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March 12, 2013

On the Scottish Whisky Trail

By Andrew Sessa | Travel

On the Scottish Whisky Trail
Matt Hind

Orient-Express is giving new meaning to the word “hopscotch.” Next month the company’s old-world-style Royal Scotsman, a luxe 36-passenger sleeper train, will ply the Scottish countryside on an inaugural four-night, five-day trek devoted to exploring some of the best and rarest whiskies on the planet.

In partnership with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (a specialist in the independent bottlings of single-cask single malts), the Classic Whisky Journey will bring guests to many of the country’s top distilleries, offering insider access and expert interpretation at every stop.

“We’ve long stocked more than 50 different varieties of whisky onboard, and guests often ask me to guide them through these to find their perfect tipple,” says Michael Andrews, the general manager of the Royal Scotsman and resident Scotch guru. “This itinerary blends a scenic rail journey with tailored visits to the country’s finest distilleries and exclusive tastings of rare malts.”

Peak experiences include a straight-from-the-cask sampling at Glen Ord, featuring 12-, 15- and 18-year-old Singletons (plus the very rare 23-year-old) and a visit to The Glenlivet’s newly expanded distillery for a flight of seven whiskies and a dram from a cask that has been aging since 1977.

Guests will also visit Tullibardine, which makes its Scotch in the most traditional of ways. A visit to its warehouse reveals a special cask reserved for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, which was filled on the couple’s wedding day. (No sampling of that one, sadly.) The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will have three of its own single-cask single malts on hand for formal tastings, as well as six additional offerings and as-yet-unreleased bottlings from its cellar.

Though whisky is the main event, there are other activities planned. Guests can fly-fish at Rothiemurchus Estate in the center of Cairngorms National Park, meet wild seals that cavort off the coast of the tiny village of Plockton, golf at a private course in Ballindalloch and tour Glamis Castle, where the beloved Queen Mother, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grew up. Trip departs April 21; prices start at $6,877; royalscotsman.com.