DramVentures 2017 – Winter Bothy

Winter Bothy Dramventures

Bothy: Allt scheicheachan bothy
Munro: Beinn Dearg 1008 metres – OS MAP 43

Setting off from Edinburgh the Dramventure crew and mascot TJ drove to Blair Atholl – then to Old Tilt and parked at the Glen Tilt car park. From there we walked towards the crossroads at Old Tilt and followed the marked walking trails towards the woods, keeping the river on our left. We left the forrest through a large gate and followed a good land rover track for another 8km to get to the bothy, which we’ve got to say looked pretty darn spooky at night!

On the way in we were weighed down with coal food and whisky. Snow was knee deep and even waist deep in places where it had drifted, but DramVentures mascot TJ carried his own gear in his Ruffwear backpack with ease.

The bothy itself has one main room with chairs, four benches for sleeping on and an open fire. It was clean and tidy but cold and difficult to heat, but it was a very welcome sight, late on a cold Friday night.


Early Saturday morning, we set off from the bothy, crossing a small burn and followed a well worn track for about 3.5KM before ascending towards a broad ridge which leads to the Munro top – marked by a large cairn or shelter. You can return by the same route or chose a more direct route over small stalkers paths to return to your original path and back to the bothy.

The walk in and ascent of the Munro were arduous to say the least, but the views were well worth it, which kept us in good spirits.

Saturday night after our walk we warmed ourselves by the fire and enjoyed two wonderful bottles of single malt.

Our first bottle was the Ardmore Legacy. Whisky fans will know that you can often pick this lovely bottle up in shops for about £20-£25. It’s my personal opinion that there aren’t many better bottles of whisky available at this price range. The legacy is a lightly peated dram with a slightly sweet palate. It’s got a hint of spiced honey or cinnamon and comes with an exceptionally smooth finish.

Our second bottle comes from one of Dramventures favourite distilleries Talisker. Talisker Storm like Ardmore Legacy is a NAS (non age statement) offering from the Skye powerhouse. We can have the NAS debate or argument another time when we discuss Bruichladdich’s approach to transparency in their NAS offerings.

I really enjoyed this bottle. Storm has many of the characteristics you’d expect from Talisker. It’s smooth yet has a decent depth of flavour with hints of sweet spices. It’s warm finish let’s you enjoy the hints of peat but is not overpowering.

After drams and stories around the fire we eventually retired again to the warmth of our sleeping bags. Mascot trainee Murphy and his mentor Tj curled up by the fire and a sound sleep all round was had.

In the morning we packed and tidied the bothy after some fresh cooked sausages and returned to the car by the Land Rover track.

31.2Km and about 1200metres of ascent was covered over the weekend and a great time was had!

Slainte

Bill

The Buachaille and The Balvennie ~ DramVentures Hillwalk

So last month saw our mascot TJ leading Bill and Kirsty on a spectacular walk up The Buachaille, and Bill brought a bottle of The Balvennie 12 year old Doublewood…here’s how they got on…

 

The Buachaille and The Balvennie

Buachaille Etive Mor – which refers to the entire ridge about 8km’s long including the following peaks;

 

Stob Dearg – 1022m (Munro)

Stob Na Doire – 1011m (Munro top)

Stob Na Broige – 956m (Munro)

Stob Coire Altruim – 941m (Munro top)

Distance 12.8 kms total 1090 metres of ascent. 7.5 hours total.

OS Map 41 (Landranger)

 

The Buachaille as it’s known by those who have been to its tops is one of if not the most recognisable mountains in all of Scotland. Sitting at the head of Glencoe The Buachaille dominates the skyline. Driving along the A82 over Rannoch Moor you can’t help but be drawn in by its striking grandeur. Ever since I’ve started hillwalking I’ve wanted to climb this hill, it is without a doubt one of Scotland’s finest mountains and one you have to put on your ‘to do’ list.

 

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There’s no doubt that this is an imposing mountain from any angle and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly apprehensive. The route we chose started in the small parking area at Altnafeadh which is next to an outcrop of trees on a bend before the A82 drops down to Glencoe. This affords a great view of the route and allows you to plan your ascent prior to setting off. We crossed the road, heading past a small cottage (SMC climbing hut) and followed a well-defined path taking the right hand branch.

 

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We climbed through a rocky boulder field on a relatively steep ascent which although looked tricky from a far was quite easy going. As we reached a large area of scree in the narrowing corrie we chose to skirt east, round the larger scree field before traversing west again and picking our way over a broken rocky trail eventually emerging at a bealach around 900m.

 

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After a rest we left our bags at the bealach for the short walk to Stob Dearg over rocky ground.  This takes about fifteen minutes and is just over a kilometre. The views from the summit have to be seen to be believed, your effort is rewarded with a spectacular panorama encompassing Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and the distinct outline of Schiehallion can also be seen to the east. This is a classic Scottish walk for good reasons.

 

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Having enjoyed the views, we headed west along the rest of the ridge, collecting our bags on the way. The terrain was rocky in places but there was an obvious path leading over the two tops and finishing with our second Munro of the day Stob Na Broige. All in all, it took us 5 hours at a leisurely pace to reach the end of the ridge. All along the route we could see many of Scotland’s most famous Munros including the Mamores, Buachaille Etive Beag, The Aonach Eagach and Bidean Nam Bian.

 

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The return walk is by an obvious path which is found at the bealach of Stob Coire Altruim which descends over rough stone tracks to the Lairig Gartain. From here it’s about 4km walk on a good path to the A82. One of my best ever days on the hills.

 

The whisky

 

The Balvenie 12yo Doublewood

Age: 12yo

Distiller: The Balvenie

Region: Speyside

 

This is a classic dram in my opinion and one that I always find to be well received by newcomers to whisky. Interestingly the entire distilling process is carried out on site at The Balvenie, including a cooperage, malting floor and barley they have grown themselves!

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Nose: this is a lightly scented dram with hints of fruit and vanilla but certainly not overpowering!

Palate: the taste is very smooth with a slight hint of spice. It’s got a soft caramel sweetness to it which I found easy to enjoy!

Finish: this dram has a long soft and warming finish.

A great dram available for about £37 and one that I will most likely always have in my collection. It’s also a great reward and the end of a long day.

 

BV 7

Slainte

Bill

DramVentures Islay Epic 2016 ~ Ardbeg!

DramVentures Islay Epic 2016 ~ Ardbeg

 

Distillery – Ardbeg

Tour – Full Range Tour and Tasting

Cost – £20

Host – Dionne

 

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So where else would we go when we get off a ferry on Islay at 9:30am? Ardbeg of course! This turned out to be a brilliant first distillery for our trip for so many reasons…

 

First of all, the main thing that struck me was just how beautiful this wee section of Islay is. The team at Ardbeg really have done an excellent job in how they present the distillery. You can’t help but notice how clean and well maintained everything is but the main centre piece is the copper still in the grounds.

 

Still Outside 1

 

When we arrived we were welcomed in by the staff, who really were fantastic. We had some time to look around the gift shop before we set off on the Full Range Tour and Tasting experience priced at £20. There’s loads of great stuff there and although tempted to buy one of the coats from there, I didn’t fancy getting stick at every other distillery that we turned up to!

 

We were met by ‘Dionne’ who was our host for the tour and tasting. She was friendly, very knowledgeable and took us for a tour around the distillery, which included a taste of the ‘wash’ recovered via the traditional ‘copper dog’. I personally think that they should make an Ardbeg beer as well because that was very tasty!

 

Next, it was onwards to the stills, which are designed specifically to catch the heaviest elements of the spirit as they are wide and angled downwards at the top. Always good to know!

 

Stills

 

Once the tour was over, it was on to the tasting…huzzah!

 

Tasting bottles 1

 

The tasting room is set at the back of the main restaurant and is a cosy wee room set for maybe ten people max, which we thought was a great idea. It makes people on the tour interact and that always gives a better experience.

 

Of course, there was the usual polite quietness to start but once we were all a few drams in, conversation started flowing and we had a great time.

 

The drams….

 

Drams 1

 

  1. Ardbeg 10 year old.
  2. Ardbeg Perpetuum Distillery Release.
  3. Ardbeg Uigeadail.
  4. Ardbeg Supernova.
  5. Ardbeg Corryvreckan.

 

Dionne took us through the drams and had a very relaxed style of running the tasting, which we thought was excellent. A lot of places can be slightly formal, which makes getting conversation going quite awkward sometimes but there was none of that there!

 

I think it’s fairly easy to say that this was a fantastic set of drams to kick off our time on Islay! For me personally, the Supernova was the star of the show, but we all had different favourites, so that speaks for itself.

 

After our tasting we went for food in the café, which was excellent. Very reasonably priced, great service and a belly full of their mac and cheese set me up beautifully for the day!

 

Overall, Ardbeg was an impressive place to visit with excellent staff but most importantly…drams that were superb. The Full Range Tour and Tasting is a steal at only £20…great value for money and highly recommended.

 

K G B Ardbeg

 

Slainte

Kenny

Distillery Visit ~ Benromach

Distillery – Benromach

Tour – Contrast tour & tasting

Cost – £15

Host – Brian

Time & date 14:00 Saturday 14th May 2016

 

Our Dramventuring recently(ish) took us to the heart of whisky country in Speyside and the lovely town of Forres. Kirsty and I booked the Benromach contrast tour and tasting. The distillery is a short walk from Forres High street and only a few minutes from the train station.

 

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On arrival we were greeted warmly by our host Brian. The tour starts with a short film on Benromach and its parent company Gordon MacPhail. I was a little sceptical but actually really enjoyed the dvd presentation which was very well made. Brian then showed us around the distillery which was absolutely wonderful. Fully restored and reopened in 1998 the company have managed to maintain its traditional features and I felt the restoration was very tastefully done. If you’ve been to other distilleries you’ll be struck by how small the operation is, producing only 260000 litres of spirit annually.

 

We were soon ushered into the tasting room which is located in the former distillery managers house. This has been converted into offices and as tasting / meeting room. We were given four expressions of Benromach, the Organic, 5yo, 10yo and the Benromach peat smoked.

 

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Being a fan of Benromach I enjoyed all four, tasting notes for which can be found on the Benromach website

 

www.benromach.com/whiskies

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the organic which was smooth, sweet and very drinkable. My favourite of the four was the peat smoked which despite its high phenol content – 67 ppm still retained the sweet fruit notes of a classic Speyside malt.

 

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Following the initial four drams, Brian treated us to a taste of the Benromach 100 proof. This is a classic 10yo Benromach at cask strength of 57%abv. I felt it packed just enough punch to set it apart from the others and I really enjoyed it.

 

We finished the tour by browsing the shop but as I already have three bottles of Benromach I couldn’t justify a fourth! That said the tour was very good value for money and I dare say I’ll probably purchase the 100proof before long.

 

Brian was an excellent host and when I phoned to book this tour the distillery recommended a hotel to us which we booked to stay in and were very impressed with.

 

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DramVentures 2016 ~ Islay ~ Bruichladdich

DramVentures 2016 – Islay – Bruichladdich

Our epic tour of Islay was certainly the best whisky trip any of us have ever been on and the unanimous star of the island was Bruichladdich for us. They call themselves “the progressive distillers”, use bright and jet black colours on their bottles, which is a little outside the box for whisky – so we were all keen to get there and see what they had to offer…they really didn’t disappoint…

Here is Bill’s report on it…

Distillery – Bruichladdich
Tour – Warehouse Experience
Cost – £25
Host – Raymond
Time & date 12:00 Saturday 30th April 2016

Wanting to try something a little different on our Islay Tour, we decided to partake in the Warehouse Experience at Bruichladdich. This is the first distillery I ever visited back in 2013, I really enjoyed their standard tour, so I was very excited to return. I think the one thing that you immediately notice about Bruichladdich is their branding and distinctive colour scheme. It certainly draws you in and to my mind encourages you to explore the distillery!

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Having checked in at the distillery we were corralled with the rest of the eager visitors and shown to the nearby warehouse by our host for the afternoon, Raymond. What struck us straight away was Raymond’s natural charm and humour. He was passionate about the whisky and keen to hear our views and opinions on the different drams. He gave excellent advice on how best to taste, offering his opinion on the whisky but in an honest and open fashion that made us feel part of an experience as opposed to a lecture on Bruichladdich.

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The experience involves a short intro and background to Bruichladdich and then a taste of 3 drams served straight from the casks. What made this experience even more unique was the whisky we tasted wasn’t available to buy and you could only taste it by partaking in the warehouse experience.

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We started with a Bruichladdich from a cask distilled in 1989. We were told by Raymond that it was a great representation of the classic Bruichladdich flavour distilled prior to the distillery’s closure for a time. We all agreed that this was an excellent opening dram and on review of the entire tour was unanimously our favourite.

Also, this dram was the same age as Graeme, so that was pretty special for him. Very rarely will you ever get to drink a dram the same age as you.

Our second dram was another cask strength Bruichladdich with a hint of smoke, the popular Port Charlotte. This seemed like a natural stepping stone towards what was about to be one of my most memorable whisky tastings, the infamous Octomore.

For those of you who love smoky whisky then you will no doubt know the Octomore is the most heavily peated whisky about, usually coming in at about 170 ppm (parts per million in reference to the phenol content) that’s about triple the likes of Ardbeg. We all agreed that it surpassed our expectations and was surprisingly smooth and easy to drink given the cask strength and amount of smoke. As we drank, Raymond regaled us with hilarious stories and anecdotes that had the entire group in stitches, but we won’t reveal his secret tasting method for the Octomore…that is something you have to experience for yourself!

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(yes we were a few drams in at that point!)

Drams done we were given a chance to have a second dram of our favourites cask before heading back to the courtyard bar. Once in the bar Raymond was happy to advise us on a bottle to purchase and allowed us to sample his two choices. We settled on the Port Charlotte heavily peated Scottish Barley. Despite the great cycle proof packing, we liked it so much that it never made it off the island.

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We found all the staff at the distillery to be very warm and welcoming. Generous with their whisky, expertise and hearty banter. If there was one thing that you shouldn’t leave Islay without doing then it’s got to be the Warehouse Experience with Raymond. Wonderful whisky made even more enjoyable by an exceptional host. Certainly value for money and I am already looking forward to my next visit.

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Check out Bruichladdich Tours

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Slainte
Bill

Walking & Whisky No3 ~ Conquering England (well…kind of) ~ 23.04.2016

Walking & Whisky No3 ~ Conquering England (well…kind of) ~ 23.04.2016

So TJ’s recent fame of being announced as our official mascot has gone to his head and he refused to go on this weekend’s walk because he still hasn’t been paid in bones and dog treats yet…but DramVenturers Bill and Kirsty got stuck into a few mountains in the beautiful Lake District in Englandshire anyway…

The mountains:
Slight Slide – 762m
Scafell – 964
Scafell Pike – 978
Range: Lake District Southern Fells
Distance 17.8 kms total 1270 metres of ascent.
OS Map 90 (Landranger) 06 (Explorer)

On Saturday I set off on my first Lake District Dramventure, in the absence of our mascot TJ I recruited some trainee Dramventurers!

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We drove from our hostel in Grasmere over the impressive Hardknot & Wyrnose Passes which offered spectacular views of the area. A word of warning – this route includes gradients of up to 30% on single track roads. We parked opposite Wha Farm and easily found the start of the walk, sign posted for Scafell just next to the parking area.

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Following a rough path from a starting altitude of 87metres we ascended toward Slight Side and after about 3.5 kms we struck up the the shoulder which lead to the face of Slight Edge, it appeared initially steep but a decent path emerged. We reached the top without issue and were rewarded with great views toward Scafell & Scafell Pike and back toward Eskdale.

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From slight edge we skirted round the top and descended southward to follow a fairly decent path toward Scafell arriving about 1pm just under four hours after we set off.

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There are a few routes from Scafell to Scafell Pike and all seem to involve a fair bit of scrambling. We chose to descend by a gully and avoid the scramble or climb down broad stand. The scramble down the gully known as Lords Rake was steep but not at all technical however care should be taken. From here we ascended on a rough path to the col between Scafell and Scafell pike before joining the main tourist path marked by large chairs and arriving on Scafell pike. The top of England is a busy place on a sunny afternoon but the views are wonderful.

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The Whisky

Talisker Port Ruighe
Age: Non age statement
Distiller: Talisker / Diageo
Region: Island

For this Dramventure I chose the Talisker Port Ruighe. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably confess that I am a Talisker fan and have been since my first visit to Skye in 2012 for a friends wedding. A wonderful occasion at which I was treated to numerous drams of Talisker.

Before I get technical one thing that attracted me to the Port Ruighe is its rich rugby colour which is warm and welcoming. I have a love for all whiskies but probably lean more toward Speyside. The Port Ruighe is finished in port casks hence the sweeter flavour and ruby colouring.

Nose – the nose is initially sweet but you can definitely detect the sea salt and smoke synonymous with Talisker.

Palate – this dram starts off like a sweet port but quickly reveals its smoky Talisker underbelly. There are hints of orange and spices.

Finish – the finish is smooth and the smokiness lingers long enough to remind you of its Talisker heritage.

I already own this bottle but yes I would buy another and I found it to be a great sharing dram with something for everyone. It was certainly enjoyed by all my Dramventure recruits. It retails between £45 / £50 online and is certainly value for money!

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All in all, a great adventure away made all the better by a great dram.
Slainte
B

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