“Christopher – how did you arrange this?”

Well this was one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had to do:  

Take a bunch of guys around Scotland on a ……….. Whisky tour!

It’s great how my website brings in all sort of enquiries from cooking with children, men, women and family groups to after dinner speaking at Tourism or business events, talking at Book festivals and organising food demonstrations all over Scotland – Ballantrae? Watch this space.

So it was, I got an email from Dubai – bunch of guys on a stag do with the “bachelor” passionate about Malt whisky. After much deliberation and to-ing and fro-ing I created a whisky tour for them which not only they will never forget but neither will I!

The stag stuff was sorted very quickly with a nightclub in Glasgow; I had nothing to do with that!! But earlier in the day my friend Brenda from Tasting Scotland http://www.tastingscotland.com/ took the guys on a wonderful walking tour around Glasgow showing all aspects of the Glasgow food culture from Indian through to Chinese and Italian. They loved it. It’s good to have friends in the right places!

We set of on the Sunday of that amazing week of sunshine driven by the characterfull Gordon from William Sleigh http://sleigh.co.uk/ transport to our first Distillery –  Auchentoshan   http://www.auchentoshan.com/ which happily was a perfect first stop. Their “Ultimate Experience” tour was just that, with an excellent in depth explanation and tasting from the cask we were on our way. Two more distilleries Deanston and Gleggoyne and then to an excellent lunch at the Old Mill at Killearn http://www.theoldmillkillearn.co.uk/  Then onto Balquidder where I put my trust in my old friend Tom Lewis at his superb Monachyle Mhor http://mhor.net/monachyle-mhor-hotel/ who produced the most amazing dinner with each course matched to a whisky. Tom of course came into our private room between courses to explain what it was next, and why he matched the whisky. The boys loved it.

After a great night at the hotel and superb breakfast we set off for Speyside by way of Edradour and Dalwhinnie, the day time high light was lunch at the Auld alliance in Kingussie where Lydie Bocquillon  http://www.auld-alliance.com/  the chef owner cooked a great lunch and we were beautifully looked after by her lovely daughter Sky.

The evening highlight was a visit to Glenfarclass, http://www.glenfarclas.co.uk/  which is one of the favourite whiskies of our “bachelor” so we arrived and I introduced him to John Grant as the owner!  He was overwhelmed, more was to come on this memorable visit, Calum the distillery manager took us on a tour where we were actually able to put our hands into the spirit stream in the “safe”. Now for those in the know the spirit safe is where the excise man usually steps in and has everything padlocked but here Calum opened it up and plunged his hands into the stream and encouraged us to do the same and rub our hands together to smell the barley!

And so to dinner with John Grant himself the highlight of highlights here as each person was invited to pick a bottle from the shelf from his birthday year and pour himself a dram!  There was even one for my year!! Again I had a friend locally who put me in touch with John Grant who now has many more Glenfarclass Ambassadors!

Next day brought two more distilleries –  Glenglassaugh and Strathisla and so onto my next surprise for the group. I had hired Glentruim http://www.glentruimestate.co.uk/ castle for the night where I cooked dinner of local venison and a simple cranachan, which they helped prepare in the kitchen. On the journey up we had a discussion about Cullen Skink as they has had some in Glasgow, so I was able to get the ingredients and make that with them as well, a real Scottish food experience. I had also managed to source a few whiskies they had not yet tasted, so the evening developed into a good session around a roaring log fire long into the night.

A slightly delayed departure next morning! took us onto the glorious road to Fort William, and after Gordon showed us Neptune’s staircase at the end of the Caledonian canal, we had a quick tasting at the Ben Nevis distillery before we headed for Oban and lunch at Coast http://www.coastoban.co.uk/ – local shellfish and Halibut from Gigha were excellent. On down to Carradale where we spent our last two nights with some excellent local food at Dunvalanree http://www.dunvalanree.com/ owned and run by Alan and Alison Milstead who cooks brilliantly, and we made a dent in Alan’s excellent whisky collection too.. Final full day was a tour by Frank McHardy of Springbank distillery which was thoroughly enjoyed.

What a great trip it was – Scotland looking fantastic and I provided an experience which could not be bought off the shelf aided by great friends and acquaintances – old and new, along the way!

Can’t wait for the next one now – who’s interested – get in touch!

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Christopher Trotter Food Ambassador