Category Archives: Scotland 2019

Five Days (And Counting…)

Hey, friends.

Four days now ’til our wee collective of malt mates heads across the big drink to visit the motherland. I’m miles behind on my organizing, but that’s life, right? And who am I to complain? It’s well-nigh impossible to solicit sympathy when your gripe is a lack of prep time for an excursion to go drinking with your mates for a week and a half or so. It’s a paid gig (i.e. it is actually work for me), but there’s no two ways about it: it’s also a lot of fun.

I may have one or two little trip posts for you before we set off, but that will depend if there’s anything worth reporting. I will also try to get another review or two up before go time, but I can’t promise that will happen. And after that, of course, I won’t be back tapping at the keys until at least the 9th or 10th of October. Hopefully there will be some stories to share. The ones that are safe to share, that is. Sometimes you have to err on the side of discretion.

You can follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter though, if you like. I’m not a diligent social media player, but I’ll probably drop a few cool pics and experiences on those platforms along the way.

In the meantime, hope you’re all doing well. And any of who may be in the neighborhood while we’re over are welcome to join us for a dram along the journey. Slainte!

The Planning Stages

I’m a planner. Can’t help it. It’s good to be on top of things when other people’s hopes and plans and money are on the line. If it’s just me flying solo, I couldn’t really give two shits about being organized; when things go off the rails, that’s just another opportunity to make adventure. The best stories come from those sorts of goings-on. But organizing doesn’t always go as planned. Especially with a lot of moving parts. Let me explain…

Early talk of this trip began in 2018. A high-level tentative ‘budget’ was pulled together and quoted to the lads. All seemed on the up and up, and then…well…the calendar year ticked over, and a whole lot of prices went up. Not ideal when you’re trying to honor your word as to costs, right? I wiggled and wrangled and tweaked and adjusted and managed to keep it very much in the ballpark. The ongoing debacle in the UK sorta helped in regards to the pound-to-dollar conversion rates. Thank God. In the end, it all worked out, but I may have added a few more grey hairs to the lid along the way. Such is.

Moral of the story? Book early. But not too early.

Moving on…

Where do we find ourselves now? Three weeks ’til the big show. Dave and Kent are heading out in separate solo jaunts, extending their time over and knocking off some personal agenda stuff (and yes…I imagine there will be a distillery or two visited as well). Dev and Doug take off on the 26th, squaring away some auction stuff before heading for Leith. These four cats will be hooking up at SMWS HQ in order to make a run at drinking the vaults dry. I’m just hoping one of ’em scoops up a bottle of some sexy Islay malt to mule across to the Island of Dreams and share with the rest of us.

On Friday, Sept 27th, Scotty and I will hop the big silver bird and light out for Glasgow, via Amsterdam. We’ll set down at about 10:00 am, hook up our rental car and make tracks for Arran. We’ll be late arrivals to the distillery (nearly 4 pm!), but hope to suck in as much as we can. Take that how you will. We’ll overnight it on the island, then catch an early morning ferry back to the mainland. Once we make landfall in Androssan we’ll be booting it back to Glasgow to hook up with all the other chaps so we can be at Auchentoshan for 2:30 pm. Apres ca…le Bon Accord! Or the Pot Still. Or some other place to eat, drink and be merry.

The following morning will be an early one. Our flight to Islay is scheduled to lift off at 8:00 am, setting us down on a little slice of heaven at 8:45. I have a driver booked for the entire duration of our Islay stay. Hughie Currie is a beautiful soul who always brings a smile to my face. I can’t imagine a trip over without him being involved. The next five days will be a slow, but very deliberate, marinating period for our livers. Nothing like gallons of peated malt to season a man up right, aye? We’ll lay waste to all nine distilleries on the island throughout the day times, then spend our eves carousing in the atmosphere of some of my favorite pubs and whisky bars in the world. Of course, staying at the Ardbeg Seaview Cottages for a portion of the trip means some late nights spent out behind the distillery, sitting on the craggy coastline and watching the waves roll in.

When we finally bid (a temporary) farewell to Islay, we’ll be heading for Campbeltown, via the Port Ellen ferry across to Kennacraig, then hopping a bus down to the tip of the peninsula. Two nights and three days in Campbeltown will be plenty of time to see Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank distilleries. We’ll wrap it up with a sick tasting in the Cadenhead warehouses before scooting off to the airport to catch a 5:30 pm flight back to Glasgow. One last pub night in the big city, then we’ll have to be up at the crack of…who am I kidding? We may as well not even sleep. I think we have to be up at 3:00 am or something for the return flight to Calgary.

And I can’t lie: I’m exhausted just thinking about those first couple days back home. Our livers will be petrified little prunes and our pores will be nothing more than wee off-gassing vents to dispel some of the bog reek we’ll be emanating. But I live for this shit. And I’ve said it before: these journeys feel like going home.

I could fill you in on the exact details of all these distillery bookings, but I think I’d rather save that for recapping what actually goes down, as opposed to what is planned. There will be much more to come. Stay tunes, friends…

Heading Home

And soon I shall return again, to Islay’s gentle shore
And see across the tide waves wide, the bright lights of Bowmore
Or wander through Bruichladdich, as night begins to fall
And see the moonlit beam on lovely Lochindaal

 – Iain Simpson (The Lights of Lochindaal)

We’re about two months from go time for the 2019 Calgary tour contingent. This will be the fourth group I’ve taken over in the last eight years (that doesn’t include solo jaunts). And the requests keep rolling in. There are two potential journeys back to the homeland in 2020 coming to fruition as we speak.

But let’s concentrate on the matters at hand. Namely, the trip looming just over the horizon. I’ll try to do a little better this time at keeping you apprised of how things are coming together, how they unfold, and how it all wraps up. It was all ‘great guns’ with trip updates for the first couple journeys, but man…growing up sucks. My time is less and less my own as the days go on. I’m 41 now and feeling every day of my years. Finding daylight hours for jottings like these seems to be getting tougher and tougher. But if these are the worst of our problems, so be it.

But let me give you the rundown. I think we’ll keep it to first names here, in the event any of the lads prefer to maintain some semblance of their anonymity. Something tells me that’s a non-issue with these blokes, but y’never know (especially as the stories begin to come to light, aye?) This crew? Scott: a gent who came across with me once before (2012), Kent: an old friend (old, as in long-time, not age), Dave (ditto, also one of my football mates), Devin (a man with one of the most laidback personalities I’ve encountered in some time; in other words…a prefect travel companion), and Doug (a sandbaggin’ sonuvagun that has forgotten more about whisky than most people will ever learn). With a collective like this, it’s gon’ be a time, b’y!

We’re heading across in a few separate groups before meeting up in Glasgow for a wee bit debauchery, a tour of Auchentoshan, then the wee hop across to that hunk of Hebridean heaven: Islay. We’ll knock around the island for a few days, ford the great waters back to the Mull of Kintyre for a couple days in Campbeltown, then head back to Glasgow to see our mates at the Bon and the Pot Still.

Cannae wait.

And the details shall be yours as they unfold. Planning notes, trip updates, on-location images and details (I think!), and post-trip recollections. Perhaps we can even sucker some of the others into contributing some thoughts here.

Watch this space.