First up was Dallas Dhu, an old distillery that's no longer actually operating as anything but a tourist attraction. This seemed to be of marginal amusement value, but it wasn't too bad. They let us taste their regular whisky, but we couldn't taste their uber-special-fancy one unless we bought a bottle. Clearly they had not figured out what Talisker had, that letting customers taste your premium stuff makes it far more likely they'll buy some. (After all, Denise and I spent hundreds, combined, at Talisker, and not a penny at this place.) The highlight of the visit was the RAF and USAF planes streaking overhead in impressively tight formation.
Next we went to Cardhu, and I'm very glad we did. The visitor center door was locked, but had a sign telling us to check at the office, so we did. A nice lady named Sarah got up from her desk and gave us a fantastic personal tour. She is obviously a huge whisky fan, and we even chatted about Maker's Mark, my favourite bourbon. (She had a bottle at home already, or I would have grabbed my travel bottle out of my luggage to give her.) We spent a small fortune there, too. One of the neat things about their gift shop was that they sell not only all of their products (and the affiliated Johnny Walker products), but also a line of small distillery whiskies that you otherwise wouldn't find. I bought the Cardhu 27 year cask strength (which is stunningly good) and a bottle of Daluaine, which we'd never have heard of if it hadn't been there. (Not coincidentally, she'd let us taste several things before we bought anything. Hey, Dallas Dhu folks, are you sensing a trend? Wise up.)
Did you know that blended whiskies (such as Johnny Walker) are not just blended malt whiskies, but are blended with grain whisky? I didn't either, but I do now.
We were pretty sure the Glenlivet was closed by this time, but while driving around we spotted a sign for Glenfarclas, and headed there. They are no longer on the whisky trail, and are thus no longer in the brochures, because they don't spend any money on promotion. This seems like a bad idea.
They, too, had closed for the day, but again the folks we found gave us a brief look around. Their "ship room," featuring beautiful salvaged wood paneling from the Empress of Australia, was also their tasting room. One of the displays was of a 100+ year old medal for best butter that the owner's great-great-grandmother (or whatever) had won in a local fair. It had been given to him several years ago when he was visiting distant relatives in South Africa, where they'd had it for decades. Weird.
Glenfarclas was one of the first good whiskies I had in my own personal collection, thanks to a gift several years ago from my aunt and uncle. I hadn't heard of it at the time, but I quite liked it. I bought a bottle of the Glenfarclas 105 cask strength. (Guess what! They let us taste a couple of different whiskies first.) We learned the next day that Glenfarclas has also temporarily (I hope) stopped production. They're using their production staff as tour guides, and won't be hiring their usual seasonal tour guide staff. They really ought to start investing in promotion. Meanwhile, if you can find some, buy the stuff. It's good.