Posted by: macafla | March 10, 2010

Whisky!!!!

Some time has passed since my last post, this is because I was very busy with university work 😉 But now I will tell you about my weekend, on which I went on a whisky trip with the  University of Aberdeen Malt Whisky Society. If I had to describe the trip in one word it would be: “epic

Friday

Knockdhu Distillery – anCnoc

After about one hour in the minibus we arrive at the Knockdhu distillery, located at the foot of anCnoc (pronounced: a-nock). The distillery is certainly one of the best I have ever seen. It is very small and cosy, the perfect location to produce a great whisky. Gordon, the manager himself accompanied by his two dogs, and Ally give us a tour through the distilling facilities. They explain every step of the process with great passion and I can tell that they love working there.

After the tour the best part of the visit was up, tasting the famous liquids of anCnoc. In a lovely living room like ambiance Gordon and Ally give us an insight to their treasures. My favorite was the 1994, which was bottled in 2008 and has rich golden colour. The nose is intense, slightly woody with hints of vanilla and toffee. Taste is full-bodied, has a slight peatiness, with fruity overtones. A great whisky, I have to buy a bottle. After the tasting we head back to the bus for a short ride to Huntly.

The warehouse where the anCnoc whisky is sleeping

Duncan Taylor Bottling Plant & Whisky Shop

What you can’t see in most distilleries is how the whisky is bottled, to fill this gap of knowledge we got a tour to Duncan Taylor’s bottling halls. Again this is a very small establishment but very charismatic, there are leaks in the roof  patched with duct tape and plastic. In the halls were a few whisky casks stored and lots of bottled whisky was prepared to be sent to the whole wide world.

Duncan Taylor does a lot of things in these small halls, of course they bottle whisky but they do it in very different ways. Duncan Taylor does bottling for distilleries and other customers and most important they bottle their own whisky which is labeled Duncan Taylor. There are for example single cask bottlings and special single malt bottlings.

Old Selection

We head back to the whisky shop where we will taste some more whisky. The shop is the perfect location to have a dram or two, the first one was an Arran a single malt, the second was a Black Bull 12 year old a blended whisky. While browsing the shop I’m tempted to spend huge loads of money, luckily I regain control over myself and leave the shop without a new bottle. I’m sure I will go there at least once again.

Glenfarclas

After another drive and a power nap we leave the bus on the parking of Glenfarclas distillery. About half a meter snow lies on the grounds, an exceptional view. Glenfarclas is a whole different type of distillery than Kockdhu, although it is a family owned business it is huge. They have a visitor centre, with a beautiful reception and an even better tasting room. But before we can taste a sip we have to do the tour. On the tour the differences become even more apparent, everything is bigger and automated. Anyway, it is interesting to see how they do it.

Glenfarclas Visitor Centre

Back in the stunning tasting room we get to drink the standard 10 year old Glenfarclas whisky. It is light and fruity, it’s a shame they gave us only one glass. Mark buys some whisky marmalade and honey as well, it will be the perfect whisky tour breakfast.

Inverness Hostel & Pub

On the road again! After a long long ride and a stop for dinner we finally arrive at the hostel in Inverness. The hostel exceeds all our expectations, but we don’t stay long the pub is waiting already. A very nice pub indeed, even a young Scottish band is playing a mixture of modern rock and traditional Scottish music. Several of our group buy the CD (we had to listen to it for the rest of the weekend in the minibus) for 5£ it was a steal. Even better than the music they played was the beer they serve, it is called Black Isle and they offered several kinds: Blonde, Red Kite Ale, Wheat Beer and my favourite the Heather Honey Beer. Unfortunately I forgot the name of the pub, why can that be??? Maybe it was the “Heather Honey”, but in the same building one floor above is another pub called “The Mad Hatter”. If you want to go there just ask for that one and stay on the ground floor. Because they close at midnight some of us go upstairs into the “Mad Hatter” since it is open until 2 a.m.. I don’t if it was a good thing that they closed so early, I wanted to stay longer but in the morning I was quite happy about it.

Saturday

Loch Ness

After some toast topped with the Glenfarclas whisky honey we hit the road for Loch Ness. At the Loch we board a boat to hunt the monster, the boat goes to the castle and back. It is a beautiful tour, the perfect thing to do in between our whisky tastings. All in all there’s nothing spectacular to write, therefore just enjoy the pictures.

Black Isle Brewery

Remember the bear I wrote about? The beer was such excellent that we decided to go and visit the brewery, it is literally in  the middle of nowhere. That must be their secret. The brewery consists of a shop (which is almost the biggest part) a shed where they brew the beer and a bottling room. In this small facility they produce up to 10’000 bottles of beer a week, unbelievable.

This is where all takes place

Some of the excellent beers

In the shop we have a taste of the different kinds of beer, it is a surprisingly big variety. Nearly no one can resist and has to buy some beer and  a t-shirt as well. Even the sun seems to be pleased by the brewery, as she peeks out between the clouds and starts to smile. Wonderful.

Glen Grant

After Loch Ness and some beer it is time for whisky. The next destination is Glen Grant Distillery located near Glenfarclas which we visited yesterday. Since most of us are starving we have to eat a bite prior to taking the tour or drinking whisky. All there is are pancakes and scones. I decide in favour of the pancake accompanied by a black coffee. It was probably the best coffee I had in Scotland and it is a distillery not a cafe. Quite ironic isn’t it? Anyway the tour is the same procedure as every year, James.

Tasting Room

Eventually we get into the tasting room, the first whisky of the day is waiting for us. The room is very modern and an awesome table is situated in the middle, everyone fits on it. First the lady offers us a 10 year old Glen Grant, which is similar to the Glenfarclas but not totally. The great thing is that bottles of a cheaper Glen Grant whisky are already standing on the table and we are allowed to serve ourselves. By the time we leave everyone is walking like a sailer on solid ground after three months on sea.

Jimmy Chung’s & Pub

Dinner is very much to my likings, that’s why it is worth be mentioned here. At Jimmy Chung’s we get an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet, because the food is so good I over eat myself. The price was also very good (ca. 11£) and during the week it is even cheaper.

The night is then pretty much the same as the last, except that pubs are different. In the second one we crash a birthday party of some women, but no one seems to care and we stay until it’s time to go home. Back at the hostel we don’t feel like sleeping and we have an after party with some Black Isle beer.

Sunday

Glenfiddich & Whisky Shop Dufftown

I know it is not the best whisky they mature in Glenfiddich distillery, but it is one of the (if not the) biggest distilleries in Scotland and they open up only for us. Exceptional about the tour is that we can smell three casks directly, a very special experience. As most of the big distilleries we only get one dram to taste, we can chose between 12, 15 and 18 years of age. I go for the 18 year old, what else. It is quite good, but I wouldn’t pay the price they want for this whisky. unfortunately the battery of my camera was flat by that time, that means no pictures from here on. Next time I will remember to charge it before I go on a trip.

In Dufftown we visit a whisky shop which again opened up only for us. As a welcome the owner offers us a Morlach, if I remember it correctly. It had an amazing nose and full bodied taste, a very good whisky. The shop is full of good stuff, especially the selection of Glenmorangie catches my eye. I get a taste of the Nectar D’Or which is ten years old and then extra matured in sauterne barriques, the taste is spectacular. I never had a whisky like this before, I will get a bottle of this before I leave. In the end I buy a 18 year old Glenlivet.

Castle Huntly Hotel

Since our society captain knows the bartender, we pay a visit to the Castle Huntly Distillery Bar where they offer 140 malt whiskies. The bar looks like it was taken out of a movie or something, it is inviting you to sit down beside the fire and try every single one of the 140 whiskies. I ask the bartender for a 12 year old Balvenie, but he won’t give it to me because he thinks that he should give me a 21 year old for the same price. The whisky is just exceptional, if you get the chance to, try one. There’s only time left for one dram more, because we have to be back at 7 for the Machar Tasting. I have another whisky and off we go, could have spent a lot more time in the bar, restaurant, bar and hotel.

Island Tasting @ St. Machar

To finish the weekend I join the tasting at the ST. Machar Bar. There are four whiskies awaiting us: Macallan 10 Year, Highland Park 12 Year, Scapa 15 Year and Jura Superstition. All of them where great and I was surprised by the Scapa  which had a very rich flavour. Also the Jura was excellent, it is hard to tell which was the best. If I could choose a bottle it would be the Scapa.

Ufff, finally the weekend is brought down into bits and bytes. Hope you enjoyed reading.

Thanks to everyone on the trip, the organisers, distilleries and shop owners. It was a great weekend.

Posted by: macafla | February 24, 2010

Stonehaven & Dunnottar Castle

Stonehaven is a small village near Aberdeen, it is supposed to be a good beginners trip like us. We decided to go there on Saturday the 20th February at noon, sounded like a good plan. If there just wasn’t this tiny little detail.

It’s the 19th and I am sitting in class, it’s my only class today so I’m fine. After the class, Alex and me want to go shopping but there is an awful amount of snow falling down. We change the plan and just go to buy some food, you can’t do serious shopping with that much snow on the streets. Nevermind, we do the groceries then. Groceries included a bottle of Bacardi and Whisky as well. Since the girls are having a girls dinner we decided to do the same, and have gentlemen evening with good food and several drinks (that’s what we needed Bacardi and Whisky for). A flat party is also up this night, now you might be able to guess it what direction it is going and you are right. The night ends in my kitchen with a small after party (only 3 of us were left), but we were in good shape.

Saturday one hour to noon, I’m in my bed and feel still drunk from the last night. I know I should get up and ready for the trip but it takes some time to get out of bed. When I open the curtains I’m thrilled, the sky is blue and not the slightest sign of a cloud. This sight was motivating enough to get me to the meeting point by noon. When I arrive there two friends are already waiting (obviously they had a much quieter night), there are still 5 missing. Alex arrives a little later I decide to call Jesus:

Me: “Where are you?”

Jesus: “In my bed why?”

Me: “Aren’t you coming to Stonehaven?”

Jesus: “When?”

Me: “Now!”

Jesus: “Shit, ok I’ll be there in a sec…..”

One of the best calls I’ve ever had. Jesus is still not the last, one of the girls had a little trouble with some contents of her belly which wanted to get out there. But still we make it to the bus with “only” half an hour delay, we have to wait another hour for the train. In the train I realize that it was worth to get up today despite the hangover and tiredness, the view over the coast is amazing. After 15 minutes we are already in Stonehaven, we have two goals: Visit Dunnottar Castle and eat the supposedly best Fish ‘n’ Chips of Scotland. To reach the castle we have to walk 2.5 miles along the coast, the walk wouldn’t have been tough if there wasn’t this hangover. But the walk is beautiful as a walk can be, enough said here are the pictures.

Fish ‘n’ Chips in The Bay were good, the fish was excellent but I’ve had better chips in McDonalds. Next time I’ll have another fish instead of chips 😉

Posted by: macafla | February 17, 2010

Campus

Instead of writing about the campus I just took some pictures.

Posted by: macafla | February 16, 2010

Surfing in Abrdeen

When I learned that there’s a surf club here in Aberdeen, I was amazed. These guys must be crazy, surfing at these temperatures. So I had to try this and joined the surf club. On Saturday the 6th the first surf session was going to take place, so I had to get up and be at the meeting point at 11. Still a little bit drunk from yesterday, this may have been just right, I went there with Kali.

By the time everyone was there, we grabbed a 5mm wetsuit, shoes and a surf board. Unfortunately there were no gloves and hoods left, these are not so important anyway. A short bus ride to the beach and off again, now I was to discover the second worst part of surfing in Aberdeen. Changing into the wetsuit, outside in the wind of course. I didn’t dare to think of the worst part, which was changing back into your clothes again in the wind but when you are wet.

In the water it isn’t cold, except for my hands. I couldn’t feel them anymore after the first 20 minutes. Luckily we get a second instruction ashore, time to warm up a little. Although warming up is a little far-fetched since it is not warmer in the wind. I give it a second try anyway, back into the water!

Surfing is so much fun, I can’t imagine how it would be in Hawaii or Australia where girls surf in their bikinis. These kind of thoughts keep me warm in the cold sea of Scotland (4°C according to the internet). I even manage to stand on my board for a little time, just great! I like this sport, but it’s so exhausting and my hands nearly fall off. So I decide to call it a day and go ashore.

Changing back was really cold but it could have been worse. Now the second most important part of the session is up. Lunch at the Bobbin!!! Yeah I’m so hungry I could eat at least one cow. A Burger and a couple of beers have to do aswell 😉

Posted by: macafla | February 9, 2010

First Week Summary (Part 2)

It’s Wednesday 12 pm and I am attending my first lecture in Aberdeen, fortunately it only lasts for half an hour and my day is done, great! So I’m off for lunch and later heading back to the accommodation campus, in the evening are several society meetings. Societies are a big thing and good chance to meet people in an informal way, I signed up for the International Society, the Malt Whisky Society and today I’m going to join the Aberdeen University Surf Club.

On Thursday I should make my experiences with british women, now if I knew this before I would probably have stayed home that night. So there we are, sitting in the Bobbin (closest pub to campus) drinking beer. The initial plan was to go there have a few drinks and then check out some club, we stick to the plan except for the ‘few’. By the time we leave the pub no more buses are going to the city and since we didn’t know where the clubs are we just called a taxi. The driver dropped us in front of the Pearl Lounge, entrance is 4 £ and the club is not even half full. Anyway, the drinks are cheap 90 p for a Screwdriver although you have to consider that it contains only 25 ml of Vodka. The three of us are sitting there drinking, having no bad thoughts and suddenly it happens.

All goes very fast and before we know what is happening to us each of us has a girl sitting next him. These girls knew their business, they just blocked the way out of the couch with their massive bodies. We try everything to get rid of them, but there is no chance. One girl even tries to make me more drunk by offering her Vodka-Coke to me, that was the point when started to feel a bit uncomfortable. Even a cigarette break does not help, one girl stays inside with Lukas aka Jesus and the other two are coming with me and Alex for a smoke. Now the whole ceremony is about to reach its peak, when we return from outside I try to tak to Lukas to give him a break from the girl. Then Lukas’ girl turns around and whispers in my ear: “I think you should love XY(name known to the author)”, seeing the expression on my face she then quickly corrects her self: “Not love, but at least kiss her.”. That was too much, I tell her that there is no way this is going to happen. This is the tipping point, the girls seem confused and reassemble to chat together. This is our chance we escape the club and jump into the next taxi, since we have to process the latest happenings we drink a bottle of wine at Alex’ place.

I am afraid to open my eyes on Friday morning, because I was expecting a quite evil hangover. Nothing, well this must be the sea breeze, I could get used to it. So I’m for a lecture, it is a level 4 lecture so I hoped it would be more interesting than the last one. But no, lecturer explains how to do a presentation, I don’t know who many times I have heard this before. I spend the afternoon searching the city for floorball shoes, or something similar…. without success.  But the evening was promising a friend from Czech Republic invited us to her flat for dinner. The dinner consists of strawberry dumplings topped with cottage cheese, butter and sugar. It tasted more like a desert for what I’m used to, but I loved having a desert as a main course. For the right finishing Kali even served an original home made ‘Slivovitza’ (I don’t how to write it, but I guess you understand). We just stay Kali’s kitchen until 2 o’clock drinking and talking, it was such a lovely evening thank you again Kali!

Posted by: macafla | February 8, 2010

Interlude: Scottish Food

I just have to tell clarify some things about the broadly spread prejudices. After I tried Haggis and Stovies on the Céilidh and really liked it, I was more than impressed. The food may not be as sophisticated as the French or Italian ones but was definitely delicious. That’s not all though, I realised today, that the lunch in the students mensa is way better than in Zürich and I don’t just say that! The choice of menus is large and they really know how to cook Chinese and Mexican meals. The Italian counter is quite not real Italian but neither is the Pasta served in Zürich. Even prices are about the same in Aberdeen as in Zürich.

Just had to shout this out, because what I heard before is not true.

Cheers!

Posted by: macafla | February 7, 2010

First Week Sumary (Part 1)

After extensive consideration I decided to switch to the English language, I was asked to so by friends who don’t speak german at all. People back home will understand anyway, so why not. Now I will share my experiences from the first week here.

The first two days were not exactly what I call relaxing, but anyway I got through. It was not easy getting organised, there still are many things of an administrative nature to get done. Anyway this is probably not what you want to hear, so let’s tell you about the fun part.

Tuesday evening was big freshers event called ‘Céilidh’, this is a traditional Scottish dance party and I heard that they are great fun. So I convinced my friends from the taxi to join me, which wasn’t a very difficult task because some of them wanted to go anyway. The whole thing starts at 7:30 pm, it’s not what continental Europeans are used to but we showed up that early nonetheless.

It turned out that coming early was the right decision, as the doors open we get to taste two whiskies and some strange orange lemonade. Since the lemonade looks kind of radio-active I decide to stick with the whisky, they offer Laphroiag and Macallen. Fortunately we can taste them several times, because you can not experience the full taste with only one sip. Suddenly the band starts to play and everyone is rushing to the dance floor, and I have the feeling that we should join the fun. The Scottish dances are not quite the same as in central europe, the only thing I know that comes closest is probably square dance but still it’s very different. The band is giving instructions, grab a partner and line up next to each other in a huge circle. That was the easy part. The steps weren’t actually difficult, but since everyone has to the same at the verx same time, it is quite challenging. Especially with so many beginners. The Céilidh turns out to be so much fun, I couldn’t have imagined. After the first dance session, we get some realScottish food: ‘Stovies’ and the famous ‘Haggis’. There are several roumors discrediting the Scottish ‘cuisine’ but I must admit I like the food. We are having some more of the Scottish liquids and dances. At around 11 pm party ends and everybode is kicked out, the bouncers are totally strict no way we can have another drink. That’s it then, it was lovely evening and tomorrow I will appreciate the strictness of the bouncers, when I’ll realise that my head is not hurting at all.

to be continued….

Posted by: macafla | February 3, 2010

Aufbruch nach Aberdeen

Nach einer Woche, welche in erster Linie von Abschiedsdrinks gekennzeichnet war, hiess Sonntag 05:00 Abfahrt zum Flughafen. Die verschneiten Strassen stellten erstaunlicherweise kein Hindernis dar, auch Chek-In, Pass- und Sicherheitskontrollen waren schnell hinter mich gebracht. Jetzt noch schnell die letzte Zigarette in der Raucherkabine geniessen, nur mit Genuss hat das nun wirklich nicht mehr viel zu tun. Obwohl dieses Ding aus Glas war konnte man schon Morgens um 06:30 nicht mehr hindurch sehen, dafür tropft der Teer schon fast von der Decke. Egal Zigarette musste einfach sein, schliesslich war es die letzte für einige Stunden. Schnell in den Flieger und schlafen war angesagt.

Ankuft in London Heathrow: unglaubliches Wetter und ein sagenhafter Blick über die Stadt, wow! Die schöne Stimmung war schnell vorbei, als ich nach wiederholten Sicherheits-Ritualen feststellen muss, dass mein Anschlussflug schon vor 20 Minuten abhob. Der nächste geht in ca. 5 Stunden, ok erstmal eine rauchen…. wird nix in Heathrow gilt absolutes rauchverbot, das würden 5 extrem harte Stunden werden. Immerhin bleibt mir Zeit das Australian Open Final zu sehen und dabei ein Bier zu trinken. Die Engläder schauen mich zwar immer wieder komisch an wenn ich für ihren Feind applaudiere, aber ein paar Westschweizer tun dasselbe von daher kein Problem. Leider war der Match schon viel zu früh fertig und dann hiess es Zeit totschlagen.

Glücklicherweise klappt im zweiten Anlauf alles und ich stehe 16:30 in Aberdeen, mein neuer lieblings Flughafen. Anstelle von Zollkontrollen gibt es auf dem ca. 200 Meter langen Weg zur Gepackrückgabe nur 2 Restaurants und das wars. Die Gepäckrückgabe ist gleich neben dem Ausgang, die beste Zigarette seit ich mich erinnern kann wartete draussen. Ich teile mir ein Taxi mit 3 anderen Studenten, zusammen fahren wir durch das Schneegestoeber zum Campus.

An der Campus Reception wollen mir die Schotten zuerst nicht helfen weil ich Schweizer bin und ein gewisser Schweizer ihrem Tennisstar eine vernichtende Niederlage beschert hat. Weil ich so sympathisch bin geben kriege ich trotzdem meine Key-Card, die wie ich spaeter feststellen musste nicht funktioniert. Auch dieses Problem ist nach einem Telefonat und einigen Minuten behoben, jetzt noch das erste Bier auf schottischem Boden und eine portion Fish & Chips mit meinen Taxifreunden.

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