Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Training and Whisky Tour Part 3

I'm just back from a swim and run, followed by stuffing myself with a wrap from Cherries. One of these days I'll learn that doing exercise does not give me a cast iron excuse to eat my weight in deliciouness straight after. Still, I feel mildly pleased with myself, despite the fact I managed to lose count of my lengths again. However, I either did 30 or 28 lengths in 22 minutes and seven seconds. If it was 28 lengths, and we round it down to 22 minutes (fair enough as it took at least that long to stop, take my goggles off and look at my watch, that means 3 minutes 8 seconds per hundred metres. Which means I did 500 metres in 15 minutes and 40 seconds. Which, actually, is total bollocks - but not quite last on the Cheshire Sprint results! As for those layabouts in Hawaii - some of the women were younger than me and did it in the pathetic time of over 18 minutes! Of course, they may have actually been swimming in the sea ... but they probably didn't have to go round two small girls chatting up the life guard, either. So there. Anyway, I've decided that I need to knock a good 2 minutes off my time relatively soon. Then I can, apparantly, join the Australian Navy. Woo hoo. (At the moment I could join as a 45 year old man. Interesting.)

Then again, if I did 28 lengths in 20 minutes, then I did 500m in 14mins 20 seconds.

Which is better.

After my swim I went and did a 10 minute mile (I know, utter bollocks, but actually pretty fast for me) and was going to do some weights but decided against it. I did test my horizontal leg lift, to see how much I can lift in one rep and then work out how much I should be lifting for muscle build. Turns out I've been doing it pretty accurately. I can lift 130kg, so should be working out with around 80kg. That's presuming each individial weight is 10kg, but who the hell knows? Anyway, I started feeling a little lightheaded and decided I ought to go and get some food instead of working out even more. I have to say, I feel a million dollars! And it's been a bloody long time since I've felt this good, so I'm truly enjoying it while I can. Our whisky tour must have been just what I needed! I was so worried I'd suffer PT and spoil everything, but there wasn't a sniff of it!

Talking of the whisky tour ...

Day three dawned as grey and wet as the day before, much to my depression. A long drive was in store, and it being Sunday I'd completely failed to register that distilleries didn't open until 12 noon: a nod to our religion, which apparantly considers it a sin to be bladdered on a Sunday morning. You have to wait until the afternoon. We had to travel all the way to Oban, and now we had to kick about Strathspey until the afternoon. It was not an auspicious start. However, determined to remain in good cheer - in a sort of clenched-teeth sort of way that scared the living bejaysus out of Fisher - we had a look in Arrow's handy little whisky book, and chose Aberlour distillery to visit on our way west because it actually dared open at 11.30am! Gasp! May lightning bolts smite it to the very grrrrroooounnnd! I also made an executive decision to make my excuses to The Captain and not play in Monday night's tennis match. This meant we could do Oban's distillery on Monday, and simply arrive in time to enjoy our last hotel - which I'd been ludicrously extravagant in booking, and over which I was almost quivering with excitement!

So off we pootled, to the sound of my iPod on shuffle (hopefully Arrow and Lu didn't find their ears bleeding, because I heard no objections). Everyone was quiet, but I hope it was a mellow silence rather than fury/grumpiness/the overwhelming desire to murder the driver for not paying fucking attention to the opening times of the distilleries. The rain grizzled, the miles rolled by - and it wasn't until noon that we found ourselves at the door to Aberlour distillery. And what did we discover? Why, only that the next tour wasn't until 2pm!


However, when the very lovely girl manning the shop till saw there were 4 of us looking for a tasting, she agreed to give us a sample of 4 of their 5 malts. This was much more generous than Herman Munster and his single nip, and Arrow and I beamed our gratification. Our beams only widened as we tasted some seriously good Scotch. There was a 10 year old, a twelve, a fifteen, and ABOOONAH!!! I thought this most amusing.

I was the only one.

Anyway, it's not Aboonah, it's A'bunadh, and I thought it terrific. But all in good time.

First came the 10 year old: a smooth, toffee-like drop of gold, matured in both bourbon and sherry casks and very much affected by them both. It went down with frightening ease, bless it's cotton socks.

Second was the 12 year old. Darker in colour to the 10, as you'd expect, this was also finished only in sherry casks and therefore had a much sweeter, fruitier flavour. To be honest, I can't remember whether I liked it more or less than the 10, but I have a faint recollection that it was Arrow's favourite.

Thirdly we supped on the 15 year old. This was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks, but then put in new oloroso sherry casks to finish. I have absolutely no recollection of this whisky at all. Dearie me. I must get Arrow to contribute his notes to this blog.

Last but not least, we were introduced (formally) to the A'bunadh.

What can I say? It's potent stuff! As it's cask strenght, it comes in at a fiery 59.6%. It's bottled in the old fashioned way - without modern filtering, or the addition of water. Therefore, the smell is quite astonishingly rich. It's finished only in the finest sherry casks, and is non chill-filtered - a modern process that keeps the whisky from going cloudy when water is added - and therefore retains all its richness of character.

I was much enamoured of the A'bunadh, but also slightly terrified by how utterly plastered I felt after a single dram! The trouble was, despite there being 4 of us, Fisher was driving and Lu doesn't drink so she had only the tiniest of tastes to see what we were talking about. Arrow and I therefore polished off 2 drams each. It doesn't sound much, but at 59.6% that A'bunadh certainly packed a punch.

Bidding a fond farewell to my new best mate, Till Girl, I weaved my way out to the car and tossed Fisher the keys. Arrow, whose head is considerably harder than mine, seemed unaffected. Shaaaame.

Off we went again, deciding we really had to get the journey underway. We thought we'd stop off at some interesting points on the way, but with one eye on the clock I was very conscious we had to get to our hotel in time to prepare for posh nosh and enjoy the surroundings. Alas, my slight anxiety over whether I'd completely buggered up the schedule coupled with 'coming down' from my whisky high put me in a full blown grump. I was convinced everyone was having a terrible time, that we were spending far too long in the car, that we'd never get to Oban in time, and that everything was going very, very wrong. When all the 'points of interest' on the map turned out to completely without either interest or point, as well as located in places Indiana Jones would struggle to find, it seemed all my worst fears would be realised.

Luckily, the further west we went, the more the weather improved (well - it stopped raining, anyway) and the black dog sidled reluctantly from my shoulder. As we began the very beautiful drive through the Ben Nevis range, down Loch Linnhe, skirting Glen Coe and on to Oban, I could almost hope the day wouldn't be a dead loss after all.

How right I was! Despite all the long hours of driving, especially the last 20 miles or so to the hotel, we were all thrilled with our final night. We were staying at the utterly ravishing Ardanaiseig Hotel, and the minute we rolled into the driveway I knew it would all be all right! It is soooo my kind of hotel! Not only is it isolated, silent and beautiful, but it takes dogs! Baffie and Bridie were ecstatic to be out of the car, and right after we'd dumped our bags in our lovely rooms we all took them for a walk around the grounds.

The first thing Bridie did was set the people watching her from the drawing room to roaring with laughter as she barked her head off at a bronze deer, challenging it bravely before dancing away in fear at its implacable lack of distress. We managed to distract her by leading her into the undergrowth, where we discovered a set of swings and a hammock chair which Fisher immediately decreed we had to have in our own garden. The chair, that is, not the swings - although I don't think she'd be averse!

Next stop was the edge of Loch Awe, where we all 'oohed' over the breathtaking view while Bridie and Baffie cooled themselves with a refreshing dip. Once we'd watched them swim after a couple of sticks, we took them round to the front and along the garden walk. A walled garden greeted us, and Lubentina happily pottered about looking at all the plants and ... er ... shit. I found a gate, went through, and discovered a very pretty pond and a pathway leading back to the hotel. Bridie also discovered the pond, but I put her swiftly on a lead as I didn't want her getting utterly skanky.

Alas, my carefulness was undermined by my levels of guilt at leaving them in the car all day. Once Fisher and the others joined me and we were walking away from the pond, I let Bridie off once more.

"Don't!" Fisher warned me. "She'll jump in the pond!"

"No she won't," I scoffed. "See, she's walking away from it!"

At that moment I noticed that the pond was only the first of many water features, and that several little square filth-pits masquerading as ponds lined the pathway.

"Bridie!" I howled, "Don' ..." at which there was an utterly predictable sploosh and Bridie vanished up to her neck in vileness.

Thus, instead of going straight back to the hotel and beginning luxurious luxuriating in preparation for supper, I took Bridie back to the loch for a cleansing swim. Then I went upstairs and luxuriously luxuriated.

Hmmmmmmm ....

Supper was delightful. There was a set, 5 course menu, and it was all splendid. Well ... if I'm being fair, I wasn't hugely keen on the artichoke veloute, which wasn't a veloute at all - it was soup. This was followed by sea bass with a fried potato skin (sigh), guinea fowl (sloo), and either a pudding of chocolate fondant (basically Nigella Lawson's molten chocolate baby cakes, which Fisher has perfected) or cheese board. Naturally, I had the cheese, and it was bloody, bloody good.

Come to think of it, that's only 4 courses. But there were a couple of amuse bouches as well, as well as coffee and petit fours - all of which had nuts in them, which was the only negative point of the evening. We did tell them Arrow is wildly allergic, but it seems that the moment you step out of the dining room they wash their hands of all responsibility.

After supper, I felt a great weariness overcoming me - but a quick walk in the fresh air with the dogs was enough to blow the cobwebs away and give me my second wind. Arrow and I ordered brandies while Fisher and (gasp) Lu both had ports, and we took them down to the games room to play some billiards.

Thus we embarked on the longest game of snooker ever recorded. The table was so huge and our talent so extraordinarily small it was a good 2 hours before the black was sunk and we retired to our rooms, declaring Arrow and Fisher worthy winners. I think I potted 3 balls all night! Aim is not one of my strong points. I am, in fact, aimless.

And with that, I retire. Our last day will have to wait until tomorrow to be related.

From the side ...
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View from the garden ...


Aida said...

I must say, i havent read all your blogs so this question may sound stupid.

Did you take the picture?

Seshat said...

It doesn't sound stupid. I should put an acknowledgement, because the Ardanaiseig photos aren't mine. I just got them off t'internet to illustrate - so thanks Google.

Silver Arrow said...

My poor age-ridden memory (usually only useful for keeping trivial pub quiz rubbish in) tells me that 'twas a sixteen year old malt at Aberlour to go with the 10, 12 and, by far the best of the lot,....ABOOONAAAH!!! Definitely the choice of the discerning taste buds and not the liver! Lovely-jubbly.
Anyway it was the sixteen I much preferred to the 12, which was a bit pants.
You, I remember, were utterly unphased by either of them and we both agreed that the ten and A'bunadh were the smart options!