Yesterday we rushed out of the not-as-fancy hotel to drive across the mountain towards the Spey river and the famous Speyside whisky region. Most of the group then had their own death-defying experience canoeing down the Spey river. Almost all of them tipped over, up to three times, in the freezing water. One writer said, "Just minutes ago I was curled up in fetal position on the riverbank." When the four of us smarter folks who declined the experience showed up at the end point, everyone else was shaking like wet chihuahuas and had in their eyes the crazed stares of people who just survived something awful and had a new appreciation for life.
What I was doing instead was visiting Ballindalloch castle, where we were greeted by the family who lives there and owns it. They had the affected accents and mannerisms of the moneyed gentry that you couldn't pay a character actor to imitate better. They were awesome.
Afterwards, the river people dried off and we went to the Speyburn distillery. The place doesn't have a visitor's center, so we were given the close-up tour. What I never realized about scotch production is that there are two different steps to prepare the barley. First you soak it so that the barley germinates, then you dry it out at just the right moment. This is now mostly done at centralized malting houses rather than onsite at distilleries as it was in the past. (The pagoda shaped buildings many scotch distilleries have are the old roofs of the drying rooms.)
After you (now) buy your malted and dried barley, you have to grind it up, then soak it again several times to release the sugars. Only then does it go to the fermentation tanks, then on to be distilled twice. We tasted the products of the distillation in the barrel room, sampling the entire range of Speyburn and Old Pulteney.
We headed off afterwards to Dufftown where we were given a cooking lesson by the chef at A Taste of Speyside restaurant. It was tasty stuff -even my veggie version was delightful. Then we checked into our lovely hotel where I skipped dinner and slept through the night. Ahh. I"m up at 5AM but after 10 hours of sleep that doesn't bother me at all.
That's right folks- two days in a row without bagpipes! My whole theory about this trip has so far proven wrong.