Saturday 18 October 2014--Looking across the Moray Firth at Fort George yesterday reminded us that the fort has been a
glaring omission in our exploration of Scotland over the years. Today we rectify that. Being members of Historic Scotland, we
both are entitled to free entry.
Fort George was a direct reaction to the last Jacobite Rebellion, intended to be the primary base from which any Highland trouble could be squashed. It took nearly twenty years to complete (although it was fully functional long before that), ran more than 100% over budget, and was, in terms of its original purpose, pretty much obsolete before it was finished. And yet, as a military facility, it was forward-thinking enough that it is still used as an active barracks. Ron and I poke into some of the buildings that have been given over to museum exhibits, but mostly we prowl the ramparts and enjoy the setting on a sunny day.
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Friday 18 October 2013--Happened to wake up at 4:00 this morning, and went online to see what the Red Sox score was. The game was still going, bottom of the eighth. I followed along on ESPN's gamecast, almost an hour until the game ended. Sox hung on to win, 4-3.
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On our way to Craigellachie, we stop for a look at the new Dalmunach Distillery, on the site of the old Imperial Distillery. It's supposedly not operating yet--there's still a good bit of landscaping yet to do, if nothing else--but my nose tells me something malty is going on. Here is testament to the boom-and-bust cycles to which the whisky industry is so vulnerable. Imperial was operated for only 45 of its 115 years, its output destined almost entirely for the blenders. The plant was closed for good in 1998. When I first saw the site in 2005, Chivas Brothers was actively trying to sell it. The buildings, never charming to begin with, were derelict, and they deteriorated considerably over the next several years. When the boom came, there was some idle talk of reopening it, but it wasn't feasible--the innards apparently were largely gone, and the site presented environmental hazards that were no longer acceptable. So Chivas demolished it, and built Dalmunach (which is the actual name of the locality). Of course, the aficionados now sing the praises of Imperial's malt, unloved in its lifetime. Bottlings are increasingly rare and expensive. Thus it ever is in the whisky world. Meanwhile, the latest boom is showing signs of faltering, and some industry expansion plans are being canceled. It remains to be seen whether the market will support the many new distilleries that have come online in the past few years. Dalmunach, like Fort George, may outlive its purpose before it ever rolls out a barrel of three-year-old whisky.
We roll into town late in the afternoon, check in, and stroll over to the Highlander for dinner and pints. Across the room I see a familiar face--it's Gorm, a Danish whisky enthusiast I met at the Bow Bar in 2008 (see 25 Oct 2008). With him is Claus, aka Big Mac, whom I've never met but certainly know by reputation. Also in the house is Chivas Brothers International Brand Ambassador Ian Logan. A marvelously convivial time is had by all.