History and Whisky

History, scenery and whisky were three of the things that brought us to Scotland, and today we got a bit of each.

First stop, Culloden Battlefield, site of the Jacobites’ last stand against the armies of the English in 1746. This devastating loss marked not only the end of the Jacobites’ bid to restore the Stuart dynasty to the English throne, but also the end of highland clan culture. The TV series Outlander vividly brought this battle (and the events leading up to it) to life, and I highly recommend checking it out.

These stones mark the mass burials of the fallen highlanders (as many as 2,000, nearly half that number killed just in the first few minutes of the battle).

We didn’t have far to go in distance to go 4,000 years back in time to the Clava Cairns, a series of Bronze Age tombs and standing stones.

Cassie and I couldn’t help testing the standing stone to see if it would take us back to eighteenth century Scotland a la Outlander.

Then it was time to head to the Speyside region, the area with the greatest concentration of whisky distilleries, including the most well known brands like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan, Balvenie and others. It’s the River Spey that gives the whisky region its name, as well as serves as the foundation of the liquor itself.

As luck would have it, today marked the grand opening of The Macallan’s brand-new distillery and visitor’s center. Six years in the making, at a price tag of some $180 million, it was quite a coincidence that the opening fell on the same day we were in the area.

The facility is built into the side of a hill, meant to blend in as much as possible (down to its turf-covered roofs).

The interior was vast; I could look up numbers to quantify the experience—I did hear the figure 15 million liters produced annually—but words won’t really convey what it’s like inside.

It was a treat to visit the home of the whisky that introduced us to single malt Scotch, but Cassie and I both agreed that we preferred drinking the whisky over visiting the facilities that make it. Unlike breweries and wineries, where you get to taste the beverages and pick your favorites, here it seems more limited—get a small taste as part of a tour, or buy a dram at the bar, which you can do anywhere. Then again, we only stopped at Macallan and Glenfiddich, so we could be doing it wrong.

In Iceland, we couldn’t go a day without seeing a waterfall. The same is true in Scotland, except it’s castles instead of waterfalls. Today’s was Balvenie Castle (after which the nearby distillery is presumably named).

Tomorrow, we begin the next leg of our trip, heading—in the words of the Outlander theme song—o’er the sea to Skye.

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