Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas from Dave Craig of Spirit of the Spey

Following a hectic week juggling work & social in the lead up to Christmas  I am now sitting relaxed on the train en route to Edinburgh for what will be a great night, with around a dozen friends, at the most excellent, now annual, Phil Cunningham Christmas concert. Appearing with Phil will be the wonderful Eddy Reader and impish, hugely  talented  John McCusker.

With daytime temperatures being well above freezing, the snow of last week had taken a shift. Travelling through Drummochter Pass we pass the steep slopes of the hill known as The Boar of Badenoch, its southern neighbour  in Tayside  being the Sow of Atholl. The all too often dry-bedded River Gary is presently very swollen, carrying its snow-melt waters from Highland  into Perthshire.

There is a virtual raging torrent through the gorge at Killiecrankie. And, oh my goodness, I have just see someone plummeting towards the turbulent waters, bungee-jumping from beneath a bridge! Oh well each to their own. I think I might just have a wee snooze now.

Have a Lovely Christmas.

Dave C. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Consider Own Safety In Icy Conditions

Regrettably we have here yet another very distressing case of a 'rescuer' becoming a 'victim'. As highlighted in all practical HSE accredited First Aid training the 'first responder' ~ in this case the dog owner, hard as it may be, must always, always, carefully CONSIDER THEIR OWN SAFETY before moving to help any casualty. 
Tragic news item -
For details of practical First Aid Training ~
Next course in Newtonmore ~ 19th & 20th January 2012

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Balvenie Distillery - one of Scotland's Treasures.

On Monday I accompanied a small group of invited guests on a very enjoyable Balvenie Day of Discovery led by Dr. Andrew Forrester (UK Brand Ambassador). Our day began with a tasty bar-lunch in the quaint village of Dufftown. It has been said that Rome was built on 7 hills and Dufftown on 7 stills. Certainly some of the finest Speyside malts have for centuries now been crafted in and around this small township. Names include The Glenfiddich, The Dufftown, Pittyvaich, Convalmore, Mortlach and our focus of yesterday The (most-excellent) Balvenie ~ some may say the quieter, perhaps more attractive sister of the Wm. Grant family's extrovert, world-renowned Glenfiddich.

There is a warm, welcoming atmosphere awaiting visitors arriving at The Balvenie distillery. From beneath the picturesque but still 'active' pagoda-roof, guided by Andrew, our group set off on a thoroughly enlightening tour of this historic distillery. The Balvenie naturally offers one of the industry's most complete and comprehensive tours. From the very start of their journey through The Balvenie handcrafted process, guests are introduced to the first of the '5 Rare Crafts'.

Not only does Balvenie Home Farm (i) produce barley for the whisky production but this is now the only mainland distillery with its own full-time (ii) malting-floor, where 4 men, working shifts, carefully monitor the progress and turning of the germinating barley. Then at the appropriate moment, decided by these malting experts, the barley is kiln-dried to add flavour and arrest the germinating process. 

Visitors can witness and even try their hand at the turning of the growing grains that will constitute 10% of the cereal used in the production of the golden elixir that is The Balvenie. Balvenie has its own (iii) in-house cooperage ~ where trained coopers (a 7 year apprenticeship) check, repair and refurbish the all-important flavour and colour imparting oak-casks ~ ranging from American Oak/Bourbon barrels; European Oak/Oloroso sherry butts and Port Pipes.

Balvenie is the old distillery with its very own (iv) resident coppersmith, Dennis, who started at the distillery in the late 1950's. (v) Scotland's longest serving Malt Master, David Stewart, with over thirty years service with Wm Grant & Sons is responsible for expert nosing and careful choosing of the maturing malts prior to bottling.

Following on from our wonderful distillery visit with Andrew Forrester, Inshriach House ~ a spacious, well-appointed Edwardian villa just outside Aviemore ~ was the venue for our exclusive whisky-tasting evening. Around 16 guests from the spirits trade and malt-whisky enthusiasts from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the local Badenoch area were treated to a very special tasting session led be Andrew and Balvenie's Global Ambassador Sam Simmons.

Providing practical insight into the full-process of malt-whisky production, The Balvenie distillery tour is a must for all whisky enthusiasts. All in all a most excellent, enlightening, extremely enjoyable experience.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Snow covers the splendid hills in Perth.

En route via train to Perth for a conference organised by Wild Scotland.  The journey is magnificent with clear blue skies. The hills and moorland are covered by a soft blanket of pure white snow, tinged with orange and pinks where kissed by the low, winter morning sunlight.

The Wild Scotland conference ( is specifically for the nature-based & adventure tourism sector and offers a unique opportunity for the industry to come together, network and discuss current issues/developments.