I had never been a fan of whisky. Yet my penchant for this heady spirit developed after a joyous trip to the Scottish fairy tale-esque Meldrum House Hotel in leafy Aberdeenshire -famous for its striking 240 acre grounds, exquisite food, grand golf course – and inimitable whisky experiences.
It was in this elegant 13th century baronial mansion house where I developed a newfound appreciation for this golden tipple, thanks to the hotel’s collaboration with the renowned Glen Garioch whisky brand.
My two day visit began with a relaxed lunch in the hotel’s ancient stone-clad, 800 year old whisky cave, where I devoured the most Instagramable pie I have ever had the pleasure of setting my eyes upon. It disappeared at shameless speed before I sipped piping hot tea and nibbled on traditional Scottish shortbread – an obligatory delight of any trip to Scotland.
After a quick makeup touch-up and outfit change, I made my way to a quaint yet lavishly-designed sitting room for warming whisky cocktails by an roaring open fire. A lavish sit down group dinner followed, boasting numerous enticing courses. As if the sophisticated surroundings and outstanding food wasn’t impressive enough, my fellow diners and I had the pleasure of meeting the hotel suppliers partially responsible for each course.
This was conducted in a clever “Stars in your Eyes” style of introduction. When the joyously fishy starters arrived, so did the owner of the fishmongers supplying the seafood making up the dish.
As unusual as it was listening to a passionate fishmonger talk about sustainable fishing and their passion for high quality seafood whilst I ate, it also felt reassuring to know that the perfectly-cooked scallop I was demolishing came from impressive beginnings.
Whilst savouring a hearty main consisting of slow cooked beef shin and a tender Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak, we listened to Meldrum House Hotel’s friendly beef supplier speaking of the relaxed and happy lives her cows live, which made me appreciate the quality of the meat, and confirmed the sad fact that I could never fully embrace veganism.
After dinner I was told there was a special cheese and whisky pairing session in the hotel’s ancient stone whisky cave which made me yelp internally with glee. Who would have known a serious slab of cheddar would pair so marvellously with a 1978 vintage single malt scotch whisky? Clearly the Tastebud Gods were reading my thoughts that merry evening, for there were also jars of yummy homemade chutneys hovering around, courtesy of Huntly Herbs.
We were then taken through the chic grounds of the hotel courtyard to an antique stone cavern filled with flickering candles and bottles of various whiskies, which we all had the pleasure of sampling. It was here, in this enchanting space, witness to countless romantic proposals and cheeky nightcaps, where I decided to develop a slight love affair with this golden-hued alcoholic beverage. I noticed that the Glen Garioch whisky in particulate had a invitingly earthy, almost honeyed flavour, which seductively warmed the back of my throat as I took a sip. Maybe slightly too seductively, if I may so admit…
After puffing on a cigar kindly offered to me by the warm-natured hotel staff and warming myself in front of a large wicker chair facing a roaring open fire, I was ready to call it a night in my pleasingly-plump king-sized bed.
The next day, it was admittedly a chore to pry myself away from my mound of happy pillows. But nothing helps pry me away from slumber-inducing bedding more than 5 star hotel breakfasts, so away I pried.
Two pretty poached eggs and a lemon-smothered kipper later and I was back in the (whisky-tasting) game. The next highlight of my trip was the Legends of the Garioch whisky tour, involving a tour of the Glen Garioch distillery set up by two brothers 220 years ago. This merry escapade involved a stop on lofty scenic pastures to sip whisky out of little glasses tied around our necks (genius invention) and eat a special type of Scottish breakfast pastry resembling a flattened croissant. And more shortbread.
We also visited an ancient graveyard to visit the graves of the company’s founders and had a detailed tour of the historical distillery itself, where we witnessed the gigantic metal containers used to ferment the barley, and had a few more cheeky drams (a shot of whisky to you and me).
The tour concluded back at the stately Meldrum House Hotel with a memorable lunch in the enchanting cave bar. I can’t divulge the details of the culinary gems we feasted on, as they are shrouded in secrecy – you’ll have to book the tour to find out. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
As I flew back to bustling London life, I made a mental note to return to this luxurious home away from home where the food tastes of love, the ancient walls tell a story and the whisky seduces you with one innocent sip…