Near Kingussie I finally find the way to the Speyside distillery, but it's up a steep,
rough track with formidable-looking stones and rocks where decent law-abiding tarmac
ought to be. If I'd brought the Defender I'd be up there without a second thought, but
in the M5, with its foot-wide low profiles, it's just asking for trouble. I continue towards
Another hot day on Speyside, but this time it's not unseasonable; it's early August
and the whole of the British Isles is having a proper summer heatwave. Records are being
broken, tarmac is melting, rail tracks are buckling. I haul into the car park at Glenfiddich
and buy so much whisky I'm invited to come to the rear door of the shop to load up from
a pallet. This is the Gran Reserva I've decided is pretty much the bee's knees. How good
to make its acquaintance again.
Then I head east, for Old Meldrum, road-bagging as I go. This means spending at
least some time on the A96, the much-used and much-abused main road between Aber-
deen and Inverness.
There is an alternative way; the rail way, and that Aberdeen-Inverness line is also
quite a good route for distillery-bagging, swinging through so much of Speyside. A book
called The Iron Road To Whisky Country makes it sound like the only way to travel,
though if you want to get round lots of distilleries, a car still seems the obvious choice.
Especially if somebody else can do the driving.
Old Meldrum (innocent of the gratuitous 'Old' charge - it's just the name of the town)
is a pleasant little place on a low hilltop, deep in the fine farming land of Formartine.
Formartine. Now there's a word, a place I'd never heard of. It's symptomatic of my re-
lative ignorance of this whole corner of the country that the name of this regionette is
completely new to me. It's not an old county name, at least not one that I'd ever heard of,
and yet there it is, on a couple of Ordnance Survey maps, and easily Googled - there's
a Formartine football team - so obviously the right name for the district but just one I'd
never heard of. Whatever; Old Meldrum is home to what is now the most easterly distil-
lery in Scotland, given that the old distillery at Glenugie near Peterhead has closed.
Glen Garioch, it turns out, is a real contender for undiscovered gem; a little-known
belter. It has had its share of ups and downs, closures and changes over the years, and the
expressions reflect some of that variability; not so much in outright quality but in the dif-
fering spectra of tastes they present. The peatiness has come and gone over the years for
a start, but it may be making a comeback, depending where Morrison Bowmore/Suntory
want to go with this particular distillery's expressions. In the relatively recent past, cer-
tainly the bottles-still-available past, Glen Garioch has presented, at fifteen and 21 years
old, as one of the last of the old-school Highland whiskies, full of peat and smokiness.
This is balanced by lots of fruit and herbs and a degree of sweetness with a long, rich fin-
ish. More recent expressions may not be so olde-worlde characterful - much less peat for