Friday, September 19, 2014

Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet



Last month I was invited on a gorgeous trip to Aberdeen Scotland to visit The Glenlivet distillery, and to taste an exclusive product launching in October.   

Going in, I knew that this trip was going to be a special one.  I was one of three journalists from the United States invited to be one of the first to taste this new whisky!!


I landed in Aberdeen, and after a small hang up with the customs officer, was finally let into the country.  For some reason, saying I was a "guest of The Glenlivet" did not quite cut it with the officials.  After presenting proper documentation that I was in fact a guest of The Glenlivet, I was on my way.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Speysaide Countryside
After about an hour drive through the bucolic countryside we arrived at the hotel, the baronial Meldrum House located in Oldmeldrum.  We pulled in through a massive stone gate, up a winding drive that ran past the hotel's famous golf course, and up to the castle-like hotel.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Meldrum House

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Welcome 18 Yr Scotch
I was shown to my room, where I promptly collapsed onto the bed and took a nap.

I awoke for tea with savory and sweet pastries, and afterwards took a walk around the incredibly gorgeous estate.  The hotel was built in 1211, and was used as a hunting lodge by Edward I.  The house originally belonged to Philip de Fedarg, who later changed his name to Meldrum.  There were all kinds of artifacts throughout the hotel - most notably a white taxidermy tiger peering over the staircase.  Keeping watch over the hotel were two long haired Highland cattle, who basked lazily in the sunshine. 

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Protector of the Meldrum House
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Golf Course of the Meldrum House
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Highland Cattle

Early evening we went into the sweet town of Ellon for dinner at the esteemed restaurant, Eat on the Green.  Owned by "The Kilted Chef" Craig Wilson, the restaurant is in a charming stone building on the town's green.  We ducked through the impossibly low doorway, and into the lounge for a dram of The Glenlivet and canapés.  Dinner was a gorgeous Carpaccio of Beetroot salad followed by the Aberdeen Angus Fillet served with 12 Hour Braised Blade, Smoked Pancetta, Carrot Purée, and Caramelized Onions - to die for.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Plaid Carpet Treatment
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Scotch Aberdeenshire Angus Fillet
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Cellar Bar of the Meldrum House

We retired into the cellar-like bar of the Meldrum House, and after another dram, I was off to bed.  

- - - - - 

The next day we met for lunch outside of the hotel.  There was a lovely set up with cured meats, prawns, and delicious Scotch Eggs made with quail eggs.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Luncheon in the Courtyard of the Meldrum House
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Scotch Eggs!
After lunch were scheduled for a golf session with the golf pros of the Meldrum House.  We walked down the main road to the golf course - a lush course with rolling greens.  I dusted off my ancient golf skills thanks to some great tips from the golf pro and a few whacks on the driving range.  When in Rome, they say.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Rolling Greens
That evening, we dined in a private dining room of the Meldrum hotel, followed by a candlelit tasting of The Glenlivet portfolio in the estate's pigeon house.  We started the tasting with the new spirit, the unaged spirit that comes off the still and has clean nose of ripe orchard fruits.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
New Spirit
This was followed by a tasting of the The Glenlivet 12 a whisky that has a nose of banana, pineapple, pear, apple, and a touch of anise.  On the palate the whisky has flavors of oatmeal cookie, baking spices, pineapple, a touch of heat mid-palate, and a sweet creamy finish. 

Next up was a tasting of the 15 year old French Oak Reserve, aged for 15 months in limousin French Oak Barrels, and is then transferred as to not overpower the whisky.  The 15 year old is spicy, and full of flavor.  It drinks like a bourbon but with flavors of tropical fruit, and a nutty richness.

The 15 year was followed by the Nàdurra 16 Year, a non-chill filtered whisky aged in first fill American bourbon casks, and bottled at cask strength.  The Nàdurra, which means natural in Gallic, has a nose of fresh tropical fruit, orange marmalade, and is spicy on the palate with flavors of orange, peaches, and peppercorn.  With a touch of water this whisky becomes brighter and opens up the signature flavors of The Glenlivet - the pineapple, mandarin, coconut, and and a clean minty finish. 

Onward, to the 18 Year, a whisky aged in both American and Euorpean Oak, that has a nose of spiced orange, coconut, lemon.  On the palate The Glenlivet 18 has more toffee flavors, caramelized orange, and dried stone fruits. 

This was followed by the XXV, a gorgeous and intense whisky aged in hand selected ex-sherry casks.  The nose on this whisky is creamy honey, orange, dark chocolate, with dried fruit.  On the palate the XXV is like a sweet creamy coconut cream pie, with bright fruity flavors of pineapple, mango, and green apple.  Impeccable.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Glenlivet Cellar Collection - 1983
And finally, one of my favorite whiskies of the trip, the The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1983 finished in the New French limousin oak.  This incredibly creamy scotch has a bright nose of orange marmalade and pineapple, with flavors of caramel, almond, anise, creamy orange, banana, and has a clean mint finish. 

We were lucky to be guided through such a wonderful tasting of The Glenlivet portfolio by our host Peter Prentice, who noted many of the differences of what makes each expression taste different from the next.  It is fascinating how each of the different whiskies showcase both the core flavors of The Glenlivet (orange, pineapple, coconut, green apple), yet some are more peppery, some more chocolatey, and some are bolder, and have more spice. 

- - - - - 

The next morning we woke early and were off to Ballindalloch, home of The Glenlivet distillery. 

When we arrived we were greeted by a Falconry expert from Phoenix Falconry Services, who knew pretty much anything and everything about birds of prey.  We saw four of his birds: one who could fly through tiny openings, one who was fast and extremely expensive, an owl that flew 4 inches total, and a gigantic bald eagle that made me feel proud to be an American.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Fastest (and Most Expensive) Bird on the Planet
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Birds of Prey
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

After our a team photo with the eagle, we were loaded into Argos, and we headed up to the top of the hill that overlooks the valley.  The argos slowly charged up the heather-covered hill, chasing the fluffy sheep out of the way.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Our Host, Peter Prentice
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Day's Transportation
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Argos & Heather Covered Hills
When we reached the top of the hill we were treated with a taste of The Glenlivet Master Distiller's Reserve, which seemed fitting considering we were about to meet master distiller Alan Winchester himself.  The reserve is a lovely whisky that has bright flavors of pear, toffee, and coconut, with a touch of spice from the the time spent in first-fill ex-sherry casks.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Master Distiller's Reserve Overlooking The Glenlivet Distillery
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Hills Surrounding The Glenlivet Distillery
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
Because, Selfies.
After a selfie or two, we were headed back down the mountain for lunch.  But first, we stopped to visit the original site of the first Glenlivet distillery - now a monument in the countryside.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet
The Original Location of The Glenlivet Distillery
Little did we know, the chef was preparing a four course meal for us that included a plate of rabbit terrine, cured salmon, pigeon pie, and paté, followed by a course of grilled Lobster, and a Venison Shank topped with mushrooms and flowering oregano.  Finishing of this epic lunch was a delightful lemon and fresh raspberry tart, made with the most heavenly raspberries I think I've ever tasted.

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

After lunch we were off to the distillery to learn how The Glenlivet is made, and what makes it so unique. 

Read about the second half of my trip to The Glenlivet - 50 year old Scotches, Castles, and lots of Haggis!

Cheers!
Gastronomista Speyside Scotland with The Glenlivet

Part 2 - The Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1964 and 1966 - and A Distillery Tour>>

4 comments:

  1. Holy crap, that looks like the best time ever. So gorgeous.

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  2. @boozy epicure - it kinda was. Just wait for part 2 on Monday! x

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  3. so jealous! scotland is beautiful, and that not just the scotch talking...

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  4. that is absolutely brilliant, and what fabulous photos!

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