Dear readers, please take a seat on that dusty pew over beside the fire and make yourselves comfortable. Prepare for an uttermost journey, one noisome in its splendour and yet leprous in its gander. A relentless journey, one full of mystery and danger that would test the willpower and fortitude of any man.
Our tale begins, as all things must, with a Fellowship and the forging of greatness. Specifically, a group of four individuals brought together in unison by their love of whisky and an unhealthy fixation on the legendary realm of The Tormore. Each participant brings his own qualities to the group and this tale. The silver tongued soothsayer, adorned in Tweed majesty, Mark, hailing from the rolling Dales of Shire. Far removed from the everyday chatter of warfare and magic, his skills nevertheless mean few doors and locks remain unopened
Every Fellowship must have a rogue and uncontrollable force and this Tormore set is no different. From the outer realms of humanity heralds Dave, a force of nature armed with ferocious intelligence and thirst for confrontation, ale and grog.
He will be found mostly in the hamlet of Bree, specifically within the establishment known as the Prancing Pony Inn. Even more precisely, cowering beneath the crooked feasting table whilst being lambasted by the foul Sandyman the miller.
A darkness surrounds us all, as it does for our merry band, loitering in Helms Deep and spreading outwards. This madness has touched many including Jason, our third Fellowship member. Formerly a Nazgul, cast out by Sauron for being too evil and cheeky. He lurks amidst the fringes and outskirts of the group, riding his fearsome chariot into the unknown. Then there is the wise element of this Fellowship, the even keel needed to sail across Arda and keep all things harmonious, Thranduil-like in his statue and knowledge. Cautious by nature, Andy, quietly directs this group and displays the patience of a saint to guide us through the dangers of Fangorn Forest and beyond into Speyside.
Having battled and slain orcs, our small band of warriors navigated across the Misty Mountains to reach the relatively peaceful plains of the Shire of Speyside. Our Fellowship sets up base camp, in the ruins of Pelennor Fields that has become engulfed by mother nature; decreeing the work of Onodrim in the passing centuries. Now a bountiful landscape, offering an abundance of barley, the scars of war have long decayed giving new life to the region. From this vantage point, the Fellowship are armed with knowledge thanks to an ancient map created by Pery, an Ainur, who helped create this wonderful environment and documented all within.
Suitably replenished by local produce and Mark’s endless provisions of firewater, our Fellowship begins its descent towards the Shire of Macallan. Before its relatively safety, there is the decaying labyrinth to successfully transverse. Perched high above Macallan-Shire, these ancient buildings harbour many delights and dangers; huge statuesque replicas of Barad-dur. Their purpose has been lost to time but even to this day magic resides within. Tall enough to block out the sunlight, wide enough to smother your complete vision, each construction is identical, meaning many travellers have become lost forever within their grasp.
The Fellowship approach this time breach in complete surety. Stepping out from the coomb, in state of imperviousness. Ghostly voices of the past call out from the shadows, enticing our band with promises of merriment and wealth. Darkness shrouds this layer and relics of the fallen crunch beneath their feet. This labyrinth stops no age statements, time itself no longer matters only the journey into its depths. Some may lose their humanity and principles within this maze but the Fellowship remains true and returns to the ground. One last door opens and the soothsayer steps out into a blinding sunlight to be faced with a magical sight. Before him the green splendour of the Macallan-shire and its natural beauty. The monstrous sound of an army of Orc workers – busy bees – dominates the audio waves, as they happily scour the rolling hills; planting seeds, harvesting and scurrying in unison to complete the next ultimate project; the new Macallan distillery. A friendly bunch, our Fellowship steps forth and descends towards the centre of this outpost.
In retrospect our Macallan Estate tour is a fitting end to our Spirit of Speyside 2017 coverage. As the spectre grows on the estate, Gondolin-like, of a new vision and future for the Macallan distillery, it was arguably a rare opportunity to walk amongst the original distillery buildings and warehouses, before the landscape is changed forever. For a moment in this unique point in time we were visitors to the Undying lands, trapped between reality and the future. Currently, this new concept remains off-limits to visitors yet its completion is only a formality, and then a new experience awaits travellers and our Fellowship one day. Base camp is promptly established and a trio of our band discuss events with the travelling Viking warrior, Markvardsen, whilst Jason opts to walk the perimeter, waiting for the Macallan-shire Estate Tour to commence.
In essence this festival tour was very much the standard Macallan option for its first few chapters before the real adventure would commence across the later half of the text. Our guide arrived in ornate style and unleashed an atmosphere of positivity and harmony across the room; bringing delight to everyone she conversed with and onlookers. An ethereal and Galabriel-like quality surrounds Nicola Rise, the Macallan brand ambassador for foreign lands beyond the Shire. What initially promised to be a Disney-like tour with photo opportunities somehow won over our battle hardened and dram scarred entourage.
The Fellowship was joined by travellers from far and wide on this experience including those from Germania. One individual was dicing with the tolerance of the group with elaborate and ultimately meaningless questions. These riddles had no purpose other than to underline some self-importance or agenda. Another of the Germania number was a wizard with optical illusions; Peter would amaze us all with his trickery around the Easter Elchies House and generosity
At times the current Macallan fortification is a soulless enterprise. Human presence has been replaced by machinery and computerisation. By the stills everything seems automated and functional. The new make spirit passes us by in a series of tubes that jet off into other realms. It is beside these impressive copper beasts that Nicola introduces us the Macallan-shire new make spirit. It compares well to our previous firewater, with properties of apple, sherbet and pears meeting almost unanimous praise from the group. It is a solid start and casts away any baleful presence.
We then circumnavigate the courtyard between both Macallan still rooms, on what is turning out to be a picturesque Speyside Shire afternoon. Here we meet a solitary employee – someone of great importance – who controls the flow of spirit. We follow its path into the darker realms of the wood display. This building, encased in its propaganda for all things tree-like is where upon a previous expedition, a Fellowship member, became lost within its endless array of staves and casks. Thankfully the shining light of the Riske guides us through these dangers with the promise of more of this Macallan-shire spirit and these cask strength samples are well received.
Our band takes refuge in a nearby warehouse, where vessels patiently await the next stage of their voyage. It is here that the Rare Cask is generously poured to our weary travellers to much aplomb. Nicola it seems has deep pockets where all manner of whisky delights reside and there are more treasures to come as we step out into the daylight. The next destination is on the banks of the rapid and relentless River Spey. We make good time, through the warehousing and production buildings, bolstered by tales from our guide and chatter from the Fellowship about previous battles
Down beside the water settling on its banks, the true beauty of the Spey and its nature becomes apparent. Towering behind our group is picturesque splendour of the Macallan-shire, which rises up the hillside, beyond the Shire with the ominous presence of the labyrinth. It is on the shoreline that we partake in the ritual sharing of the Macallan 18-year-old Fine Oak, that Jason has yet to commit to parchment. This is a moment for reflection as we gaze upon locals trying to snare beasts from the Spey, whilst Dave finds homely comfort in a nearby medieval stock
Our epic voyage is almost at an end but now it feels as if our Fellowship has expanded with new recruits and additional grog to bolster our fortitude. Nicola reels in this playful band and redirects us towards basecamp and the promise of more delights.
The Fellowship of Tormore extends its thank yous to Nicola, The Macallan, Pery and the Spirit of Speyside Festival team for a fantastic and enlightening weekend.