In 2003, Rafael, Rachel (then 4-years old,) her older brother Gabe and I took a journey to Scotland. It was then, and is still, a land of incredible beauty, mysterious lochs and ancient history. We loved everything about it…including the whiskey. It didn’t start out that way, though. Here is the story….
I remember being a little kid and begging and harassing my father for a sip of his whiskey. He didn’t give it often, but when he did, the thrill for me to take a bit of that magical liquid on my tongue was not to be missed. I wanted it because it made my mouth burn and my breath escape in a rush. I hated the taste, though. Fast forward a couple decades. I tried my husband’s Scotch, with the same result; I hated it and loved it. I just had no appreciation for this so-adult beverage!
Arriving in Edinburgh, Scotland in November, 2003, the air was crisp and cool. It was perfect for walking and exploring or for sitting snug in a pub on the Royal Mile. When we finished our meal and a dessert of sticky toffee pudding (which became a staple of our diet yum,) I asked the bartender to pour me a Scotch that would be good for beginners. He poured me a 15-year old Dalwhinnie. I tried to take a whiff, like it was a glass of wine, and my eyes watered and I felt like coughing. Okay, we won’t do that for now. I took a small sip. Hey, that wasn’t too bad! I sipped again and again until my first glass of Scotch was history. I loved the burn in my throat and the warmth in my belly. There was hope for me!
From Edinburgh, we took a road trip west to the Trossachs and then north through the Highlands. I tried a new Scotch at every stop. As my palate started to acclimate to the new tastes, I was able to expand my repertoire of whiskeys. While staying at the home of Clan MacDonald on the Isle of Skye, I tried Talisker for the first time. Oh, it was like sitting by a peat fire! The smokiness just exploded on my tongue. It’s the only single malt made in Skye, so it was a perfect place to try it. I had a dram before we headed out for some exploring and munro bagging (that would be hiking a hill.) I stayed warm and happy with a bit of Scotch in my stomach.
As we made our way back south after extensively exploring the Highlands, we arrived in Pitlochry and the Edradour Distillery. It was (and still is) the smallest in Scotland and unique in that the Scotch was still made in small batches from a farm distillery. We took an amazing tour that ended with a tasting. When someone asked if they should add water to their single-malt, our guide laughed and said that they had just spent 10 years getting all the water out, don’t pour it back in!
Leaving Scotland, we brought a few bottles of Scotch home with us. In the 11 years since, I have formed a real love affair with the fiery drink. Many cold winter nights will find me curled on the couch with my glass of 16-year-old Lagavulin, or the 10 year-old Talisker or Edradour. Although very different in taste, they all bring my mind back to the lochs and glens, the smoky pubs, the wonderful people and beautiful mountains of Scotland. The best place in the world to learn to love Scotch is in Scotland! I highly recommend it.
We stayed at little B&B’s all around Scotland. As it has been so long, I hesitate to recommend any in particular except for Kinloch Lodge. This is the seat of the Clan MacDonald and an amazing place to stay on Skye. It was the most expensive place we stayed, but the experience was worth it.
The Edradour Distillery had a great tour if you are going to be in that area.