Posts Tagged ‘drunken American tourist’

Scotch

June 17, 2008

Not the highlight of the visit to Scotland, but certainly one of my favorite stops, was to a distillery.  Yes, the place where they make that precious amber liquid called Scotch by most of us… and merely whisky by the Scots themselves.

We found a distillery offering tours southeast of Edinburgh (which, for some reason i never understood, is pronounced ‘Edinboro’ by the locals).  The Glenkinchie distillery has been in business a couple hundred years and offered us a true education about the Scotch making business.

Thinking we’d get some cheesy little video and see some handbuilt models of the process, we were pleasantly surprised to actually walk through the distillery, seeing all steps of the process on the way.  Including, as seen in this picture, the yeast vats… and our guide opened the lid on them.  Get too close to them and you could get knocked on your ass by the fumes!

There are some eleventy-seven different brands of Scotch, each with it’s own unique taste.  That taste is affected by the water of the region, the amount of peat used in drying… or smoking… the malt barley, the size and shape of the copper stills, and finally, by the casks used to ‘mature’ it*.  

As to that latter, the casks are of oak or poplar or other hardy woods** which by themselves add a certain flavoring to the Scotch.  What was surprising to me was that they (well, Glenkinchie, anyway… can’t speak for the others) only use casks already used elsewhere.  For example, the casks Jack Daniels uses for their whiskey maturation are used only once… then sold off to folks like Glenkinchie.  Glenkinchie also uses casks previously holding sherry wine.  Each of these ‘pre-soaked’ casks, then impart a hint of that flavor to the Glenkinchie whisky… for 10 or 12 years (less or more years and the Scotch just doesn’t taste ‘right’).

And, of course, my favorite part of the tour was the tasting room.  Ahhh… it did indeed make this man’s eyes water and mouth drool.  They, of course, first offered us tastes of their own brand.  But, for the purpose of ‘education’ (and who can deny themselves a good lesson now and again?), they also offered quite a variety of other brands from other parts of Scotland so that we could taste the differences.  One brand, for example, uses lots of peat in the smoking process and, to me, smelled like something you’d burn in a kerosene heater rather than drink.  I’ve heard it’s an ‘acquired taste’.  I think i’ll let someone else do that acquisition.

Unfortunately for me, i was the designated driver (the Girl Child having lost her license during an unfortunate pickpocket experience in Istanbul).  i didn’t let that stop me from having three… or was it seven?… samples of Scotch before leaving.

And with a wistful farewell (and a hope to return), we say goodbye to Glenkinchie Distillery.

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*There are quite a few folks at work i’d like to put in a cask so they’d actually mature.

**hehehe…i said ‘wood’

Back In The Wilds

June 12, 2008

I sit here, bleary eyed, staring at my computer screen wondering where the heck to start in recounting my trip to Scotland. I’m coming to the conclusion that —

(a) My body clock is still on Scotland time; travel lagging,

(b) My mind wanders grandly from thought to thought even when I’m not tired,

(c) There still is no ‘c’, and

(d) There’s no way to get all the highlights in one post anyway.

But, a few points for now —

Seeing the Daughter Person was wonderful. We caught up on all the little life trivia we hadn’t otherwise shared and we enjoyed seeing the sights. She never achieved her stated goal of “…drinking a pint of authentic Scottish beer in an authentic Scottish pub while listening to authentic Scottish music…”. This was because the only Scottish music we heard being the bagpipes in Edinburgh. And, despite liking that music (in moderation), it would definitely not be welcome in a pub environment. We did, however, share a few pints together…

For being a ‘wee land’ (being about the size of our Maine [state motto: “Hey! Don’t Forget We’re Up Here Too!”]), it is a very geographically diverse and varied country. I was surprised to find so much empty space until being more surprised that there are only some 5 million Scots. And they are outnumbered by Scottish sheep by some 4 to 1 margin. C’mon, Scots! You need more sex! No… no… not with the sheep…

So, suffice it to say that I’ve safely returned to the Frontier of the Midwest. I admit that, besides travel fatigue, I am suffering from a nasty case of “Carpal Butt” from the plane rides home (no, I did not swim it… this time… maybe next, okay?). Tune in over the next few days for other adventures of GnuKid in his journey to one of my many homelands.

Ah dinnae wan’ tae lae ye, am glad tae be haem wi’ ye, but dae wan’ tae gang abroad someday suin.

GnuKid Disappears

June 4, 2008

For awhile anyway. ..

The Girl Child is an adventurer at heart. Much like her Grandma, she views the world as a toy to be played with often and everywhere. And, admittedly, like my Mom, the Girl Child is also a source of learning for me on how to better live life.

So for her recent adventure, the Girl Child is finishing up her semester abroad in Switzerland*. She has been actively bugging me to come over to visit. Between work, finances, and ‘other’ issues**, I’ve been hesitant to agree. But, I finally gave in and we started talking plans.

Girl Child then sets down a ground rule… we can’t go anywhere that she’s already been in Europe.

Now, let’s go back to that “Girl Child is an adventurer at heart” thing. On spring break and most every weekend, she has been almost everywhere in Europe already! Even being pick-pocketed in Istanbul*** didn’t discourage her wanderlust.

So…after reviewing the extremely shortened list of options, I chose Scotland as my adventure spot. I’m a mutt, with about a third being Scottish. As such, I’d sort of like to see my ancestral homeland…well, a third of my ancestry, anyway. And I hear tell that they have a strange and wondrous liquid called “Scotch” that I’d like to try in a native glass… or seven… teen…

Anyway, I’m off to gallivant about Scotland, leaving the Wilds of Ohio, and have an adventure. I won’t e-see you all until the middle of next week (unless I can peek out if I can get access to the Girl Child’s laptop when we’re not touring, walking, gawking, sleeping, eating…).

See you back here soon, riding the range of the Wilds of Ohio!

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*I don’t remember having such wonderful opportunities for doing this kind of stuff when I was a kid. [grump] I feel cheated.

**I’m sure you’ll be seeing blogs on the ’other’ issues down the road… be patient.

***Ouch…