By Rupert Wheeler

Scotland in Autumn

A very worthwhile trip to Speyside and Highland regions
With winter fast approaching, I had the rare delight of being stuck in Norwich airport for over five hours in late October while I waited for the fog to clear. The ironic part of the whole trip was that I was trying to get to Aberdeen which, when I eventually arrived, was bathed in the most beautiful sunshine. How many times I have read about Aberdeen airport being fog-bound. The intention of the trip was to visit as many distilleries as possible and to eventually make my way down to Creiff where I had to be at the end of the week.

Having hired a car I made my way over to Elgin and driving along the A96 I was in awe at the most beautiful Autumn colours. My first port of call was Gordon & MacPhail and then their distillery, The Benromach, over at Rothes. On my way to stay the night at Inverness, I noticed a sign to Findhorn Bay and having read about this recently as a place of stunning scenery... I was not disappointed. During the course of the week I also managed to visit the distilleries at Tomatin, The Dalwhinnie and Blair Atholl. I was then heading to Crieff, and instead of going down to Perth and turning right, I saw a sign for Crieff along the A822. What a drive, stunning scenery and well worth the longer trip. The week culminated in a wonderful 240th anniversary celebration at Glenturret with master of ceremonies being Stuart Cassells, General Manager at The Famous Grouse Experience. Charlie Maclean was in attendance as his book Famous for a Reason: The Story of the Famous Grouse was just about to be published.

As detailed in Issue 131, we are intending to cover Scotch whisky in more detail next year. I look forward to my next trip to Scotland which will be to attend our annual Icons of Whisky Scotland, Hall of Fame and Independent Bottlers Challenge awards at The Surgeons' Hall in Edinburgh in early December.

I welcome Neil Ridley, our new Editor-at-Large, who has written his first column with a look at whether the whisky industry needs more transparency. Neil and I will be meeting up in the next few weeks to discuss features for next year and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his winning our Battle of the Blends competition. A very close result with Neil taking 59 per cent of the vote. I would also like to thank the 299 judges who took part and I look forward to presenting Neil with his award and announcing the new contender at Whisky Live London in March 2016.

Our main focus in this issue is on Japanese whisky and I was fortunate enough to meet the president of Chichibu earlier this year when he was visiting Crisp Maltings. He comes over every year to ensure that the malting barley he uses in Japan meets his exact specifications. Despite cranking up production in all the Japanese distilleries they are still unable to keep pace with demand and many of Chichibu's and other major Japanese distilleries' products are not available.

On my recent visit to Glenturret Distillery I was introduced to a piece of kit called a rouser, which is a long wooden implement used to manually turn the mash and I am reliably informed unique in the Scottish whisky industry. However, this ties in very neatly with a new feature we are going to run in the next issue and to be written by Jonny McCormick. So if you know of, or are using, a unique piece of kit in the making of whisky, then do get in touch as we would be very interested to follow this up.

I have been involved in publishing for nearly 30 years now and I have seen many superb books pass my desk but I must admit that The Scotch Whisky Treasures by Tom Bruce-Gardyne really impressed me. What is unusual about it is that it contains 20 pieces of removable memorabilia - including a facsimile of the Exchequer Roll granting Friar John Cor the right to purchase malt to make aqua vitae way back in 1494. You can obtain a copy by going to our books page

As we approach the end of the year, I would take this opportunity of wishing all our readers a happy and successful new year, and I hope that you will continue to enjoy the magazine.