I probably visited my first distillery in about 1983; distilleries were John’s interest. He enjoyed a glass of single malt; he liked trying different flavours and I liked collecting the tea towels from the distilleries. It was a weakness of ours, in that we both liked collecting things, that we also collected miniatures, produced by any distillery we visited. John built three sets of shelves with seven shelves on each. Each shelf could take a minimum of seven, and a maximum of twelve, bottles. John never drank those bottles; he would buy a full size bottle instead, which would last a very long time. The problem with having a lot of miniatures is that they gather dust and it is a faff dusting them all. After John died, I continued to dust the miniatures, and even added to them occasionally. After about 15 years, I decided that the miniatures were John’s; I was never going to drink them and I didn’t want to dust another bottle. I knew that Lynn and Helen liked malt whiskey and one day I decided that I would give all the miniatures to them. I wrapped each bottle up in different pieces of wrapping paper, put them in a box and gave them away. I felt good about that; they were going to a home where they would be appreciated, literally because I said that it was fine if they drank them (which they did). They enjoyed the process of trying different malts, deciding which they liked (and which they didn’t).
Having got rid of the miniatures that I had collected, I find I still love going to distilleries. I love the history of the buildings; I love finding out about any links with old, illegal stills; I love the countryside in which they are set; I love finding the water, running in the burn, which is used in the process of distilling whiskey. I like the fact that, because the Scottish distilleries are part of a big tourism drive, you can bank on there being a good quality cafe or tea room and a shop. In distillery terms, a shop usually means a tea towel.
I called in at the Deanston Distillery, on my way back home from Aberdeen. I’d never been there before. The building is impressive, a former cotton factory, built in 1785 by Richard Arkwright, on the River Teith. In fact, Deanston Distillery is the only distillery in Scotland to be self sufficient in electricity, hydro-electricity. In distillery terms, it is relatively new in that it was converted from the cotton mill into a distillery in 1966 and was opened by the actor Andrew Cruickshank (of Dr Findlay’s Casebook fame; how I loved that programme!). I knew there would be a tea room; I am so glad I stopped because it was fantastic. I would recommend the Macaroni Cheese with Haggis. Never had it before but if I saw it on a menu again, I would definitely order it. The tea room was amazing with probably some of the heaviest chairs that I have ever had to pull out! After a splendid lunch, I moved on to the shop. There it was, a honeycomb cotton, pure white tea towel with the logo of Deanston Distillery embroidered at the bottom. It was a joy to photograph this tea towel, in its pristine state, before I have used it and therefore it is without stains. I bought two different miniatures, one each for Lynn and Helen. It doesn’t seem right going to a distillery and not buying a miniature.
One of the things that Deanston has done is to link up with a chocolatier so there are a range of chocolates on sale. One of the tours they do is about whiskey and chocolate tastings. I wonder if I could share a ticket with with Lynn; she could do the whiskey tasting bit and I could chomp my way through the chocolate!
I loved Deanston Distillery and I will definitely call in again on my way to Aberdeen; a great place. Having photographed the tea towel, I look forward to using it and remembering that visit.
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