The biking accident
At the moment I’m sitting in the van in the middle of the Cairngorms. Actually it’s in the middle of nowhere really. We just drove up this little road which became curiouser and curiouser. We drove it all the way up into nothing when we could go no further. A ‘ locked deer gate’ stopped us from going on. So now I’m sitting here, trying to capture our Scottish adventure while it’s still in my head, and heart. It just started to rain outside and inside Yuri snorrs, just a little bit though 😉 It’s btw. 9 o’clock in the evening so you might be wondering why Yuri is a sleep already. Well, that has it’s reasons which I’m about to tell you.
So yesterday we arrived in the Cairngorms, a national park in the highlands of Scotland. For now we were just passing this national park cause we were first heading to the Speyside – whisky district. We had a brief tour at The Glenlivet, oldest legal distillery of Scotland, dating from 1824. Did you know that you could only call a whisky a whisky when it is matured for a minimum of three years in an oak cask? We also learned that the founder of The Glenlivet George Smith, who was a farmer btw., made his first whisky at this estate. He then went to Edinburgh and was able to give the King George IV a drum. A drum being a glass with the minimum amount of whisky in it. King George IV then said that he wouldn’t want any other whisky anymore than the Glenlivet. And so it became the first legal distillery of Scotland.
In the end we drove to a campsite at Aberlouer, yep another famous whisky is distilled here. After a night of sleep the sun woke us up. That doesn’t happen everyday in Scotland so we decided to take advantage from it. Besides having breakfast outside we took our bikes out for a ride. Like everyone Yuri and I also have a bucketlist and Yuri’s bucketlist contains ‘cycling from distillery to distillery in the Speyside’. We have all the ingredients to check that bucketlist item of his bucketlist and even the Scottish weather was on our side. So we left. Without a wallet. Smart. Thirty minutes later we started again. First we cycled to Cooperage. Not a distillery, we only found out 10 minutes into the tour ;-). The whisky has to age in casks, like I mentioned before. Well some company has to make these casks and that is Cooperage. At Cooperage we got a short tour about this cask making. Casks are very important to the taste of whisky. 80% of the taste of whisky comes from the cask, 100% of the colour comes from it. It is that important. Casks mainly come from Spain and America. In America the casks are made from white oaks and brandy is mainly used in the casks before the whisky distilleries use it. This also influences the taste. Brands who produce Brandy in America are only allowed to use the cask once, so afterwards the casks are send to Scotland. The Spanish casks mainly contain cherry. Whisky’s matured in these casks are my favourite.
The people at Cooperage (Coopers) earn money by the amount of casks they make. The oldest employee is about 64 years old and makes around 25 casks a day. How much he earns they didn’t tell us but she promised us it’s a good salary. When there is a vacancy here more than 150 people will apply. It can’t be that bad.
Btw. Did you know that a long time a go when people got too drunk they were punished by wearing the drunk cask. I can’t imagine how Speyside looks like when that punishment is still in use.
We continued our cycling adventure to the Macallan distillery. It is here when everything went wrong… Or right, depending on what you focus on. We cycled all the way up hill to go down again to the Macallan distillery. This is where I saw the warning sign “Cyclists dismound, cattle grid ahead” and Yuri didn’t.
So before I even knew what was going on Yuri fell over his bike, hitting his head and hands on the ground, his bike fell over him and his glasses fell off. It all happened so fast. Luckily Yuri stood up right away so I knew it was all okay. I got his bike and glasses. Of course Yuri forgot to put on his cycling gloves so when I rushed over to his side his hands were bleeding. But only his hands, which to me was kind of a miracle as I saw him hitting his face on the ground. After a little while at the side of the road we headed down to Macallan. A nice drum would definitely help, but the help we got here was a lot more than just a drum. The ladies at Macallan helped us right away. One of them was Jody who made sure Yuri’s hands were desinfected and well being taken after. While she was fixing Yuri’s hands the other sweet girl Emily gave us a delicious drum, Macallan Sienna. I don’t really like whisky, still don’t, but this one tasted very nice. Of course I was a little bit in shock still so I’m not sure if I like the drum as much a next time.
After all the help of the ladies we took a tour. A long one: 1,5 hours. We learned about the three ingredients to a singel malt whisky: water (from the river Spey), malted barley and yeast. Macallan is established in 1824 as well as The Glenlivet. Only a couple of months younger, how annoying. Again a farmer, who rented the land Macallen is still on, started making and producing this whisky. Macallen produces about 12 million liters of whisky every year. They are now extending and hoping to make this about 15 millions of liter a year. Only Glenfiddich (Dufftown) and the Glenlivet produce more whisky every year. We got a look at the whole production of the whisky. I’ll not bore you with the details. Though Glenfiddich and the Glenlivet produce more whisky every year, the Macallan spends the most of all on casks. As no-one drinks cherry anymore, the Macallan even pays Spanish factories to make cherry and age them in their casks so they can get the right flavour out of it. Flavours like that of Sienna. Well like I wrote before, the casks are very important to the flavour of the whisky. The tour at Macallan was about 1,5 hour including a tasting of 4 of their whisky’s and the spirit before you can call it a whisky. Well after already drinking 3 whisky’s before the tasting I didn’t like the taste of it anymore. To me Sienna is still the best whisky I’ve ever had, but again the biking accident might have influenced this experience.
Yuri felt good enough to cycle back to the campsite where we took a shower and drove off into the Cairngorms, where I’m sitting now writing this incredible long story. And I’ve got so much more to tell you all. Scotland has been an adventure and it isn’t even over yet. Up to now we’ve seen so many magnificent places, met wonderful people and had quite the adventure now and then. Lots more to come =) Today we walked about 4,5 hours while Yuri’s hands are still badly, ok I’m a bit exagerating, wounded. So now he’s tired and sleeping, which I’m about to do as well. Oidhche mhath.