On the Trail

Treasures of Pitlochry

David Driscoll

Every year we come to Pitlochry, Scotland to visit Edradour distillery and our friends at Signatory, one of the most important independent bottlers in the whisky business. Each time we visit I fall in love with the area more and more. Nestled right at the foot of the Cairngorms mountains in the geographic center of the country, the quaint and cozy town hosts a surprising number of scenic-seeking vacationers and nature-loving tourists who enjoy hiking the many trails nearby. The River Tummel flows right along side the main street, creating one of the most idyllic atmospheres in the region. It's exactly the picture you imagine in your head when you think of Scotland. It's the absolute perfect place to pour yourself a dram and relax.

Pitlochry is actually home to two world-class distilleries (Blair Athol being the other, a whisky we often purchase when available), which make for quite a nice attraction when you're stopping through. I'd come to Pitlochry just for the scenery, but it's nice when you can justify doing business in the area. We pulled up to Edradour this afternoon under gorgeous conditions, the sun shining down to help balance out the chilly mountain air. While the facility is closed to tourists until April it still operates around the clock, year round.

Since this was Jeff's first time to Edradour (and to a Scottish distillery in general!) we had manager Des McCagherty give us a tour of the tiny facility. Only one wash still and one spirits still make up the production here, so it's very much a hands-on type of experience. Under Andrew Symington's ownership, however, the distillery is finally planning an expansion next door with new stills and a new warehouse as part of the vision.

While we love Edradour and support the brand here at K&L, it's the distillery's "other" whiskies that bring us in each year. In addition to his own whiskies, Andrew warehouses privately-purchased casks from a number of other Scottish distilleries, which he in turn sells to us in their entirety. We receive unprecedented access to the vast and awe-inspiring selection, as Des takes us through each row, ready to pop open a bung hole at our request. It's one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences we get to participate in each year, tasting these whiskies in their natural environment straight from the wood. We look forward to this day with great anticipation, believe me.

This year's crop of casks didn't disappoint. There were some old faces, some surprising gems, and a few overachieving newcomers. All in all, I was more worried about Jeff getting lost amidst the barrels than I was finding great whisky to purchase. There are many lost and forgotten treasures buried deep in the Signatory warehouse. It's just a matter of digging them out.

-David Driscoll