On a bright blustery day in early September, ten crews consisting of a Distiller and consort gathered at the historic and newly restored distillery of Annandale in the borders, for the start of a unique tour of new, restored and lesser known distilleries the length and breadth of Scotland. The brainchild of Liverymen Peter Mackay and Alex Bruce and designed to explore a range of the new distilleries of Scotland, we also had the chance to discover beautiful byways and exciting road passes in the splendour of the autumn colours.
Starting with the meticulously restored Annandale Distillery of Teresa Church and David Thomson in the Lowlands of Dumfriesshire, and ending with the traditional style of Aberfeldy we were also able to experience Francis Cuthbert’s one-man farm distillery of Daftmill of 100,000 litres on the same day as the vast new Chivas Bros Dulmenic, producing 10 million+, tour the very new and smart Ballindalloch of Guy Macpherson-Grant, the Victorian splendour of The GlenDronach on Speyside and the modernity of Kingsbarns in Fife and Aberargie in Perth and Kinross owned by our own Morrison family.
The relentless attention to quality, the passion for authenticity and historical accuracy, the patience of waiting for the spirit to mature into whisky and age appropriately were all very evident and highly encouraging for the future of the industry.
625 miles from the first of seven distilleries in three days tells only a tiny part of the story whereby we explored breath-taking and dramatic scenery across the Lowlands then up to the heights of the Glenshee passes, Tomintoul and the Lecht. Expert navigational skills were needed to stay on the right pathway. An impressive line-up of cars was another highlight of this amazing trip with PM Morrison’s achingly beautiful Bentley leading the concours for grace and luxury, PM Maxwell leading the symphony of sound in his burbling V8 Tiger, the Barratts’ Alvis purring contentedly, and the Master heading up the overseas contingent with his 1964 Porsche 356, usually making its presence felt with the characteristic air-cooled chatter. A short stop at Kilmany was the opportunity to pay homage to Jim Clark whose birth town, led by the grandfather of Peter Mackay, had erected a bronze statue of startling likeness to the great grand-prix driver himself.
To help our charitable endeavours the distillery owners were incredibly generous in the provision of free tours accommodation and meals, especially Brown-Forman and the GlenDronach with our stay at the Glen House. The Spanish lady really did appear to haunt the corridors in the depths of the night – not just the consequence of exuberant tasting of the wonderful malt on offer.
Finally, and wearily, we arrived for the grand finale at Broomhall, the family seat of the Earls of Elgin and Kincardine where a concours was staged to show off our pride and joys in front of the magnificent façade. Before dinner that night we were shown the schoolroom where the young Bruces were educated with selected friends from the village; it now houses the memorabilia of their two Viceroys of India – magnificent headgear and jewellery and fascinating letters from Queen Victoria among many others.
A delicious dinner preceded toasts and calls for ideas for future events – Islay and the western isles, the Shetlands and Hebrides were mooted; we worked hard at the plans while sampling the delicate malts of the Adelphi collection.
All too soon we were off to get some rest before preparing for the annual Livery Edinburgh dinner, of which more anon.