Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Oh yes, and until 1949 the place was lit by paraffin lamps. Bleedin paraffin lamps.
What was that about flash photography again?
On to Glenmorangie, just outside the town of Tain; a nicely turned-out distillery much
easier on the eye than Ord. The place is quiet when we get there - in mid April - scaffold-
ing up around the enormously high-necked stills. I've heard about these eccentrics and
been looking forward to seeing them in the copper. I get a glimpse inside the still room
and, yup, these really are the giraffes of the still world; quite fabulously tall; double-deck-
er bus in height.
Quiet in the technical sense of having its annual refit, the place is still fairly busy with
visitors; there's a coach trip doing the rounds as we're wandering about. Dave heads off
to take more photos and I walk down under the railway line, past low warehouses. This is
the line from Inverness to Thurso and Wick, a continuation of the rail route which skirts
Dalwhinnie and Tomatin, and the same line which passes close enough to Bunchrew for
you to hear the trains on a quiet morning.
The Dornoch Firth lies quiet and salty-smelling beyond the little tunnel under the rail-
way. Somehow it's a surprise to be reminded that Glenmorangie is a seaside malt, though
the scent of it is there in the whisky if you look for it. The coastline - hill and mountain,
forest and beach, dune and cliff - tapers off into the calm and milky skies to the north.
I know this whole area fairly well from when I was a Non-Destructive Testing Techni-
cian (Trainee) with a division of what was then called British Steel; a bunch of us stayed
in a wee village called Portmahomack and worked - if that's not overdignifying my ef-
forts - at the North Sea Production Platform yard at Nigg, a few miles away from here,
back in the late seventies. The Non-Destructive Testing we were doing consisted of using
X-ray radiography and ultrasonics to check that the steel cylinders which would make up
the legs of the production platforms wouldn't collapse in a North Sea storm and kill all
on board.
The job was technically interesting and I met a few characters through it, but it was
really just a way to make some money between writing books rather than any sort of
career. Still, I have good memories of that summer, staying in Portmahomack, drinking
and playing dominoes (badly) with my workmates, taking long walks along the deserted
coastline, climbing the odd castle and generally soaking up the atmosphere, because the
whole area was the major inspiration for the landscape featured in The Wasp Factory , and
I just have a great fondness for that book and everything associated with it.
Back at the shop, I buy a bottle of the fino finish 18-year-old, partly in memory of that
spectacular dram out of the barrel at Ardbeg. This is possibly a case of cross-distillery
inspiration, given that Ardbeg is owned by the same people.
Glenmorangie is another best-seller; no other malt sells better in Scotland. This makes
perfect sense to me, for all my apparent Islay fixation. Once again, I think it's largely
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