When I was planning our trip to Scotland earlier this year, I made sure to book a lodge for the first week that wasn’t too far from the country’s famous Malt Whiskey Trail – a group of distilleries located along the picturesque River Spey, which empties into the North Sea.
Speyside, the undisputed center for whisky production in Scotland, is home to more than half the country’s distilleries. It’s part of the Highlands, but it’s considered a separate region because of its unique qualities. Many of the distilleries use Spey River water (it looks crystal clear and runs fast). Speyside scotch is generally considered complex in taste, with a touch of sweetness and pleasing, elegant aromas.
The trip looked fairly easy on paper.
On the appointed day, we headed north to Speyside, which the map promised was only an hour or a bit more from our country hotel. But when we followed our GPS instructions, the soothing female voice with the plummy British accent turned out to be a terror. She led us down a winding single-lane road with plenty of oncoming traffic. (Turnout pockets are the only way to avoid head-on confrontations.) Not being well-versed in the niceties of Scottish road etiquette, and feeling my blood pressure rise with every blind corner, I decided to find a major highway.
The route I settled on was more roundabout, but it took us through some beautiful old towns with fantastic Game of Thrones names until we got to Dufftown, which is the southern point, more or less, of the Malt Whiskey Trail.
The day was cold and rainy. In fact, the rain this spring has been record-setting. We heard from a local that 90-year-olds are encountering roads that have never flooded before. In other words, we picked the perfect time to visit.
We found the maps and descriptions of this area to be maddeningly vague and incomplete. We finally found a map at a whiskey store in Dufftown, but it was small in scale and…