Posted by: macafla | March 10, 2010


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



  1. Man, nice story… be careful not to become an alcoholic!

    I will be very happy if you bring with you a Black Isle back to CH (better than any software, hehehe).


  2. Cheers mate!

    Great to see that you are enjoying yourself 😉

    Drop me a line if time allows – I know you are very busy checking out hot chicks and excellent booze.

    Have fun,

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