DALMORE, TOMATIN & DUFFTOWN DISTILLERIES WALKING TOUR
We headed south from Tain along the same road we travelled yesterday, but this time stopped at Dalmore distillery. The Dalmore distillery shop looks more like a boutique jeweller than a traditional distillery shop, with the perfectly uniform colour whiskies in their fancy bottles taking pride of place on mirrored shelves.
The trademark of Dalmore, which clearly markets itself as a luxury brand, is the silver stag on their bottles. During the whisky school, fellow student Jörg, told us the history behind that stag. The story dates back to 1263 when during a hunting expedition, Colin of Kintail, Chief of the Clan Mackenzie, saved King Alexander III of Scotland from a charging deer. As a sign of gratitude for saving his life, King Alexander III awarded him the lands of Eilean Donan and the motto ‘Luceo Non Uro’, which translates to ‘I Shine, Not Burn’ and his Mackenzie clan were given the right to bear a 12-pointed Royal Stag as their crest. Some 600 years late in 1867, the Mackenzie bothers Andrew and Charles took over the Dalmore distillery and introduced the stag from their family crest to the Dalmore distillery bottles.
We left Dalmore, unswayed by their heroic story and flashy store and headed to our next distillery stop, Tomatin. Tomatin distillery is on the ‘low road’ into Dufftown from Tain, the A9, but you could alternatively take the A96 out of Inverness and follow the ‘high road’ to Duftown via Elgin. Both are roughly the same distance to so your choice depends on what you want to see on the way. We didn’t stay for a tour of Tomatin, but we did try some drams before moving on. There was an option to ‘fill your own’ bottle from a selection of casks (like at Bruichladdich), but as cool as that sounds the experience looks a bit naff to me since you’re just filling a bottle from a tap on the base of the cask rather than drawing from a cask in a warehouse. I understand the practical limitations, but filling your own bottle isn’t as great as it may sound.
After leaving Tomatin we continued the rest of the way to Dufftown, just skimming the top of the Crairngorms National Park; we will be driving right through it on the way south to Edinburgh is a few days. We arrived in Dufftown in time from lunch which was good because we had booked a Dufftown distilleries walking tour for 3pm. I’m so glad we ran into Dwayne and Mike on Islay because I may have missed the walking tour if they hadn’t told us about it.
The Dufftown Distilleries Walk was one of the highlights of our whole trip so far. Our guide, Michelle, met us at the clocktower in Dufftown and led us on a four and a half hour Connoisseurs walk covering all nine Dufftown distillery sites (Pittyvaich, Dufftown, Mortlach, Glendullan, Parkmore, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie and Convalmore) many of which are not open to the public. The walk itself is about 6km in length and quite easy going with plenty of stops along the way. Michelle was a fantastic guide, her tour was funny, informative and genuinely interesting and I haven’t even mentioned the whisky yet.
Michelle lugs around a backpack full of a selection of whisky and local food to share at various points; I counted 18 different whiskies tasted during the tour, so don’t plan to drive afterwards. Whiskies sampled will no doubt vary between tours but some of the highlights were a 17yo wine cask finished Tobermory, a 28yo Pittyvaich, a 18yo Boutique-y Whisky Co. Mortlach, a 15yo Bowmore from this years Feis Ile and a 30yo Convalmore bottled by Dun Bheagan, among others. I loved this tour and learnt quite a bit that I won’t spoil here, but I really cannot recommend it enough and you absolutely need to book in advance; a must do, when visiting Dufftown.
Tomorrow, we visit the new Macallan distillery that only opened to the public last week.