July 9, 2009

Roth and Ramberg go to whisky school


July 9 (and the wee hours of July 10). - posted by Terri Roberts

After a lengthy sleep (jet lag induced, not booze) we headed out in search of Nessie, or those who may have encountered her.

Our first stop just was down the very lush and leafy road, in a little village called Invermoriston where Michele spotted some Highland cows and screamed, “Let’s go look at hairy cows with the camera.”

It was perfect timing, as the torrential rain was just stopping. We wandered into an interesting looking craft store (complete with sets of antlers missing heads) and met a cobbler lady who made her own clogs (which Dale has assured us he will purchase later).

When we asked her if she’d ever seen Nessie, she said that we wouldn’t believe her if she had. After some reassurance, she told us how she’d seen ‘something’ 25 years ago on her honeymoon around Loch Ness. She was quick to point out that she couldn’t be sure what it was (perhaps a deer crossing the Loch?). We wondered if she felt she had to qualify her sighting story so that people wouldn’t think she was crazy. For the record, she wasn’t crazy at all. And, we put our money on Nessie versus the deer.

Further down the road, we decided to stop and dip our feet in Loch Ness. Michele and I opted for bare feet. After a slight mishap atop a very slippery rock, Dale went for the whole shoe.

It was colder than anticipated, and the lake itself as long as the eye could see. Although, it wasn’t really that wide. In fact, we later found out a Russian group of swimmers who were in the area were planning to swim across it on Sunday. For what reason I’m not sure. Maybe just because they can.

We continued on around the southeast coast of the loch as the sun peaked in and out of the multiple layers of cloud above. It was obscenely picturesue. Parts of the highlands reminded me of Gros Morne, Newfoundland. And Michele did a magnificent job of navigating the tiniest of roads (on the left, of course).

We landed in a place called Foyers, famous for its falls and stopped into the Waterfalls Café for a bite to eat. The place had a lovely deck on the front that from its high vantage point, gave a beautiful view of the loch below.

We chatted with the owner of the café and the adjoining shoppe, Simon. Originally from Poole, Simon and his wife Jan retired here to enjoy the view. And what a view it was. We were fortunate enough to shoot Simon and his resident chef (and jack of all trades) Graham. All three had recently had a sighting from the very deck we were standing on.

When we asked Graham if he thought what he saw was actually the famous monster, he answered, “It was either a lesser spotted black aquatic giraffe or Nessie.” And Graham seems to be a man in the know.

We had a wonderful afternoon getting to know them, dogs Broody and Sophie, as well as the lovely Tasha who made a mean cup of coffee. But before we knew it, we were about to miss our reservation for dinner back at Fiddler’s in Drum so we hightailed it home for the night.

Much to my delight (I’m using that word loosely), I was surprised with a birthday haggis (not kidding) complete with two very brave candles. It actually wasn’t that bad, if you like those parts of a sheep.

We finished up the evening much like last night, with a dram of whisky for all. Not a bad way to spend your birthday. Rabbie Burns would totally approve.

Post Script…

So, that ‘final’ dram turned into quite a few more with none other than the resident ‘champion of the Northern Highland whisky’ (Jon) and a visiting whisky maker (Marko) from Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.

We lost count of the number of whiskies we tasted: some young spirits, some old, some that tasted like fruity gasoline, others like silky smoke, and others still that made you stomp your foot as it went down (true story).

We learned that in order to be called a single malt scotch whiskey, it has to sit in a barrel in Scotland for at least 3 years and 1 day. And that whiskey spelled with an ‘e’ isn’t really whisky (hence all future whisky references will now exclude the lowly ‘e’). We learned about (and tasted) Japanese whisky and discussed the amount of information on their bottles.

We were told how some distilleries up north ship their whisky to places like Glasgow to mature. And we talked about the importance of water (what makes it so peaty) – a passionate subject for our host.

All in all, it was the biggest whisky lesson of our lives. One I’m sure not on the menu at any distillery tour in Scotland.

After even more drams, the topics shifted slightly (and widely) to Scottish history, Canada, Newfoundland, Gaelic (the Gaelic word for ‘helicopter’ is in fact ‘helicopter’), whisky festivals in Glasgow (try not to get too drunk), MacDonell’s, MacDonald’s, Bonnie Prince Charles, the Seven Heads (that’s one well you don’t want to drink from), Glengarry, Hudson’s Bay, tea-spooning (has to do with making whisky, I assure you), Google Earth, Nordic-Germanic descent, Russians, French Canadians, Highland cows, lowlanders versus highlanders, Cuban food in Glasgow, haggis, blood pudding (made from cow’s blood, not pig’s, and very few with actual blood), and on and on and on.

We were joined by a lady named Jenny who had gotten her car stuck on a rock somewhere on a country road looking for her dog. She was from a few towns away and had somehow made it to Jon’s to call for a tow in the middle of the night. She was a lovely lady who loved Canada and all the Scottish Canadian ties.

Soon we couldn’t see the counter below for the bottles on top, all of which had amazing stories to tell. Much like the company we were fortunate enough to keep until the wee hours of the morning.