The train came to a slow halt at an apparently abandoned train station in Barhill. As the trained pulled away I wonder to myself if I had been the victim of a scam? As an American it is not often that one could find such a place without being littered with over priced coffee shops, Mega shopping stores, and the sounds of sirens. The sheep covered the hillside like trees in the forest, Bahhh….Bahhh…. It took some time before I noticed another perplexed face wandering the station as if he has come to the same realization as I, “we’ve been had”!
No sooner my fellow traveler and I exchange greetings did we hear the low rumble of gravel meeting tires. Safe at last I thought as I saw the friendly faces exiting the car. After the usual greetings we made our way down the road. The car was a bit tight and the roads were laid as the crow flies. Zipping through the turns John McDougall had made the comment that they were doing a bit of “Low Flying” on the way to get us at the station. Both my fellow traveler and I glanced at each other thinking the same thing, “these guys got drunk and we are going to die”! It was not until a bit later that I would learn that, “Low Flying” meant to drive fast like a low flying Jet, which is not to be confused with a “Low Flyer”, which is a drink of Famous Grouse.
We pulled into the distillery parking lot. The old weathered buildings cut by hammer and chisel almost 200 years ago, scattered casks along the buildings, and the sweet smell of distilling.
At his moment in time I was in heaven! A very enthusiastic owner, Raymond Armstrong, greeted us as we wandered awestruck around the grounds. Raymond’s energy and excitement for the school-taking place was almost as great if not greater than the students themselves. A true mark of a passionate self made man.
As I look back it was the Saturday spent in the Warehouses at Bladnoch, which had the biggest impact on the beginning of my journey. I can still smell the sweet, floral, and golden nectar of Bladnoch straight from the Cask! As the aromas filled my head I thought to myself this was the best damn Scotch Whisky I have ever had, yet was it really Scotch? Where were the sterile antiseptic notes? Who put oil in my glass? Can one really taste velvet? I did not have a full understanding as to the “why” but I would never settle again for the “have not”.
It’s time for a Dram,