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Billy54

Scottish Whisky Distilleries and Telford

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Hello, I was wondering if any of the Britmodeller posters could provide any feedback or comments on a trip my son and I are planning for late October and early November this year. So far the only part we know for sure is to attend Scale Model World in Telford arriving on Friday and departing on Monday (6th through 9th November).


We will be departing from Los Angeles and plan to be away for approximately 10 days. A tentative schedule would look like this arriving in London, traveling to Scotland, visiting SCM, a day or two in London and then returning home to LA. We don't want it to be an exhaustive trip and don't want to be busy doing something every day however we do plan to visit a couple of the whisky distilleries and do a little sight seeing. We plan to get around by public transportation or taxi/Uber and have no desire to rent a car and drive ourselves.


I feel we have a good handle on the SMW part of the visit because of the IPMS site however we would welcome any comments about traveling from Birmingham to Telford - getting from the airport to the train station, getting around Telford etc. We have reservations to stay at the Ramada for our SWM stay.


The questions we have mainly concern visiting the whisky distilleries of Scotland. The two areas we are considering are Speyside and Islay. We don't know if a visit to both areas are possible in the time frame we have set and would be content if we only got to visit one. Based on what have determined from the internet a visit to Speyside seems easier and we were considering staying in Dufftown and visiting at least the Balvenie, Dufftown and Glenfiddich distilleries. We are aware that we may have to book a visit in advance to these distilleries but were wondering how to  from our hotel in Dufftown to each distillery, could we walk to each one or are taxis/Uber available and a better choice? Islay distilleries seems to be more scattered and internet information doesn't seem to be as complete as that of Speyside.   


I guess some questions would be how to get from Edinburgh airport to Dufftown? Is Dufftown a good choice for what we want to do? Would staying at Inverness or anywhere else, be a better choice?


We would appreciate any and all comments on what we plan to do on this trip

Edited by Billy54
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Hi Billy,

 

That likes like an excellent trip.

While I can't help with any specific recommendations, I can offer one piece of advice - take your time and enjoy it 👍

 

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Thanks bhouse, I believe I have corrected the spelling in my post because I certainly don't want to upset anyone who embraces their national spirit. Hopefully I have made the corrections before any whisky loving posters have spotted my mistake.  :)

Edited by Billy54
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Some answers Billy. There is a railway station at Birmingham Airport (Birmingham International) with frequent trains to Birmingham New Street which is the main station in Birmingham city centre. By frequent I mean at least 6 an hour. There are direct services to Telford Central from International which travel via New Street and there are also trains that start at New Street. There is at least one train an hour to Telford Central. So getting to Telford is not too difficult. The ICC where SMW is held is a 15 minute walk from the station but you can get a taxi. 

 

Dufftown is a little more of a challenge but eminently achievable by public transport. From Edinburgh airport you need to get the tram or Airlink bus into the city centre. Both terminate near the main railway station Edinburgh Waverley. The tram is a little quicker but the bus terminates on a bridge right outside he station.  In addition they both pass and stop at Haymarket station where all trains going west and north stop. To get to Dufftown you get the train to Elgin, either changing at Inverness or Aberdeen. From Elgin you need to get a bus service to Dufftown. I think the service runs from Elgin to Aviemore, which is effectively the length of the Spey valley. Using the transport icon in Google maps will give you journey details as well as time and transfer information. The Scotrail website is also useful for journey planning by train in Scotland. You can also get the train from Birmingham to Edinburgh, takes a little longer but is centre to centre with less hassle. And passes through some great scenery on the way. 

 

As an aside Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it's worth spending some time there if your itinerary permits. 

 

Hope this helps and you have a great trip. I'm hopeful of attending SMW this year so perhaps we can meet up for a chat and see how the trips gone. 

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Excuse me if you know this already, but Islay is more famous for its peaty flavours, whereas Speyside has much lighter brands.  You can of course get lighter malts on Islay.  Islay is more difficult to get to, flying from Glasgow or ferry from Oban. A car is advisable, particularly if you want to pop across to Jura, which has only one distillery but with some very nice malts.

 

I've not had problems just turning up on the day, but in busy times it would be preferable to check s day or so on advance, if only to avoid having to wait between tours.

 

PS.  Look for 2 or 3 day Whisky Tours which may be available from Inverness or Aviemore - maybe even from Dufftown?

Edited by Graham Boak

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31 minutes ago, 825 said:

As an aside Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it's worth spending some time there if your itinerary permits. 

I can second that, having spent a week in a course there for work a few years ago.

 

this was one of the highlights of my week there - be sure to be at the Castle for the 1pm gun - most impressive!

 

https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/see-and-do/highlights/one-oclock-gun?sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj7ktPSjbDnAhUAQEEAHU-EDdYQ9QF6BAgKEAI

 

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Billy,

 

you can also take a tour of Speyside distilleries from Edinburgh. There are a number of such organised tours, this one is just an example;

 

https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-tours/from-edinburgh/2-4-day-tours/speyside-whisky-trail-3-day-tour

 

As 825 says, if your itinerary permits. 

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Hi Dufftown is nice but small, Aviemore & Inverness have more in the way of accommodation as does Elgin. The attraction at Elgin is the nearness of RAF Lossiemouth, Typhoons & P8's based there. Most distilleries these days have some sort of visitor experience, expect to spend a bit of cash! I live in Aberdeenshire which isn't to far away and has some great distilleries. I can try and find some visitor leaflets for individual distilleries if you want.

 

Below is a link to the Visit Scotland page

https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/food-drink/whisky/distilleries/speyside/

 

Think these guys are local to the Speyside area

https://www.highlandspirittours.co.uk

 

And these guys run tours as well

https://www.morayfirthtours.co.uk/whisky-tours.php

 

And these guys run a very successful festival.

https://www.spiritofspeyside.com

 

Have a great trip whatever you decide to do.

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Thank you all for the detailed and quick responses, it was more than I had anticipated and I need to take some time and digest all your input. 

 

@825 Your step by step instructions for getting around Birmingham/Telford/Scotland are very much appreciated and your comments regarding Edinburgh and traveling between Birmingham and Edinburgh have been noted and will be considered. And yes if you make it to SMW it would great to meet up and chat, it would be something that I would look forward to.

 

@Graham Boak Yes I am aware of the peaty flavours of Islay's whisky, personally I prefer the lighter brands however the Scottish part of our trip is for my son's benefit and he enjoys the whisky from Islay. 

 

@Whofan Thank you the  information Edinburgh and the Castle and the 1pm gun and the links.

 

@Harley John Elgin and RAF Lossiemouth, hmm something else to consider, thank you for that and also for the links.

 

Whatever we end up doing or seeing I shall be happy to once again visit England and Scotland and travel with my son.  I shall keep you all updated on any decisions we make and once again thank you all for the time and effort you all took in responding, it is greatly appreciated and will be considered.

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I like a whisky...

 

I might be a minority here, but there are hardly any distilleries left which aren't owned by a much bigger parent company and still do everything on site from drying the grain to bottling. The rest all make various types of whisky, granted, but the tours are all the same. It's a good experience, but my suggestion would be to just choose one distillery to visit. Most offer two prices - the more expensive one includes more samples to try. In my humble opinion most good distilleries make ~2 good whiskies and the rest are different blends to sell off the not-so-good stuff.

 

If this sounds negative, it isn't meant to be. You should definitely do a whisky distillery tour. I'm just suggesting that if you book six tours you may decide you've made a mistake as you walk into the stills room of the 3rd one and learn that the temperature they run the process at, what they do with the head, heart and tail of each batch and what they actually do on site is remarkably consistent from distillery to distillery...

 

If you want to try a lot of whiskies in a structured and educational fashion, you might try a bonafide whisky shop with some of the time saved - I think there's a good one in Inverness itself. They'll know what they're doing and often can guide you towards whiskies you'll like.

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We did try the tasting board offered in the cafe at Ardbeg on Islay, all their own of course but still a good range. Unfortunately the one we both agreed on turned out to be a special for the US market and no longer available... Not ideal marketing, I thought.

 

I bow to Jamie's superior knowledge, and agree that the Speyside distilleries lack individuality, but I'm not so sure of all the Islay ones.  Bruchladdich offers a range of malts made from single varieties of barley, although I regrettably didn't get to taste them all.  Largely because it wasn't offered.  Clynelish is unfortunately a little far from your itinerary.

 

But they all tell you that it is the specific qualities of their local water supply that makes each malt distinctive, and they can't be lying, can they?

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Lies? Noooooooooo...

 

What can be interesting to observe after a few is the breadth of flavours that a single distillery achieves from the same ingredients, same process and same equipment.

 

The head, heart and tail bit is no secret but essentially what first comes out of the stills is nasty, rough rocket fuel as is what comes out at the end. It's the bit in the middle that has the potential to be nice but obviously it's a batch and where the head stops being head and starts being heart etc is a little subjective and open to the whims of each distillery.

 

Given the variance within each distillery's products (not all of them good to be truthful) the variables left are the age (and what each barrel gets blended with as it evaporates off over the years) and the casks used. First fill casks seldom contain nice whisky by my personal tastes. I am often pleased with a sherry cask whisky.

 

Distilleries from Dalwhinnie on the A9 to Scapa in Orkney all seem to buy their barley air-dried from Aberdeenshire - if there's anywhere still doing their own grain drying the old way using peat fires they'll be out in the Hebrides somewhere. That makes for a really smokey taste - which reminds me, I finished my Lagavulin 16 Distillers Edition a while ago and should start dropping hints with friends and family to get me another for my forthcoming birthday (it's a real milestone this one - 39!).

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In regards to your Telford stay, it should be rather easy to navigate to SMW from the Telford train station. They have replaced the old bridge and walkways from the train station, and it is only a short walk before you enter the large indoor shopping centre. You can walk right through that and you come out in front of Telford International Centre (the shows venue), so its actually pretty great for travelling to. There will be numerous metal signs pointing the way to The International Centre and there will be a few digital signs advertising SMW (although youll probably only see them if traveling by car) 

 

If you get the chance, you may want to explore Ironbridge - its only around 4 miles away and quite picturesque (UNESCO World Heritage Site i think?) and arguably the birthplace of modern industry. There is a store there, Moonshine & Fuggles, that specializes in whiskeys and gin, and has been very successful at depleting the bank balance over the years! 

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I'm told this is a good whisky shop in Tomintoul: The Whisky Castle. https://www.whiskycastle.com Think I was in it years ago but I have friends who like it.

 

I do know this one in Elgin, Gordon & Macphail: https://www.gordonandmacphail.com  They do their own label takes on over 100 distillleries. The blurb says they are an independent family owned & managed firm and they have a nice shop in Elgin centre. I've always liked their stuff but I am a rank amateur in the world of whisky.

25 minutes ago, Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies said:

(it's a real milestone this one - 39!).

Whippersnapper!

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32 minutes ago, Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies said:

my forthcoming birthday (it's a real milestone this one - 39!).

I have two years and one month to get it as together as Jamie has it.

 

 

Ulp.

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First off, a confession. This comes from a non whisky drinking Scot. 
If time precludes a lot of travel and you find yourselves in Edinburgh, my original home city, then you might find a visit to The Whisky Experience worthwhile. 
web site here

 

https://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/

 

Edinburgh is well worth a visit as there is much to see and do

 

Enjoy your time here in the UK

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12 hours ago, Procopius said:

I have two years and one month to get it as together as Jamie has it.

 

 

Ulp.

 

Don't believe the hype Edward. I'm not sure anyone really has it together below the optional glossy veneer - although it's good to know I had you fooled 😂

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Something that may be worth checking out though it has likely changed in the 30+ years since I made my way down the Spey valley, the time of year you'll be going is getting into what was then the off season & very few distilleries were still open. I found the Glenfiddich one open & had a fabulous tour through it late in the day as the only tour member & as I was able to ask several semi knowledgeable questions, the £5.00 tour became the£20.00 tour, fantastic plus enough drams  at the end to make finding my B&B in Grantown on Spey a challenge. :D By all means, visit different distilleries to try different drops. I'm not a peaty whiskey fan, I like the smooth Speyside types  Balvenie is my preferred high end, aka barely affordable one, I'm just as happy with  Glenfiddich though. My siblings all get excited about Laphroaig. Personally I find it harsh, probably ok with ginger ale or coke though. ;) :D  

Steve.

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I have an update to our proposed trip, my son has informed me that his favourite whisky is Oban and that it would be a priority to visit that distillery. Getting to Oban doesn't appear to be that complicated, although it may take a day to complete, fly from Heathrow to Glasgow, Glasgow to Oban by train. In addition to visiting the distillery we plan to do some sightseeing of the area.
 

@Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies
I also like a whisky :) I take your point concerning on the consistency between distilleries. Not sure yet if we will get to Inverness. I have often thought it would be great to get a handful of barley/grain and a small bottle of water from the same batch and then 12/15/20 years later buy a bottle of the finished product. :)

 

@Graham Boak

Not sure if we will get to Islay, we are still working on a schedule. It may depend on how easy it is to get to Islay from Oban and how long it will take.

 

@Kushan_Farsight
Yeah we will probably get a cab from the Telford train station to the Ramada where we have reservations for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Time permitting  we may visit Ironbridge.

 

@Harley John

I appreciate the comment on the The Whisky Castle and Gordon & Macphail and yeah, I am also a amateur when it comes to whisky. :)

 

@JohnT

Thank you for the input on Edinburgh and  The Whisky Experience.
 

@stevehnz
We realize that late October and early November are the off season and weather conditions may not be ideal.

 

Once again let me thank everyone for their input and comments, it is much appreciated.  I shall keep you abreast of further developments.

 

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Islay is not easy to get to from Oban, much quicker to catch a flight from Glasgow.  I don't think that many distilleries are readily reachable from Oban, and the islands are not noted for public transport.  Without a hire car I'd suggest the Spey valley might offer you more.  You are looking to spend significant sums on taxis.

 

I'd recommend thinking again about not driving, or get an organised tour.

 

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I can only add that you will enjoy visiting Scotland. For many years it was my favourite place next to Canada's West for vacation.

Never met one unfriendly person, fantastic landscape, excellent B&B and pubs to remember. I vividly remember a visit

to the then smallest and most impressing whisky destilleries in Scotland, Endradour, near Pitlochry which we combinded

with a visit to RAF Leuchars airshow when still in use. And BTW, useful and great hints and advices from you guys.

Lothar

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@Graham Boak
Hello Graham, thank you for your comments and input. It would be our intention to return to Glasgow from Oban prior to visiting Islay, however it seems that Loganair (sp?) does not offer flights to Islay for late October/early November and I think (hope?) the reason being that their booking software/app doesn't go that far into the future. Perhaps waiting a few months may produce different results?


I cannot argue with your comments on driving, an organized tour or visiting the Spey Valley however my son and I have decided not to any driving on this trip and because of his desire to vist Oban then Oban it will be, even if it's the only distillery we visit. The organized tour is appealing however it seems that a lot of tours cease to operate after mid/late October, we realize we are going off season.  


We would like to see a little of area around Oban and understand there is at least one castle in the area which appears to be closed by the end of October as are some of the smaller restaurants.  The only things set in stone for our trip are visiting Oban and Scale Model World so who knows what our final itinerary will look like.

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Visited Dufftown once, but felt that Glenfiddish was on the way to become somewhat of a charicature of a Scottish distillery - too many tourists perhaps. Also visited one of the smaller destilleries - Aberlour perhaps - which was much more personal and enjoyable, where we got to try all stages of the process, from mash to rocket fuel to stored finished products. By the time we got there we were in a blissful state, very suitable for a visit in the distillery’s outlet/souvenir shop. 

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Hello, I just want to update all who are interested that due to circumstances beyond my control my son and I have decided to cancel our trip to Scotland and Telford which was planned for later in the year. I kindly thank all of you for your help and input and hope it can be of use in the future. Of course we are disappointed but look forward to perhaps a 2021 visit. My best regards, Billy54.

 

 

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