It was a bright spring morning, and a warm one for Scotland, when we set out from Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth and into the fabled highlands in search of the ancient cultures and traditions of uisge beatha, the Water of Life – Scotch whisky. We motored past craggy hillsides looming over verdant glens sprinkled with countless white sheep, and finally, as we neared Pitlochry in Highland Perthshire, we came upon a cluster of tidy whitewashed stone buildings alongside a sparkling burn (stream).
This is Edradour, which proudly proclaims itself to be the “smallest traditional distillery” still operating in Scotland, a ‘farm’ distillery – read, small scale – that produces over 25 distinctive single malt whiskies. We soon met up with our kilted host, one John Galt (yes, Ayn Rand fans, that’s actually his name) and it soon became apparent that John is more than a tour guide – he’s a whisky evangelist. His enthusiasm for Scotland’s national drink is infectious and his presentation wove a sort of magic spell around both Edradour and the spirits produced here.
The process of making Scotch whisky is not that remarkably different from distilling other spirits – but there are unique features. The basics are some kind of grain, yeast, water and a still. In the case of Scotch whisky, the grain is always malted barley and the still is always in Scotland. Other Scotch-like liquids are concocted elsewhere in the world, but – like Champagne from Champagne, France, or Jack Daniels from Lynchburg, Tennessee – the only Scotch whisky comes from somewhere in Scotland.
The barley is malted, which is a complex process of drying, wetting, cooking and cooling that produces a grain chocked full of sugars, perfect for squeezing out lots of alcohol. Heating, or kilning, the barley during the malting process requires fuel, and in Scotland, where there are very few trees, distillers turned instead to peat from the country’s plenteous peat bogs as their primary fuel source. The regional differences in the peat smoke create rather distinctive flavor differences between, say, the whiskies from the Highlands versus the Isle of Islay.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
TRIED AND TESTED HOTEL: ME Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
BEST FOR World-famous views of El Arco with a beautiful stretch of beach and oceanfront pool
TRIED AND TESTED HOTEL: W South Beach, Miami Beach
BEST FOR Playfully chic interior décor and a happening pool scene
TRIED AND TESTED HOTEL: Summit at Big Sky Big Sky, MT
BEST FOR Two easy-access ski lifts and perfect views of Lone Peak
Tipping around the world
Who and how much should you tip when abroad?
Think Local, Eat Global
The culinary scene in Miami’s South Beach is an international adventure
This Sonoran Desert city is hot in more ways than one, a destination that mixes business and pleasure in a special way
CES 2021: BABY, IT'S A WILD WORLD!
The biggest tech show on earth sidestepped the pandemic this year to present the long and short view of a hopeful future
Looking for New England
With its intriguing history, wild natural beauty and excellent food and drink, Cape Cod’s appeal is all-embracing
When you’re on the road, there are ways you can beat stress before it beats you
THE REVIEWS ARE IN
When it comes to buying travel, other people’s opinions count. But who can you trust?