You’ve got to hand it to the French … they really know how to showcase their food and drink.
Fresh back from a wine holiday touring the Alsace region of France, I was struck by how every restaurant menu featured at least one regional speciality paired with a carefully chosen local wine.
The highlight was a jaunt on a special ‘wine train’ through the vineyards of medieval Riquewihr, followed by a tutored tasting session and a chance to buy one of the fantastic selection of Gewurztraminers andr Rieslings.
But you don’t have to travel to the continent to enjoy this type of top notch gastronomic experience. From the Borders to the Isles, Scotland’s impressive range of distilleries are giving the French a run for their money with a terrific range of whisky tours and tastings.
And one of best is to be found right on our doorstep here in Crieff.
The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery is Scotland’s most visited distillery. And for good reason! Nestled into the hillside below the clear waters of Loch Turret, its combination of history, heritage and commitment to tradition makes it quite unique.
Plus, its location just 90 minutes from Glasgow and Edinburgh makes it a popular choice for overseas visitors and daytrippers alike.
I signed up for the Distillery & Finest Tasting Experience which seemed a popular choice. I joined eight other whisky novices – from as far afield Anstruther and Arkansas – as our lovely guide Gemma inducted us into the mysteries of ‘uisge beatha’.
We learned how malted barley is fed into the historic grist mill until it resembles course flour.
We peered into the mash tun and wash back, marvelling at the bubbling cauldron of ‘living’ liquid.
We soaked up the incredible aromas that filled every nook and cranny of the picturesque, whitewashed distillery buildings.
We agreed that distillery cat Turret – fast asleep and gently snoring in a cozy corner – had the best job in the world!
Finally, we discovered how the bourbon and sherry casks imparted their flavour and hew into the whisky, before Gemma had us all in stitches with her surprise ‘musical’ finale. No more about that here … you’ll have to do the tour yourself if you want to find out more!
Gemma’s one-hour masterclass finished in the tasting bar with the opportunity to sample two whiskies from the range (The Famous Grouse and The Glenturret Peated Edition). Then it was off to the ‘University’ for a further three tastes (Highland Park new make spirit, Highland Park Dark Origins and the Glenturret Cask 100 Peated Drummond).
At just £30 a head, this ‘entry level’ tour is great value. Not only does it include a souvenir nosing glass, but the designated driver gets a complimentary ‘drivers dram’ set to enjoy at home. A really nice touch.
I finished off my visit with a whirl round the gift shop (full of some great Christmas gift ideas).
From the one-hour Distillery & Tasting Experience (£10) to the day-long Stillman Experience (£250), Glenturret offers a range on tours to suit all pockets.
For more information, check out the website at www.experience.thefamousgrouse.com