Two powerhouses of Perthshire tourism have combined to produce a whisky tour quite unlike any other I’ve been on, writes editor Richard Bath.

STRALOCH ESTATE has joined forces with Spirit of Perthshire to produce a whisky-soaked weekend that combines stellar drams with some of the most stunning scenery in Highland Perthshire.

Spirit of Perthshire is best known for running the Highland Perthshire Whisky Festival, and is made up of the respected Scottish Field whisky challenge judge and proprietor of Robertsons of Pitlochry, Ewan McIlwraith, and Sandy Fraser, two men steeped in the water of life. Straloch Estate is on the glen road between Pitlochry and Blairgowrie on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park, is one of Scotland’s most beautiful estates, and is centred around one of the country’s most significant arts and crafts houses.

“This area has such a rich whisky heritage,” said Ewan, whose shop in Pilochry stocks more than 450 whiskies. “Straloch is just down the road from Edradour, one of our most iconic distilleries and the only one of the seven farm distilleries around Pitlochry that is still operating. There’s also Blair Atholl Distillery in Pitlochry itself and Dewar’s in nearby Aberfeldy. We’re keen to try and showcase what the area has to offer, but also to sample the best whiskies from all over Scotland.”

The weekends include two nights staying at Straloch and a masterclass that kicks off on the Friday morning when guests arrive. Lunch in the estate’s magnificent hill bothy – first featured in Scottish Field‘s luxury issue – followed by an hour-long amble up the hill into the Cairngorms (some of the less active guests were ferried across country in Straloch’s Defender) was a wild picnic centred around local produce, plus a flight of four whiskies.


Dinner on the first evening – which is co-hosted by Straloch’s genial owners, Will and Lucy Holt – concluded with a 90-minute whisky masterclass given by Ewan, who turned out to be a speaker who was able to skilfully adjust the complexity of his whisky chat to the level of knowledge of the four guests. The four drams on offer included a silkily unctuous 18-year-old Tomatin hand-filled bottle, a gorgeously dark sherry-casked 12-year-old Edradour Ibisco Decanter, a 28-year-old Speyside Distillery whisky from a Bourbon cask, and a very phenolic peaty North Star from Islay, an exclusive bottling for Robertsons. My favourite (by a mile) was the outstandingly complex Edradour.

Our group of four and our hosts (finally) departed for bed in the wee sma’ hours after sitting chatting about all things whisky while my ancient dog sat by our feet and the house’s labradors were kept at a respectful distance. It was, all in all, a hugely convivial and surprisingly educational experience.

Ours was an abridged one-day version of the full weekend offering, which normally involves a Saturday tour by Sandy to a distillery that’s not normally open to the public. It concludes on Sunday morning with a lunch at Robertsons of Pitlochry, followed by a guest-speaker talk on whisky-related subjects such as the history of whisky and the distilling process, wrapping up with a Q&A session.

Part of the schtick is that Ewan brings along four bottles costing £1,000, which are left for the guests to take away. This inevitably means that this Spirit of Perthshire house party is not for those with skinny wallets, the weekend coming in at £1,900 per person. There are four weekends scheduled this year, for between four and eight whisky lovers at a time: 24-26 March, 26-28 May, 29 September-1 October, and 24-26 November.

Bespoke whisky events for private groups can also be catered for.

For more information, see www.straloch.com

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