Earlier this week, I went to visit my friend Clutch at his home in the seaside village of Burntisland in Fife, Scotland.
We have a whisky blog together (called, unsurprisingly, Dubber and Clutch), we’re co-writing a book about whisky (along with a bunch of other authors), and we’d arranged to visit a couple of distilleries and whisky makers.
Our first stop was a light lunch with legendary master blender Richard ‘The Nose’ Paterson at the headquarters of Whyte & Mackay in Glasgow. After a mini spring roll or two and a few stories, he took us into his tasting room, which was not only a museum of scotch whisky, trophies and accolades through the ages, with a bewildering array of bottles of unimaginable value – it was also the source of a non-stop torrent of stories, places, dates and names. The man is a walking encyclopedia.
Clutch, Colin (our photographer friend) and I were then treated to a tasting of a very special and very rare whisky. I was halfway through my glass before I’d done the calculation that I’d already swallowed about a month’s salary.
We then popped to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, where Colin and Clutch are members, and had a proper lunch and a dram or two with Whyte & Mackay PR guy Rob. This was, as you can see, a more substantial feed. Not a good idea to go tasting whisky on an empty stomach…
Back to Colin’s in Edinburgh for a couple more samples for the book. We sat out in his back garden, overlooking Holyrood House, toasted the Queen (who was in at the time: the flag was up) and watched the sun set over Edinburgh Castle.
In the morning there was time for a stroll around to see the sights of Burntisland, before heading out to visit the Glengoyne distillery. We had been offered a tour of the distillery and warehouse, as well as the chance to make our own blended whisky (about which, more on our whisky blog).
Also on the tour were a couple from Sao Paulo and their (astonishingly patient) young son. The father, Diego, is a business coach and he’s given me his card so when I go back to Brazil (quite soon, as it happens) we can perhaps meet up for a whisky over there.
Clutch and I spent rather longer than we had anticipated at the distillery, and so missed our bus back into Glasgow. As a result, we had to take a much later one, so the man who ran the distillery shop offered to drive us to the pub down the road where we could have a meal while we waited.
It turned out that we had a mutual acquaintance. One of the radio scholars I come into fairly regular contact with – and with whom I spent a good deal of time in New Zealand at the radio conference – was a friend of his. Small world.
Anyway – long story short, we made it back to Clutch’s quite late, and we were due to have an early start the next morning for another three-hour journey to another distillery. Only this time, it didn’t happen. Train delays, weather and weariness all got the better of us, and so we spent day three of our whisky adventure sitting around the kitchen table trying to write about all of the things we’d sampled and experienced.
The trick, I think, is more writing and less sampling. As the day went on, the productivity levels declined and before too long, it was time to catch the train back to Birmingham.
A lovely few days, we actually managed to get quite a bit of writing done, and although we walked away more or less empty-handed (neither of us actually bought a bottle of whisky), we did get to try quite a few very good drams.
And in particular, it was just nice to catch up with Clutch and his family – and spend a bit of time together for the first time since they moved from just around the corner to that rainy country up north.