Whisky Magazine Issue 19
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"It's only through flavour that we'll understand whisky and maybe it's only by walking the country that we'll understand flavour," says Dave Broom after climbing Ben Rinnes and Lochnagar with distinguished company
Those moments of un-thinking bravado happen to us all. A year or so ago I was sitting with Alan Winchester in his leather-bound office at Aberlour talking casually about hill walking when he said: “I've always wanted to write about the great hills you can climb from distilleries.”
“Okay,” say I taking another slug of 15-year-old, “let's do it.” Which is how I end up standing with Alan outside Benrinnes (sic) Distillery on a sunny summer morning looking up at the summit of the mountain it takes its name from, some 2,100 feet above us, and wishing I lived in a hillier area so I could have done some training.
Alan is one of those Speysiders who was born, raised and works in the shadow of the Ben (you can discard the ‘Rinnes' when in Speyside). This is one of those unusual creatures, a local mountain that's the touchstone for a community – its sharp profile is the sign that they're home once more. It's “The Ben”, as if it's the only mountain in the world.
From the distillery we trace its water source, through birch and alder woods. The trees clear and soon we're climbing into the high peat moss that used to provide the fuel for most of the local distilleries. At the head of the track we clamber over a disused peat bank and head towards the Ben's north-west shoulder that's capped by one of three weird tors, or scurrans, which form a rough triangle on its broad summit. Bog cotton tufts bob gently in the light breeze, cloudberries and bog myrtle cover the grou...