Yes, that's a Dalek made from whisky barrels. It stands guard over the observation area at the Balvenie distillery cooperage.

Here's the whole picture.

Some friends and I took a short trip to Scotland and visited distilleries. We flew in and out of Manchester. Direct flight from Chicago. Passport control and customs took no time at all. Seriously, from plane to rental car was less than an hour. Heathrow can suck my American butt.

From memory, we visited

  • Edradour
  • Blair Athol (didn't go on a tour or tasting)
  • Balvenie
  • Glenlivet
  • Glen Garioch (pronounced Glen Geery, of course)
  • Strathisla
  • Glenkinchie

We estimated that between tours and bars we tasted around 60 different whiskies and only two were blends. They give you 12 and 18 year old Chivas at Strathisla since most of their malt goes into that. The big day was Balvenie followed by Glenlivet. We had the "special" tour at both thanks to our fearless leader signing up to be a Balvenie Warehouse 24 member and a Glenlivet Guardian. Thanks Dan! Both let us taste pretty much everything including a Glenlivet that was 35 years old. Then we stayed at the Craigellaichie Hotel where we had another scotch tasting. At that point, we adjourned to the bar where they have something like 600 malts. We tasted about 30 that day alone.

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Balvenie was the best tour and I recommend it highly but most of these need to be booked in advance or they have a better tour and tasting available if you do book as opposed to walking up. Many have free membership programs you can register for on line and you get something extra like at Balvenie and Glenlivet. The whole trip was only about 900 miles of driving to go from Manchester to the Highlands, Speyside, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Very doable. Speyside has the highest concentration of distilleries. The islands like Highland Park in the North or Islay in the west are hard to get to and require a Ferry which does not necessarily run every day. So if you want to do that, plan more than six days.

I came home with trophies.

From left to right:

  • A Balvenie Cask sample that I bottled my self. It's a 13 year old cask strength aged in a first fill bourbon cask. They had two others to try - one in a sherry butt and one in some other wood, I can't remember. Between the three of us we got one of each. Mine has little bits of char from the inside of the bourbon barrel floating around in it.
  • Balvenie Tun 1401. Batch 5. A mixture of about nine different barrels that mix together in a "marrying tun" and are bottled. Most of what they choose is more than 40 years old. This is my "retirement whisky." As in it cost enough to delay retirement and I'm not opening it till I retire.
  • Balvenie Peated Cask 17 year old. I like a little peat in my whisky sometimes but my friends are less fond of it.
  • A cask strength bottle from Glenlivet that you fill yourself. As of a couple weeks ago, there were only 110 bottles of this in existence.
  • Glen Garioch 1995 Cask Strength. There was a 1997 as well.
  • Glenkinchie Cask Strength. Some lowland for a little variety.
  • Balvenie Triple Cask 16 years old. Aged in three different woods. From Duty Free since American Airlines will let you bring 5 liters back on the plane and I was only at 3.7.

None of these are easily available in the states. Or at all in the case of the self-fill. I was completely honest with customs and though they seemed like they were about to search me, they decided not to. So I must have been under the limit, whatever it may be.

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Remember to get the VAT receipt if you don't live in the EU and you get back about 20% of your purchase price. Or at least I hope you do, I turned in the forms and I am waiting for the refund to show up on my credit card.