This is how to lift your spirits while walking 15 miles uphill and through a bog:
So at the spur of the moment, we decided to walk a spur route to Tomintoul. It would add an extra 15 uphill miles to our total walking. But at the halfway point was the Glenlivet Distillery. Free tour, gorgeous architecture, scenic surrounds, biggest mash tun I have seen. The whisky kept our spirits as high as possible through the rest of the tough terrain.
For the first time I think ever, I listened to tunes on headphone while hiking. The music got me out of my head and helped me get into some nice walking grooves. A super mix of Turbonegro, Beastie Boys, Trojan XXX mix, Donald D, High Tone, Blood Orange, Black Sabbath, and a random opera score was in rotation.
To be completely honest Glenlivet is not my spirit. The standard 12 year old can barely make it past my nose, the smell is too sweet and plastic. But our tour was excellent (and free). They have a state-of-the-art facility that is a pleasure to walk through, and afterwards offer you a choice of tasting 3 different expressions. I took the 18, Josh the 15. We each preferred our own. The 15 was slick, far more refined than the 12, with a flowery essence. The 18 was more mature, although neither was sublime. We also tried the 21 and the 25 (branded in Roman numerals as XXV). Glenlivet may be the first spirit I tried that not just gets more expensive with age but actually better. The XXV was the only one worth buying–too bad it costs too much. The tour guide said it went for some £250 per bottle.
Our destination was the Argyle Hotel/B&B in Tomintoul and it is really friendly. In fact, it is currently my favorite B&B of the journey. Others are more upscale whereas this one is more down to earth and genuinely friendly.
And now an announcement.
When we started to walk the 90 or so miles of the Speyside Way, our purpose was ignoble: to visit all of the Speyside distilleries open to the public: about a dozen out of 50 in total. There was no deeper meaning, although all long distance walks are pilgrimages in some way.
Unexpectedly and miserably a higher purpose to the walk came to me in the form of an email from one of my dearest friends. He told me he has a brain tumor. Every step of my walk is now devoted to Victor Doyle.
We have walked 30 miles in 2 days; 45 in 4. We are exactly halfway done.
45 miles are remaining in the Speyside Way with the two highlight towns (Aberlour and Dufftown) still ahead on the horizon. Aberlour is home to Walker’s Shortbread, Aberlour Distillery, and the Speyside Cooperage. Dufftown is home to a castle as well as two sister distilleries Glenfiddich and Balvenie.