Every Wick Way...
Good evening and here is the news... Blogger gets back to reality in a week lacking dining excitement.
So much for the plans on the big Scottish catch-up. The car's gone, the real world has forced its way back in - in a big style - and it's only now I'm feeling "bloggy" and well fed enough not to be pining for the joys of the Scottish larder.
The Tuesday before last saw me reach the end of my trip north, and the place that had inspired the whole feature: Wick. Or, to be more precise, Pulteney Town, Wick's close neighbour and the site of the Old Pulteney Distillery. And it was worth the trip. From a motoring perspective, the drive was fabulous. If there's a better road to test a car than that stretch from Inverness to Wick, I'd love to drive it, particularly in a car like the BMW which hugged the curves and had enough power to cruise past the slow moving tankers when the road opened up. With an iPodded playlist of driving classics blaring and the windows open, it would have been a great experience anywhere. But with Scotland's natural beauty all around? Rolling fields, vast expanses of water - both Lochs and ocean - and all under a "Simpsons" sky... It was glorious.
Even if Wick had been a disaster, it would have been worth the trip. But Wick - particularly the Mackays Hotel - Old Pulteney and my host, Iain Baxter, contributed to making this perhaps the best day of the trip. Mackays has a certain prestige with trivia fans as the front of the hotel is on the world's shortest street. It looks like a fairly standard smalltown hotel but owner (and local sheriff) Murray Lamont has a few tricks up his sleeve. A car fan and a major foodie (Murray also owns Wick's off licence), Murray has made sure that Mackays' little cafe is the sort of local anyone would want. And so, with a belly full of glorious Cullen Skink and having hooked up with Iain, we took a short spin to the distillery...
If you've ever done the distillery tour thing, you probably know what to expect: the shiny, sanitised "McWhisky" experience. Old Pulteney is delightfully different and feels like a genuine work place, the sort of production line that's evolved over the years. Stills and vats and tanks have been squeezed in here and there and trailing the line of production will take you up and down stairs and in- and out- doors. The result is fascinating and authentic and gives you a genuine sense of both history and whisky production.
As I was leaving, Iain generously gave me the chance to decant my own bottle of cask strength Old Pulteney - bottle no. 2 of cask no. 2993, to be strictly accurate, which is 13 years old, aged in a second fill bourbon barrel, 61.8% in strength, a beautiful shade of amber and absolutely bloody gorgeous. Cheers Iain.