Third Whisky Trip to Scotland May 20 - May 29, 2019

“Drams Come True 2019 ”

Our 3rd Whisky Trip to Scotland May 20-29, 2019

The Trip.

On May 20, 2019 we took a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Aberdeen. We hired an almost new, fully automatic and extremely comfortable Mercedes for our tour. Steering Wheel on the "wrong" side of course. It took a little while to get used to that but it all went well in the end. From Aberdeen Airport we drove to Stonehaven for the night. On May 21 we visited the Fettercairn distillery in Fettercairn and the Royal Lochnagar distillery in Crathie. The next day we went on a long trip to Wick for a visit to the Old Pulteney distillery. On May 23 we took the ferry in Scrabster for a 90 minutes trip to Stromness on the Orkney isles where we visited the Scapa and Highland Park distilleries.

The following day we returned with the ferry to Scrabster for a visit to the nearby Wolfburn distillery. After that on our way for a long trip to Speyside. On May 25 we visited the well-known Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown. The next day we visited the new Macallan distillery in Craigellachie and the GlenDronach distillery in Forgue. On May 27 we went to Sandend for a visit to the Glenglassaugh distillery. On our last day in Speyside we visited the Knock Dhu distillery in Knock and the Glen Garioch distillery in Oldmeldrum. To finish the trip we had an Ardmore tasting in the Cave Bar of the Meldrum House Hotel. On May 29 we returned to Aberdeen for our return flight to Amsterdam.


We mainly stayed in B&B facilities and in a few hotels. Around noon we would always find a nice place to enjoy Soup of the Day with Bread. At night we would look for the best Pub in town for Beers, Whisky and Food. On May 20, we stayed at the Arduthie House B&B in Stonehaven and had dinner at The Marine Hotel Pub close to the harbour. The B&B was nice but we were unpleasantly surprised by a Power failure in the town making a hot shower impossible. The B&B itself is good and well-located and the people are very friendly.

On May 21 we stayed at the Deeside Inn in Ballater. It's a very typical and a bit worn-out British small-town hotel. The restaurant is quite good. Better reserve a table and don't wait too long with ordering as they run out of a few dishes very quickly. Their Haggish is perfect! On May 22 we slept at the Harbour House Bed and Breakfast in Wick. It was okay but I would not go back there.

On May 23 we booked a room at the Rosevale Guesthouse in Stromness on the isle of Orkney. This was the best venue of the trip and I can fully recommend it. The breakfast is okay but did not impress as much as room and bathroom. On May 24 and 25 we stayed at the very cosy Speybank B&B. The room is good, the breakfast is excellent and the owner really makes you feel at home. At night we went to the Highlander Inn for whisky and dinner.

A lot has changed there however since our last visit in 2014. The food is still OK but the size of the Whisky collection has diminished greatly. Most of the special bottles and Indie casks have gone and have been replaced by more common whiskies. A pity that! On May 24 we wanted to have dinner at the Craigellachie Hotel but they were fully booked. We ate at the Highlander Inn for lack of alternatives as it was pouring with rain. We then returned to the Quaich Bar at the hotel however and spend a few very pleasant Whisky hours there with our barman Angus.

On May 26 and 27 we stayed at the Hillview B&B in Huntley. The owners are nice but I would not go back there. Both nights we had diner at the excellent Indian restaurant Cafe India. Recommended! On our last night on the 28th we had booked an apartment next to the Morris hotel in Oldmeldrum. Lots of room! We had breakfast at a good bakery on the square. For dinner and an Ardmore tasting we went to the Cave Bar of the Meldrum House hotel. A very nice place situated in a large park that also contains a golf course. A perfect way to end this trip.

Distilleries and Tours.

Like we did during our last Tour we made a fun ranking of the visits to all the distilleries considering the quality, enthusiasm and knowledge of the Tour guide, the length and depth of the Tour, the Price/Quality of tours and samples and the charisma of the distillery. Although we did visit Wolfburn we didn't rate it as there is no official Visitor Centre and the Tour scheme did not match our trip schedule. I can tell you though that it's certainly worth a visit. The owner and his crew are very nice and the quality of the Whisky promises for the future! Here is the final table for this trip:

DistilleryTourguideTour  Price/Quality  Charisma  Total
GlenDronach1616  18  16  66
Glenfiddich1616  15  16  63
Glenglassaugh15.516  15  15  61.5

Highland Park1615.5  13  16.5  61
Old Pulteney1615.5  12.5  15  59.5
Scapa1414.5  14.5    15  58
Fettercairn12.514  16  15  57.5
Royal Lochnagar14.516  10  16  56.5
Glen Garioch1213  12  16  53
Knock Dhu11,512  13.5  15.5  52.5

The big winner this time was the GlenDronach distillery where we did the very nice Connaisseurs Experience Tour that costs 35 pounds. Not cheap but you get an excellent Tour that ended with a superb tasting of the whole distillery range provided at the impressive old Distillery House.

A very nice surprise was the Spirits of Innovation Tour at Glenfiddich that costs 25 pounds. Despite the massive number of visitors this Distillery maintains a high quality standard for their tours. The knowledge of the guide stood out here.

Another pleasant surprise was the Behind the Scenes Tours at Glenglassaugh. It costs 35 Pounds. It was just fun to be there and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit that ended with the beautiful view of the sea from the distillery grounds.

To conclude this part just a few remarks with respect to the other distilleries. Scapa was not in production during our visit and that has of course a negative impact on charisma of the  distillery at that moment. The staff was very nice though. Fettercairn and Knock Dhu are very nice but small distilleries that are not entirely prepared to receive visitors at this point. A pity as they are quite interesting in their own rights. The Viking Heroes Tour at Highland Park was okay despite the huge number of visitors but the drams were few and small. Old Pulteney is a very compact distillery and is certainly worth a visit. We did the Extra Tour there. And finally Royal Lochnagar. Next to Strathisla one of the most beautiful and picturesque distilleries I have visited so far. They also have an excellent Visitor Centre. What completely killed the Warehouse Experience Tour (25 pounds) was the small number of drams that only included one Royal Lochanar whisky namely the uninteresting 12 years. I have left my comments and hope the distillery will improve here. Because otherwise it's a great place to be and you should certainly go there if you can. It's next to the Balmoral Castle so you can combine the visits.

If the above is applicable to you, you should not visit Scotland. We had only two reasonable days this time and for the rest there was rain, rain and rain. It's not that essential when you're on a Whisky trip but it does make the days a bit gloomy. Be sure to take a pill as well if you have a sensible stomach if you're taking the ferry to Orkney. The ride can be a bit rough at times!

But other than that it was another great whisky trip to Scotland together with my dutch brother in law Jan Bronkhorst who took all the pictures again. Thanks for that! Look forward to our next whisky trip that could well be to Ireland!


Jan van den Ende                                                                  August 15, 2019


No comments: