May 28, 2015 Scotland UK Europe

Speyside, Scotland: A Visit to Chivas' Distilleries

"Would you like something to drink sir? A snack with your coffee?" Sipping my hot coffee while enjoying the beautiful fields of green, I grabbed my phone and decided to write my recollections of this trip. I was invited by Chivas Regal for a visit to their distilleries.

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When Nahla called two weeks ago, excitement arose. I was so happy to visit Scotland again, a beautiful and calm area I visited more than three years ago for a holiday with my wife. I'm a fan of whiskies, especially single malts and I've never visited a distillery before.

We were supposed to meet at 06:30am at Beirut airport. British Airways flight 148 was departing at 08:30. Enjoying the luxury of their business class, it was discovery time with an airline I was trying for the first time. 

Business class onboard British Airways is filled with surprises, a large screen, lots of food, a relaxing chair and a calm flight. Five hours passed like minutes while we prepared to land in London.

Heathrow is an impressive airport, one of the world's busiest and biggest. Fully loaded with passengers, the lounges are busy, the restaurants with not a single chair empty and moving from one terminal to another takes precious time. In Terminal 5, we stopped at the North Lounge for a quick bite. 

The North Lounge is one big saloon with showers, food, drinks and a speedy Internet service. If you're passing by the password is "Budapest". Don't worry about Internet at Heathrow because the service is free of charge for the first four hours. 

Two hours later and we were ready to board the next flight to Aberdeen. Despite having business class tickets, the plane doesn't have business seats, or a separate section. If you're traveling internally, don't pay for a business class ticket unless you need to access the lounges. They served coffee, honey roasted mixed snacks, while I counted the seconds, stuck between the fuselage and the passenger next to me. Tight, very tight.

You can't but stop for a moment, and leaving everything you're doing to enjoy the wide green fields as we approached Aberdeen. A small airport, one single luggage conveyor, and we were on the way to the distillery, an hour away by bus.

Impressive, shockingly impressive, breathtaking. We were invited to the Chivas house, not a hotel, but the Chivas castle. An old Victorian house from 1878 with its old stones and old decor. My room was on the first floor, a large room with a bathroom, a chimney and a small closed balcony with a view of the garden. That's amazing... If the trip started like that, I'm wondering what's coming afterwards.

Back to the house, the Linn House is named after the falls nearby. A castle with a high ceiling and a wooden parquet floor for the reception area. The lower floor has three distinct rooms, the dining area, the living room and another on the right side. Every room has its chimney and relaxing, comfortable sofas. Vintage furniture, soft carpets and old art pieces decorate the walls. It's not a hotel, it's more of a dream.

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6pm, drinks in the living room, I tried for the first time a whisky called "Scapa", a single malt from the island of Orkney. A full bodied, but light whisky, aromatic and woody, not too smoky, but it left long lasting notes of freshness. This whisky doesn't need any water to boost it up. I honestly loved it. We also had the Glenlivet 15 and a strong whisky with a 60% volume of alcohol called Aberlour. Chips and mini bites, salmon bites on spicy toast and some with melon and ham. Drinks, music, positive vibes, while the ambiance started to build.

"Sirs, dinner is served." Dinner was so good that I decided to publish a review by itself. A dinner fit for a castle, a large table hosting 12 guests, good wine and tasty food and surely moments I'll remember for a long time. I wish I could live here forever and have such dinners every night.

Tea around the chimney, a drink at the bar and now was time for bed in preparation of a long day tomorrow.

The room is up to five star standards. The bathroom had all the amenities you'd expect, slippers, a bathrobe, a bathtub and shampoo. The room was equipped with free internet, a plug adapter for our European plugs and a complementary water bottle. Not only that, but they also have night service preparing the bed and changing the water bottle. 

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As soon as I laid my head on those fluffy pillows, I slept like a baby... 

Good morning Scotland, it was 8am when I entered the dining room. Breakfast is also at the standards of a high end hotel. Bread, croissants, jam, fresh juices and butter. An espresso machine, yogurt, cold milk and cereals. The menu gives you a choice of three plates of eggs: salmon and eggs, omelet and eggs with bacon.

Today was the day, the visit to Chivas' main distillery as well as Balentine's main malt production. Strathisla distillery is one of the oldest around, producing a fine malt, one of almost 20 used for the production of the signature Chivas. What an impressive process, turning barley into beer then into whisky. For more info, please check the video showing the steps of this meticulous process. 

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The most interesting part was the tasting. 12, 18 and 25 year old Chivas, as well as the house whisky. That day I developed my senses further, to better understand whiskies, to understand blends, while fully believing that adding water to whisky is a must. Adding water boosts aromas and flavors.

Lunch was scheduled at Copper Dog, at The Craigellachie Hotel where I fell in love with their food and gave it a review of its own. A lovely hotel hosting a warm restaurant offering exquisite food. I honestly wish I could have had my phone at hand all day long to write the details as they happened.

Glenburgie was next on the list, a 40 minute trip from the restaurant. Glenburgie is the main distillery of Ballentines, a modern factory made of stainless steel tanks. 

Happiness, pure happiness and enjoyment, that's how my trip can be described.

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It was 07:30pm, time to meet in the lobby. 

It was fun to see the group in traditional Scottish outfits. Kilt, shoes and jackets with white socks. It was fun, real fun, a night enchanted by Scottish tunes, delicious food and lots of drinking.

I personally enjoyed trying those clothes on, I never imagined them to be that heavy. The shoes are different and feel heavy with their metallic bottom as well as the kilt, produced of real wool. I had a backache at the end of the night.

After an enjoyable dinner, it was bedtime. A busy day indeed. A beautiful experience, a great host, professional welcoming and service, delicious food and lots of learning. Thank you Chivas, for everything.

Wednesday morning, after a hefty meal, eggs bacon and sausages it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye Scotland... I'll be back soon.

More photos in the gallery down below

Categories: Travel



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