Though it’s always cold (the average temperature in the height of summer is just under 60 degrees), Scotland’s gregarious people more than make up for the chill in the air -- and after a few whisky tastings you might not even need your jacket anyway.
The key to any visit, like adding those critical drops of water to a dram, is finding the right balance.
Building on last year’s five-day, whirlwind man-trip to sample Islay’s finest (and peatiest) whiskies, we decided to shift gears to the lighter, sweeter Speyside spirits of Moray County, which sits about three hours north of Edinburgh.
The Speyside region boasts nearly half of all the whisky distilleries in Scotland, and a majority of those lie within a 20-mile radius of each other.
We had our work cut out for us, but could have done a better job planning.
Scant public transportation and figuring out ways to not drive while intoxicated proved to be formidable obstacles, but could not compete with 4 science brains and 4 of average Trivial Pursuit intelligence.
Though many of the distilleries weren’t open on the weekends (a fact that remained obscured until a few days before we flew out), and one distillery closed for the summer for the first time in its 188-year history just two days before we arrived, we still managed to visit eight distilleries in six days.
(Note: The number of tastings we sampled in the Edinburgh airport while waiting to depart could have bumped that number to 12).
And although the process is almost exactly the same from distillery to distillery, we learned to pick up on the nuances and appreciate the subtle effects each factor, like the shape of still or the barrel’s composition, contributed to making an impression on our taste buds.
Other than that, nothing exciting happened.
We didn’t cross paths with the world's only blue-haired Asian bartender with a Scottish accent; there were no near-death collisions caused by a driver starring at sheep; we never figured out what possessed our car radio; none of the tour guides ever answered JR’s infamous “methanol” question to his satisfaction; and a Chinese man definitely did not fart on one of us (ahem, Michael Kreis) in the passport line.
There’s always next year.