Tuesday, 21 October 2008 Colder today, with continued highly variable weather. Bright sunshine at times, interspersed with
wide bands of heavy rain. Driving under dark cloud, I can see the sun shining on freshly-fallen snow on the mountains to the west. Glad I
came through from Ullapool yesterday.
My major goal today is to visit Glenmorangie, and I'm hoping to travel north to Tain via the tiny Cromarty-Nigg ferry. Jim Anderson says he thinks it has stopped running for the season, but I go to look anyway. Find it berthed at Cromarty. The detour costs me an hour, which I might well wish back later in the day, but I really don't mind taking the circuit of the Black Isle.
Arrive at Glenmorangie at about 11:30, and get on the 12:00 tour with a dozen other people. (Good reason to lament the lost hour, now that I think of it: distillery samples always taste best in the morning.) A good basic tour. The stillhouse is always the photographic highlight of any tour, of course, and the one here is especially impressive--at sixteen feet, ten inches, Glenmorangie's stills are the tallest in Scotland. The guide says one thing that stands out in my mind--talking about the whisky's raw materials, she states (among very many other things) that "the yeast is nothing special...." I've become very interested lately in the effects of different strains of yeast. I've read, for example, that winemakers are aware that different yeasts will produce different esters, and of course brewers are very particular about yeast. I shouldn't think whisky-making is any different. I'd like to ask someone with more technical knowledge about this. I doubt the distillery manager thinks his yeast is "nothing special", but it's a topic I've heard very little about in distilling.
We get a dram of ten-year-old at the end, in a Glencairn glass which we're told we can keep. Not bad for the £2.50 admission, which is refundable with a purchase, anyway. I buy a bottle of the cask-strength Astar to take home, and a half-bottle of the 10 for a roadie.
Mr Anderson has recommended to me the Tarbat Discovery Centre nearby, so there I go. It's a museum covering the history of the area generally, and the deconsecrated church in which it is housed particularly. There are bits of several successive churches visible within the construction, dating back more than a thousand years. There are also some splendid Pictish stones on exhibit. Archeological investigation of the site suggests that a Pictish monastery stood here, the only known such in Scotland.
Next is Fearn Abbey [Undiscovered Scotland], and none too soon--I've been suffering from abbey withdrawal. This was a smallish monastic community of the Premonstratensian order, which survived as a parish church. A notable event in its history was a lightning strike during a service in the 1740's, causing the roof to collapse, killing several dozen attendees. I wonder what the sermon was that day, and what the God-fearing parishioners made of such a pointed editorial comment.
I've been hoping to squeeze in another distillery visit, but it's late in the day. Drive through Invergordon and catch a quick glimpse (and a strong whiff) of the huge grain distillery there, and also pass by Dalmore. And I drive into the back of an industrial estate to see the neat and thoroughly charmless plant of Teaninich.
Dinner is back at the Anderson, in the whisky bar. Listen in on a conversation between my host and a representative from the Isle of Wight's CAMRA chapter, and throw in my tuppence worth every now and then. It's been a good stay. I'm not keen to see the bill tomorrow, but it's been worth it--I'd come back here any time.