27 September 2014

Travel Whisky

I've been living out of a suitcase for much of the last year, and having a good Travel Whisky has helped me feel a bit more at home. Especially for extended stays, I like being able to crack open a nice bottle with friends and kick back.

The Balvenie Triple Cask 12 was my Travel Whisky of choice for my late summer trip to LA and Kansas, and it really delivered for taste and good value - the Travel Exclusive bottling is 1L! It has the smooth and mellowness you expect from a Balvenie with a little bit of spice and dried herbs. It is a nice all-rounder you can enjoy before dinner on a walk around the garden or as a tot before turning in for bed. 

10 June 2014

Whisky for Mother's Day (I know, its June!)




Why don’t I get cool emails like this for Mother’s Day? Rather than flowers, chocolates, and spa day advertisements, I’d much rather have my inbox filled with promos for which whiskies I could be sipping after a wild day of toddler birthday parties and chasing little people around the park.



This got me thinking about what my Mother’s Day picks would be....













Tomintoul 16
It isn’t known as “the gentle dram” for nothing -  it is smooth and mellow and hopefully you will be too after a dram!


Anything from Springbank
I love that Springbank is still owned by its founding family, malts all of its barley requirements using locally cut peat and bottles on-site. And they put out some tasty bottles indeed.


GlenDeveron 20
I’ve been on a serious GlenDeveron kick since I discovered it in the Glasgow airport last August. Glen Deveron is produced by the Macduff distillery, located on the ancient River Deveron. Stephanie Macleod is the Master Blender for John Dewar and Sons - only the seventh person in the company’s 160-year history to hold that title -  and the first female.



Lagavulin 16
Lagavulin is my after-dinner “smoke”. I’m not a smoker, so I can’t really speak from experience, but it does seem to scratch that post-dessert itch with its richness and complexity.



What would be on your Mother's or Father's Day wish list? 


29 April 2014

Speyside Soujourn – Part II

Last year, I wrote about some of my favourite distillery tours in Speyside in the lead up to the annual Spirit of Speyside whisky festival. There is so much to do in Speyside in addition to the obvious attraction of whisky, so I thought I would give you a rundown of some of my favourite non-whisky activities and eats in the area. In the last few years, Mr Whisky and I have visited the area 5-6 times, and while we always try a few new things, there are some tried and true favourites that just shouldn't be missed. 


DO

Hiking trails, including the Speyside Way, take you through all types of countryside from the open coastlands, through farm and forest in the Spey valley and over high mountain passes towards the wilderness of the Cairngorm Mountains. The Dufftown & Keith Walks map 13 different walks ranging from 2km to 12.5km. The Glenlivet Estate also has a network of well-marked trails, including the “George Smith Smugglers Trail” that starts at the distillery car park.

If you’re inclined to drive, the Coastal Trail is a journey through some of Europe’s most unspoiled and picturesque coastline. 

If history and castles are your thing, then you won’t be disappointed. The ruins of Balvenie Castle are just across the road from the Glenfiddich distillery and near Dufftown. A few miles/kilomters away, the ruins of the impressive Auchindoun Castle are reachable via a short walk up a track and over fields, and Huntly Castle is just about 30 minutes from Dufftown.

If your travels take you further afield, Ballindalloch Castle (north of Inverness) has an amazing falconry display that is well worth the extra distance north – and the coastal drive is stunning. And of course, Balmoral – Scottish home to the royal family - is about 1.5 hours drive from Dufftown.

The Spirit of Speyside Festival also hosts some fabulous musical talents and several communities hold traditional Ceilidhs for those who want to kick up their heels.  

Aberlour Ceilidh, May 2013

EAT

I have had some of the best meals in Scotland with the most hospitable company. The uninitiated who love to disparage Scottish fare are sorely misinformed.

In my opinion no trip to Speyside is complete without at least one meal at the MashTun in Aberlour. And while you’re in town, enjoy a walk along the riverside and stop into the Spey Larder on the Aberlour High Street to stock up on picnic supplies, wonderful freshly ground coffee and other local culinary surprises.

The Malt Barn Restaurant at the Glenfiddich distillery serves excellent seasonally-inspired food in a beautiful setting.

Mr Whisky and our friends have always enjoyed an authentically local dinner at Taste of Speyside, run by owner and creative chef Sandy Smart. And if you’re doing your own cooking or grilling, the best meat can most certainly be found at the butcher in Dufftown, situated just across the street from the the clock tower.

Don’t forget to sample some of the shortbread the area is famous for. Walkers Shortbread is head-quartered right in the heart of Speyside in Aberlour (no tours unfortunately, owing to quality assurance practices), and Deans of Huntly is just a short drive away offering a small glimpse into the manufacturing process and a cafe. Walkers Shortbread was founded by Joseph Walker in 1898 and today his grandchildren and great grandchildren carry forward the baking tradition with shortbreads, biscuits, cakes and oatcakes. My favourite are the Stem Ginger Biscuits - lovely with a cup of tea and just as nice with a dram of Speyside whisky  – what are your favorites?

Have a great visit to Speyside!

21 November 2013

Ms Whisky's Wishlist: Whisky Advent Calendar

Oh my! I found the inspiration to kick off this year's wishlist: a Whisky Advent Calendar. You get a different 3cl dram of whisky behind each of the twenty-four doors - a brilliant way to count down to Christmas and bring some cheer to the short December days. 

Photo from notonthehighstreet.com

This looks like a great opportunity to try some whiskies that I would not normally try, such as some of the Japanese brands and blends.

Have you been extra good this year? A Premium Whisky Advent Calendar is now available. 

Dearest Dr Whisky - are you reading this? 



The Advent calendar is also available through the Times Whisky Club and NotOnTheHighStreet.com.

01 September 2013

You're going where?

I traveled to Glasgow for business this week, and it was the first time I actually stayed in the city rather than passing through its airport or train station. Glasgow doesn't usually feature on most people’s “must see” list, so I didn't know what to expect other than a typically warm Scottish welcome. The friendliness reminded me why my Midwestern heart feels right at home in Scotland, and I think participants and spectators of next year’s Commonwealth Games will be happily surprised by what the city can offer.

Fortunately, I was able to get out one night for a glimpse of the city’s West End and join a few colleagues at the Drake Bar & Restaurant. The pub has a cozy atmosphere with nice touches like tweed covered chairs and booths. Although the whisky menu isn't extensive it covers all of the basics, and sipping my Ardbeg 10 brought to mind why Ardbeg is Jim Murray’s favorite dram. It is a warm and smooth dram with smokiness tempered by something like sea salt spray. I usually don't reach for Ardbeg, and now I'm not sure why. I shall be restocking the cabinet soon!

As a random aside, I nipped out for lunch one afternoon and discovered Pinto Scotland’s new “Mexican dining experience” (otherwise known as a burrito place). Scotland, the home of fried Mars bars, has totally landed Mexican. Yum - I loved the barbacoa soft tacos, and that is saying something. For more upscale fare, a friend recommended Two Fat Ladies, but I ran out of time…its always nice to have something on the “to-do” list for the next trip.

Well, I don't know when I'll return to Glasgow, but I won't be dragging my heels and you shouldn't either. 


EAT – DRINK - SLEEP
Pinto Mexican Kitchen138 Queen Street G1 3BX

Two Fat Ladies West End88 Dumbarton Road G11 6NX  (0)141 339 1944

The Drake Bar & Restaurant  1 Lynedoch Street (0)141 3327363 

Radisson Blu – Glasgow301 Argyle Street G2 8DL





27 April 2013

A Speyside Sojourn, Part 1

It's less than a week away - my annual trip to Scotland - with 10 friends in addition to Dr Whisky, the Whisky Sidekick and the Wee Dram. Writing the "get prepared for an amazing weekend" email got me thinking about all the things I love about that area. 

First things first, no trip to Speyside is complete without one (and preferably a few) distillery visits. Here are Ms Whisky's picks for tours and grounds:

Best Tour: Aberlour gets this award, hands-down, for how engaging their tour is and value-for-money. Their tour guides are jolly (yes, I mean that - picture them doing a little jig during their coffee breaks) and well-informed, and for £12 you taste 6 whiskies. And I think the Aberlour whiskies are lovely. I dare you to find a better value tour. After a morning tour, you can wander into the town to have lunch at the Mash Tun or pick up a few provisions at the Spey Larder for a picnic along the riverside. 

Obsession with Casks: If you want to learn about the importance of casks, then look no further than The Macallan tour. This is a beautiful distillery, and the grounds outside of the visitors centre are perfect for sitting outside with an extra dram and some nibbles. 

Stay all Day: Visit the Glen Grant distillery, on the north end of Rothes village, for the Victorian Gardens which have beautiful flower beds and an expansive green lawn. You can take a quiet walk along a stream and enjoy a picnic after your guided distillery tour. 

Family-Friendly: As one of the last family-owned distilleries, it is nice to see that the Glenfiddich visitors experience is child-friendly. Glenfiddich is a welcome stop for any family visiting the area. Their tours are informative - after all, Glenfiddich is largely responsible for whisky's global popularity - and the grounds and buildings are spacious. The Malt Barn Restaurant serves tasty bistro-style food with locally sourced ingredients. While you're there, you can visit the ruins of Balvenie Castle which stand tall behind the distillery. 

I love visiting Speyside and I always look forward to more special discoveries and meeting lovely people along the way. What are your favorite Speyside distilleries to visit?

15 March 2013

A Pressie for the Wee Dram

Ms Whisky has been a bit mum the past few months, and that's because.......Ms Whisky IS now a Mum! 

Now that the "Wee Dram" has joined the family, we need to add a few celebratory bottles to our collection. I'm on the hunt for two bottlings to buy now: a great 18 yo and a superb 21 yo. Why two? The little guy straddles the UK and the US, so we fully plan to celebrate both milestones with gusto. 

What do you recommend?