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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Glen Moray, Elgin, Scotland

Dufftown lays claims to the title of Malt Whisky Capital of Scotland (and with good reason) however a visit to the town of Elgin is well worth the time of any whisky lover.  It's two main whisky attractions (for me anyway)  would be the impressive Gordon and MacPhail shop with a whisky room so breathtaking in its range that they should pad the floor to avoid risk of injury to their customers who pass out.  The second reason would be the unassuming Glen Moray distillery.  Until recently this distillery, and it's whisky, was firmly in the shadow of it's big sibling, Glenmorangie, but has now come out squinting and blinking into the light and that is good for them, and for whisky lovers of subtle but complex whisky, and is now finding it's way in the world.  The distillery is worth a visit, the tour is standard enough fare, and they charge over $6 for it, but they do nice job and the visitor's center is well fitted out with bar, coffee shop and gifts.  You can even fill your own bottle straight from a cask in gift shop.  They were generous with the pouring (and pulled out a few more expensive expressions if you showed an interest – which I did) and I left with perfectly drinkable bottle of their 12 year old.

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Barton 1792, Kentucky, USA

My fourth stop of the day (but this distillery, like Buffalo Trace, is owned by Sazerac and is not on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail) and if the Jim Beam experience lowered my expectations regarding the asthetic qualities of bourbon distilleries, then Barton 1792 sent them crashing through the floor.  This was a whiskey factory and industrial site, pretty it aint.  Still I really like the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve so this is still worth seeing as it goes some considerable way to dispel the Scottish distllery myths about the location, water and overall "terroir" magically contributing to the wonderful spirit.  1792 is a great product... and it is made in slightly run down, red brick factory in the middle of Bardstown.  I also learned that the 1792 date is a bit misleading, it has nothing to do with the distillery, but was chosen because it was the year that Kentucky became a commonwealth of the United States (well played Sazerac Marketing Department).  My tour was a little surreal, they are not in production now so our first stop was the obligatory bottling hall where we got to see (and hear) Taaka vodka filling.  Vodka on a bourbon tour?  Our guide seemed to have carte blanche to wander the site and so we did, rather aimlessly, looking at warehouses full of Magaritaville mixers and Cluny blended scotch as well as loaders, boiler houses and weigh bridges with the same level of enthusiasm as the stills or warehouses themselves.  This was a tour that desperately needed some structure and editing.... even I was bored by the end.  Simply put they need a story... what are they trying to tell the visitor?  Jim Beam talked about their family heritage, Maker's focussed on their brands, Heaven Hill told the overall bourbon story.  Sazaerac... come up with a story and then build a tour.  The highlight was without doubt the samples at the end, one I had never even seen before but will definately look for, Very Old Barton, and of course the excellent, high rye content, 1792. Just before I left I was, of course, offered a chocolate and I realized I had just been to my first Kentucky distillery that DIDN"T have a Beam connection.
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