Walking and Whisky No2 ~ Sgor Gaibhre / Carn Dearg

Walking & Whisky 2 ~ Sgor Gaibhre & Carn Dearg ~ 16.04.2016

Who say’s DramVenturing is just for the guys? Last weekend, DramVenturer Kirsty took our mascot TJ for a walk up Sgor Gaibhre and Carn Dearg in the Scottish Highlands…and of course, she sampled a wee dram along the way…

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Mountains: Sgor Gaibhre & Carn Dearg
Range:
Distance: 21.75 kms
Ascent: 940 metres
OS Map NN356665

Fantastic weekend away at Corrour. TJ and I set off from Edinburgh before 8am and drove to Tyndrum where we caught the 10:30 train to Corrour.

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A short walk from the station I set up the tent, had a spot of lunch and at 12:10 set off to climb Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre. TJ and I followed the single track to Peter’s Rock and from there we struck up the hill to the ridge and up to the summit through a blizzard. Thankfully the weather cleared at the summit of Carn Dearg, just in time for us to take in the beautiful views.

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From the summit we headed down to the bealach over patches of snow and then up to the second summit. This time on the descent the blizzard hit! We then headed round the north top and down towards the forest. I spotted a new hydro road that cut through the forest so we headed for that and then followed the estate road back the station along the bank of Loch Ossian.

We arrived back at the station where the newly reopened station house was serving food so I abandoned my stove and pasta for a venison burger and chips! A far better option! TJ and I then retired to our wild camp and watched the sun go down before settling in for a cold night.

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In the morning we got up at 8:15 and packed away the things. TJ and I then went for a walk to the hostel on the bank of Loch Ossian to stretch our legs. We returned to the station house for a cooked breakfast – who says wild camping can’t be posh? After a lovely breakfast I took a bath and freshened up. Yes you can also have a bath there! A quick orange juice and it was time to catch the train back to Tyndrum and enjoy the beautiful views of rannoch moor! A fantastic overnight trip.

Whisky

For this Dramventure I chose a bottle recently gifted to me Stathisla 12yo single malt. It’s a dram I hadn’t previously tasted and where better to try a new single malt than on a wild camp in the highlands.

Doing some research I discovered Strathisla is probably best known for its inclusion in the well known Chivas Regal blend. Strathisla 12 is the only single malt produced by the Strathisla distillery founded in 1786. The initial nose is sweet and soft with a hint of light oak, the taste is smooth and fruity. I found that there wasn’t depth much in the finish. Over all, a light single malt easily enjoyed and not at all overpowering. Might be a nice introduction for a novice. Good value at £30-£35 online!
Till next time…

A fantastic wee DramVenture Whisky and Walking review Kirsty…thanks very much.
Slainte
K

Islay DramVenture Training – Glenkinchie 28/03/2016

Islay DramVenture Training – Glenkinchie 28/03/2016

So since we will be doing an awful lot of cycling on our magical trip round Islay drinking whisky, we thought it might be an idea to do some ‘training’ for it and we thought it would be best to make it goal specific…a big cycle with a wee dram in between!

Little did we know that this would actually turn out to be a lesson in how to replace a bike tube and repair a puncture instead!
So, the plan was that I would cycle from my place at Murrayfield in Edinburgh along Princes Street and down to Leith to meet fellow DramVenturer, G, before we made the 16 mile cycle from his place out to the Glenkinchie Distillery in Pencaitland.

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Edinburgh has a fantastic cycle network that means you can travel great distances across the city without being on a main road, which is great. There’s loads of good info on these routes here.

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20087/cycling_and_walking/453/cycle_routes

The route we took was on the cycle paths down to Portobello promenade then through Musselburgh briefly before we were back on the number one cycle path pretty much all the way to Pencaitland.

So, punctures…

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…there were lots of them. 5 in total, 4 for G and 1 for me.

Needless to say, we’re now like a finely tuned Formula 1 pit stop team when it comes to sorting out punctures. All character building etc!

That brings me to my next point…if you are cycling the number 1 cycle route out to Glenkinchie then I’d strongly advise that road bike tyres simply won’t cut it on these paths. Most are fairly decent but there’s a large portion which is quite rough and give your tyres a good old going over.

Overall, it’s not the hardest route to cycle but there are a few steep hills to tackle and as always, the wind will be in your face when going up them (I can’t say that for sure but it’s certainly how cycling works for me – whichever way I point, the wind blows right in my face!), so remember to bring some food with you as there’s no café at the distillery.

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On arrival at Glenkinchie, we couldn’t actually find an area to secure our bikes in the sign posted bit, but we were probably just being lazy and not looking properly! There’s large wooden fences near the car park and that did us nicely.

As we are both members of the Friends of the Classic Malts, we used our passes to gain free entry and we were also given a voucher for money off a bottle in the shop. We then took the time to look round the fantastic ‘museum’ that includes a great model of all the different areas of a working distillery. This alone makes the visit worthwhile. We did have a long think about having a go on the distilleries old pennyfarthing bike but thought better of it for our own safety (how on earth did folk ride them things?!).

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Since we have both been to numerous different distilleries, including this one before, we went straight for a tasting and were met by ‘Bill’ one of the staff there to take us through it. I’ll just say now that we couldn’t have asked for a better guy to take us through a wee tasting…he was knowledgeable, friendly yet not falsely so, and overall a great laugh with some good stories to tell.

We started with the Glenkinchie 12 year old, which I thought was great but it didn’t set my pants on fire if I’m honest. I got a hint of smoke in this one and it had a medium finish so I certainly wasn’t complaining. Would I buy a bottle? Aye, probably would actually. Cheapest I can see this online is around the £35 mark so I’d say that was good value for money. I’d probably recommend this to anyone wanting to get started drinking whisky.

Next up was the Lagavulin distillers edition…now this stuff is the business. I have a very peaty/smoky whisky palate so this is right up my street. I’m not going to go too much into this one as I’m hoping this will be one of our ‘malts of the month’ soon so we’ll do a full review on it soon. This comes in at around the £70 per bottle mark and it’s worth every penny in my opinion!

Last up was another cracker…Caol Illa Moch. This for me, is up there with the best of the non-age statement drams out there. This was the first time I had tried this and it was brilliant. As I’m sure you’ll figure out, I’m not the greatest at describing the tastes in whisky, so the best way I can describe this is all the best bits of the standard Caol Ila 12 expression with a slightly softer feel to it. I could drink this all day long. We’re looking at around the £40 region for this one…again…well worth the money.

Overall, this was a great wee half hour tasting that was made all the better for Bill’s chat and banter. Glenkinchie was well represented by him and the rest of the staff. A very warm welcome, friendly service throughout and with free entry and drams via the Friends of the Classic Malts, well worth the cycle out there.

Highly recommended.

Slainte.

K

Walking & Whiskey – Bynack More 02/04/2016

Walking & Whiskey – Bynack More 02/04/2016

The Walk

Mountain: Bynack More
Range: The Cairngorms
Height: 1090 metres
Distance 20.5kms with a total of 872 metres of ascent.
OS Map 36 NJ042063

Leaving from the layby just past Glenmore lodge the walk begins with a gentle stroll through a forest along the Ryovan Pass and past An Lochan Uaine. This is a beautiful wee spot to pause and take in the view.

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About 500 metres past the lochan take the easterly path toward Bynack Stable. As you cross the river Nethy over a foot bridge bear right and begin to climb south easterly along the shoulder of Bynack More. At about 860 metres and 8.5km into the walk you’ll start to climb steeply up the north ridge, reaching the summit just before you hit 10km. The summit is the further along the ridge than you’ll hope or expect as you pass over Bynack Beag firstly. The long walk is certainly worth it for the views of the Cairngorms

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If you have the time and the energy continue beyond the summit to visit the impressive granite castles of the Barns of Bynack.

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At this point you’ll want to break out the whisky! To return back to the start retrace the route of ascent!

The Whisky

Region: Highland
Distiller: Tomatin
Age: 14yo

For this walk I selected a relatively new expression from a local distillery, Tomatin 14 year old – http://www.tomatin.com

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The Tomatin 14yo is aged in bourbon barrels before being finished for a year in port pipes. That year in port pipes certainly pays off adding a beautifully fruity finish to what is an easy drinking and smooth dram.

The initial nose & palate on this dram didn’t blow me away but the finish was smooth and offered a lovely mix of vanilla and rich syrupy fruit flavours so I quickly got over the slow start.

Google tells me that this dram is available online for about £55 – 70cl bottle. Would I drink it again? Hell yes!

Would I buy a bottle? Well, I’ll certainly visit the distillery and see what I come away with.

Slainte

B

*** Always drink responsibly – please note that drinking any alcohol while hillwalking may be very dangerous. The amount drank here is merely a taste and we do not advocate any more than that. Always stay safe first and foremost ***

Friends of the Classic Malts

FireShot Pro Screen Capture #030 - '(1) The Friends of the Classic Malts' - www_facebook_com_FriendsoftheClassicMalts_photos_a_158853094126136_37606_1

Friends of the Classic Malts

Who wants free whisky? Who wants to look around some of the great distilleries in Scotland for free (well if you don’t count giving away your email address as a cost!)? We certainly do, and that’s what we have been doing!

I’ll start by saying as well that we at DramVentures.com are in no way affiliated or have any personal connection to any distillery or whisky company, so we hope you’ll be able to trust our recommendations and reviews.

For those of you who don’t know, the Friends of the Classic Malts offers a great membership that is totally free and comes with some excellent benefits such as free entry at twelve of the Classic Malt distilleries, along with a complimentary dram of their whisky…who can complain about that?

The distilleries included are excellent as well. They are:
Talisker – Isle of Skye
Caol Ila – Isle of Islay
Lagavulin – Isle of Islay
Glenkinchie – Pentcaitland (near Edinburgh), East Lothian
Knockando – Aberlour, Banfshire
Glen Elgin – Longmorn, Moray
Cragganmore – Ballindalloch, Banfshire
Cardhu – Aberlour, Banfshire
Dalwhinnie – Dalwhinnie, Highlands
Glen Ord – Muir of Ord, Ross-shire
Royal Lochnagar – Ballater, Aberdeenshire
Oban – Oban, Argyle
Clynelish – Brora, Sutherland
Blair Athol – Pitlochry, Perthshire

Once you have signed up, you can download your pass to use at any of the above distilleries. If you visit all twelve, you get a pewter Quaich for free! Fandabydosie…

I’m sure you will agree that there are some fantastic whiskies on offer here and it’s well worth the effort of the simple sign up system they use to get involved.

The sign up page is here.

Slainte

K

Glenlivet ‘Inspiration’ Tour and Tasting – 26/03/2016

Glenlivet ‘Inspiration’ Tour and Tasting – 26/03/2016

The Glenlivet Tours

glenlivet map

Saturday 26th March 2016 saw the first distillery visit to be recorded for DramVentures with a trip to The Glenlivet for their ‘Inspiration’ tour and tasting.

Arriving too early, we enjoyed an excellent lunch in the visitor centre café, before spending some time wandering around the exhibition until it was time for our tour.

The tour began as James, our guide, gathered a small but friendly group of whisky enthusiasts together. After a quick introduction, health and safety brief and explanation of the whisky making process, it was into the still house.

Most modern distilleries are an industrial affair, and The Glenlivet is no exception. The main stillhouse is large, open and metallic, boasting 6 stills (3 pairs) producing some 10 million litres of spirit per year, with plans to almost double that in the near future.

We then journeyed on to the exclusive ‘Warehouse No. 1’ where we were shown the range of bourbon casks, hogsheads and ex-sherry butts. Of particular interest but unfortunately unavailable were the two 53 year old casks. What was on the menu however was a dram of 39 year old malt, drawn straight from the cask, which this writer can honestly say (at the time of writing), is the best dram he has ever tasted. The subsequent two, courtesy of the designated driver, and a generous guide were as well received as the first.

g dram

The tour now concluded, it was up to the loft tasting room for a further 7 drams consisting of:
Clearic (New make spirit)
Founders Reserve
15 French Oak Reserve
Nadurra
Hand filled 16 year old single cask, exclusive to the distillery
Uisage Beatha (16 year old single cask)
XXV (25 year old)
Not to mention the complimentary pen and ‘The Glenlivet Story’ booklet, which was a nice touch.

tasting table

the drams

All told, the tour was worth well more than the £35 price, and is thoroughly recommended. The only problem with this tour is developing a taste for exclusive, expensive whisky!

G

DramVenture 2016 – The Plan

DramVenture 2016 – The Plan

Hi everyone. One of the main things we want to share with DramVentures is the ins and outs of how we go about organising and planning our trips. We’ve had a couple of “planning sessions” so far that have basically just turned into impromptu whisky tastings at each other’s houses, but we have eventually cobbled together enough sense to come up with the following plan.

I’ve added in as many hyperlinks as I can to make life easier for you to see what I’m on about and hopefully this will help you plan your own DramVenture!

Here’s what day one will look like…

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It’ll be an early start leaving Edinburgh at 03:30am to make the 153 mile trip to the ferry terminal at Kennacraig for the 07:00am sailing across to Port Askaig. Caledonian MacBrayne’s first sailing is normally to Port Ellen at the South of Islay, however, there is work going on between March and October this year at Port Ellen so all sailings are going to Port Askaig only, which is probably going to work in our favour for getting round all 8 working distilleries.

The ferry times can be found here Kennacraig to Islay Ferry Timetable. Leaving the car at the ferry terminal saves a lot of cash. At the moment it’s £13 return for a walk on fare with a bike, compared to over £60 for taking a car.

Since we are staying in a youth hostel we have saved a lot of weight to shift by not taking camping gear…plus we’ll get a much more comfortable sleep to rest our weary bones and try and deal with the impending hangovers!

So, the ferry will arrive in Port Askaig at 09:05am and we will be making a quick exit to get ourselves up to the very first tasting of the trip at Caol Ila. As we are all members of the Friends of the Classic Malts, we will get the basic tour including free sample dram for free but we have decided to upgrade to the core range tasting for the £9.

Following this, we’re back on the bikes for a short trip up to Bunnahabhain for a look round and quick dram before we have lunch and begin the 18 mile cycle to our digs for the weekend at Port Charlottle Youth Hostel.
We hopefully won’t be under too much pressure to make our third and final visit of the day at Bruichladdich, where we will go for the £5 basic tour and dram at 4pm. This distillery is only 3 miles from the hostel so we won’t have any problems meandering back for food, a cigar and a wee dram before turning in early (yeah right!).
This will be a very busy day estimated to cost us around £60 all in, including ferry.

Day Two

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This is going to be a long day…but an exciting one.

One of the DramVentures team has previously stayed at the Port Charlotte Youth Hostel and has informed me/made up, that it is tradition to get up in the morning and head straight into the Atlantic sea for a quick dunk…I’m seriously not keen on this, however, in the spirit of adventure, I’ll give it a bash at least once! Watch this space for the video(s)!

So, once we are suitably “refreshed” from our morning dip and have got breakfast down us, we’ll be leaving the hostel at 7am to make the 20 mile cycle down to Ardbeg for their “full range tour and tasting”, at 10am, which is coming in at £18. We’re all excited about this one as this is one of our favourite drams at the moment.

We’ve decided to leave early for this cycle as we’ve learned from our “training rides” that we need to factor in “puncture time” (separate post to follow!). Guaranteed that if we prep well for it though, not one single puncture shall be had…we hope!

After Ardbeg tasting tour, we will fill up with a big lunch at the cafe there and head over for a quick visit and dram at Laphroig who were very helpful on calling them. A very relaxed, friendly attitude was received from them and we were invited to just come in whenever for a dram and look around.
Finally, we’ll make the very short cycle to Lagavulin for their “warehouse demonstration”, at 1:30pm, which comes in at £23 each…not cheap but we’re all big fans of this dram too so decided to try something a little different here.

After this, we’ll give ourselves plenty of time to chill and enjoy a look round the south of the island and Port Ellen, before we’re back on the bikes for a big cycle home.

One thing we are very careful of here will be how the drams effect us. We’re all pretty experienced ‘drammers’, however should we still be feeling the effects, we have arranged to be collected and returned to our hostel!

The evening will then be spent at a local public house, again enjoying a fine dram or two with that evening’s cigar!

Day Three

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I have a feeling that this day will be a tad more somber affair to begin with! However, we will endeavour to keep with tradition and get up and into the Atlantic first thing…to be fair, it’ll probably be needed!

Today’s schedule is nowhere near as packed as yesterday so we will start with a gentle cycle round to Bowmore after lunch for their 12:30pm basic tour and tasting for £7.

After that we’re back on the bikes for the 11 mile cycle back over to Kilchoman for our final distillery. As we all don’t have too much experience of this dram, we’ve opted for the tutored tasting at 4pm, which comes in at £15 each.

Once that’s done, we’ll be back to Port Charlotte to see away what will truly be a very special DramVenture, I’m sure. As for day four…I think the less said about that the better!

Welcome to DramVentures.com

Well hello there everyone and a very warm welcome to Dramventures.com.

We are all very excited to get this site up and running, but it really could not have came at a better time, as on Friday 29th April 2016, the DramVentures Team will be setting sail for the whisky island of Islay in Southern Hebrides for an epic DramVenture…8 distilleries…3 days…all by bicycle.

What could possibly go wrong???

Please get involved as much as possible by liking and sharing our Facebook page and following us on Twitter.

This is going to be great!

Slainte!