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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

Probably my favorite distillery tour and experience to date. I visited in July 2010 and after a couple of days touring Islay’s distilleries Tammy and Eleanor had seen enough and let me go alone, with a plan to meet in the tasting room at end of the tour. It turned out it was the last tour of the day and I was the only person who signed up, so it felt like I had the entire place to myself and my guide was happy to indulge every question I had, and without larger group I could indulge myself in the minutia of the place. Effectively it was a private tour of Bowmore, and the notes I took that day show that being alone had liberated my inner “whisky anorak” who normally stays safely hidden in the group tours. Not only was the tour perfect, but the subsequent tasting in a great room overlooking the Loch was well organized, fun, informative and innovative (they gave food samples like coconut, chocolate and raisins to help match tastes in the whisky). We tried a range of whiskies from their parent company, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and of course Bowmore. Perhaps with it being the last tour of the day they were also generous with pours and allowed us to retry samples while giving our daughter sweets and juice to keep her happy as well. Personally I fell in love with the rich, highly sherried Bowmore Darkest 15 year old that afternoon, and while it has never tasted quite as good as it did that perfect day in the distillery, it is still a 4 star whisky for me and my “go to” Bowmore.

If you go to Islay and only do one tour (which would not be a great idea in itself, stay and do more) I would say do this one and I can only hope you have same great experience I did.

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Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland

Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland Describe Glenfarclas in two words?  Old school.  Putting aside the slightly annoying and confusing matter that this is yet another famous Speyside distillery with a Grant family prominent in its history (a different Grant from Glenfiddich and Balvenie and also not the same Grant as Glen Grant) and overlooking the slightly 1960's state school look and feel of the place, Glenfarclas produces high quality Speyside whiskies with a heavy sherry influence.

The visitor's center does not have any café and the $5 tour is the usual fare with the interesting highlight that you will see the tallest stills in Speyside.  They also store and age all their whisky on site which many of the "corporate" distilleries don't do for rather dull reasons like they want to rent cheaper warehouse space in a more central location or for "risk management" (ie in case the distillery burns down they don't lose all the stock).    After walking around the site you leave with a strong feeling that this is still very much an independent family run business, that they are proud of what they do and they are not about to change anything any time soon.  Good for them.

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