleries that had managed to elude me. Chief among them was Tullibardine distillery, another of Scotland’s doughty distilleries that has withstood the trials of time, soldiering on despite the merry-go-round of owners and consumers’ vacillating tastes. If Tullibardine single malt isn’t familiar to you, there’s good reason: Throughout the 20th century Tullibardine’s whisky was destined primarily for blending, and the distillery was eventually mothballed in the 1990s, its stock left to age in barrels of perhaps questionable quality. But like many other Scottish distilleries, Tullibardine’s tale mirrors the myth of the Phoenix… Read more...

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The Orkney Distillery under construction, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Long ago, the vikings sailed the seas by line of sight, naming land masses, bays, and promontories by their physical appearance so that anyone could navigate the wild oceans to distant lands. In Orkney, a land with deep Norse roots, this system is readily apparent the moment you peer at a map of that northern Scottish archipelago: Deerness (a deer-shaped headland), Hamnavoe (safe harbor), and Kirkwall (church bay) appear amongst many other names. Such is the tale Stephen Kemp, founder of The Orkney Distillery, told me as we explored The Orkney Distillery’s construction site along the Bay of Kirkwall. I caught wind of The Orkney Distillery earlier this year during my stint working at Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire. Read more...

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Marking our Mark at Strathearn Distillery

Our last day of distillery school in Perthshire dawned a powder blue over Comrie town. Tony and the Strathearn boys had given us freedom to come in late, assuming, rightly, that the previous night would’ve been a late one.

In the shade of Comrie’s high street we stopped at the Comrie CafĂ© for a proper Scottish breakfast and recapped the various whiskies we’d tried the night before. Of the ridiculous number I imbibed, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Bruichladdich Port Charlotte stood out. Then, on our way back to the apartment, we stopped at the butcher and picked up a steak pie for dinner. Read more...

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A full barrel of Strathearn newmake

Jeff’s 30th birthday dawned with a splitting headache. It was no surprise — the Strathearn boys had done their damnedest to manifest this bleary morning. I lurched from bed and shuffled down Comrie’s high street to secure a couple of black pudding sausage rolls to take the edge off, and they did by god, they did.

It being Jeff’s birthday, Tony arranged for Stuart to pick us up and ferry us to the distillery for it was likely to be a long day with celebratory drinks as the nightcap. At eight in the morning I could hardly stomach the thought, but as I stepped into the stillhouse where Wee Erin and Bella the Stripper waited, I remembered there’s no rest for the wicked. Read more...

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Strathearn distillery's mash tun from the mezzanine

It was Wednesday morning, the start of our third day at Strathearn Distillery’s whisky school, and I was sore. Every muscle in my back was locked up and complaining about the dozens of 50lb bags of barley I’d hauled up the steps of the stillhouse yesterday. I ate a sausage roll, drank some coffee, and grinned. Learning a new career is always painful (I’ve learned three in the past seven years). The sun was shining in Comrie as we waited for Tony to pick us up. The Mad Men of Methven planned on delivering a salvo of tastings today and that meant no driving for us.

The whisky and gin would have to wait.

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