Drinking in Dalmore
I recently had the chance to visit one of the most famous whisky distilleries in Scotland. Situated about 20 miles north of Inverness, The Dalmore, is highly regarded by whisky aficionados around the world.
More about the distillery itself shortly, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Inverness and the Highlands. It's an area I first visited about 20 years ago on a family caravan trip around Scotland so it was nice to return to see what had changed.
Inverness city centre is very compact, and hugs around the River Ness as it heads towards the Moray Firth. The castle dominates the skyline and offers great views over the River and the surrounding area. The river offers some great walks, and of course not too far away you can visit Loch Ness itself.
There's always been a bit of discussion about the famous monster and there are a number of ways you can try to get a handle on the issue including exhibitions at Drumnadrochit and Jacobite Cruises on the loch itself. Aviemore is another town that's worth a visit. At the heart of the Cairngorms, it is central to the skiing area in Scotland and quite a tourist industry has built up in the area on the back of the sport.
Of course, after all that skiing and searching for monsters in the cool highland air a lot of people might choose to enjoy a wee dram to warm themselves up. There are all sorts of Scots whiskies out there from dark & peaty to single malts and blended and for those starting off on a 'whisky journey' it can take some time to find one that appeals to their palette.
Going to a distillery is a great way to see how whisky is produced. It's a more convoluted process than you would expect and there are a number of laws that have to be adhered to before the finished product can call itself a Scots Whisky. At Dalmore, we saw how fresh water is drawn in from the rivers around Alness and processed through various stages before being stored in casks in huge sheds. The casks could be sourced from sherry, bourbon, port or a variety of wines to create the unique tastes, colours and textures. The secret is ensuring the 'liquid' remains in the various casks for the correct length of time (which in some cases is 10+ years).
Naturally, a distillery tour means you need to taste some whisky and not one to be impolite; I sampled a number of drams to ensure their quality.
We stayed at the nearby Ardtalla Lodge which is a luxury highland retreat on a huge estate.
The lodge is totally private and it can be hired out by the night exclusively, which means it is perfect for big family celebrations, stag trips or golfing/hunting trips. All meals and drinks are included, and when you taste the amazing food, most of which is sourced from the estate, and see the very well-stocked wine cellar that offer is nearly worth the money in itself!
The games room was the centre of activity on the night I was there. I would like to be able to report that I was the snooker champion of the trip, but sadly, I failed dismally and ended up snookering myself more often than getting a ball in a pocket.
You can read more about Ardtalla Lodge at novarestate.co.uk/ardtalla and find out about distillery tours at thedalmore.com