That Dear Green Place

The biggest event on our horizon has come and gone! This weekend was The National Whisky Festival down in Glasgow, held as part of the annual Celtic Connections and one of the biggest events of its kind in Scotland. For appearance’s sake, we were lumbering down in the Distillery Land Rover, and before we went I took the beast home to give it a good clean. She’s a low mileage example but already exposed bolts are beginning to rust and there are a few wee problems with bodywork- including a nasty scratch in the sidestep that I’m planning to paint at some point. What little good it really did though, as a the grit-splattered journey from Raasay to Glasgow undid any good work I did!

I got one clean photo, at least.

With the truck packed up with booze, wooden crates, casks and plenty of cameras we made it to Glasgow in roughly five hours, checking into Hilton Garden Inn to be greeted with river-facing rooms looking out over the old tunnel entrances. We also got a chance to visit a few pubs I haven’t stepped foot in since I lived there back in 2012, namely the beautiful wee Ben Nevis Inn and Finneston (where, and I don’t understand how, we walked away with more drinks on the house than we paid for! Not that I’m complaining…). Of course, the main reason I loved being in that part of town is being around all the remaining icons of industrial heritage- namely the Finnieston (or Stobcross) Crane. I used to love passing one of the other in the family- The James Watt Dock Crane in Greenock when I was wee, and this is the closest I’ve been gotten to this one.

I was taking photos of it with my Helios 44 2, which is an interesting little lens that produces beautiful, swirling bokeh with certain shots. It’s not very visible in these photos, but it’s a great fun little lens for trying something a bit different.

Interesting lightroom-stitch of 9 images. Wish I’d got a few more on the right to flesh it out better. Live and learn!

From my room, I was also afforded a wonderful view of the South Harbour Tunnel Rotunda. Another piece of brilliant Glasgow history, these were the entrances two the former (original) Clyde tunnel, with the two circular buildings acting as huge steam-powered lifts. They weren’t very economically viable, but the smaller pedestrian tunnel was still open off and on until the 1980s. Somewhere I’d very like to visit one day.

Glad to see the South Rotunda now done up, as it used to be derelict while the other prospered. Reminds me slightly of the twin Hackness and Crockness Martello towers on Hoy.

Anyway, the event! On Saturday morning myself, iain, IHR, Chris and Scott were all busy setting up for the event. There was a lot to cover- we had three whiskies on offer, as well as debuting a new, inaugural single malt that will be limited to around 9000 bottles. These are different to our future malt (coming circa 2021), as they’ll be bourbon-matured spirit finished for a year in wine casks, providing a nice jumping-off point from the similar Raasay While We Wait. We also had another trick up our sleeves- the 30litre casks that I had been busy photographing earlier in the month:

Iain should really have just walked around the whole show with that on his shoulder.

Both products did well, with several pre-orders already coming in as we opened to the public. The problem with the casks was that a late delivery meant we didn’t get any promotional leaflets for them, meaning we missed a chance to hand them out and keep the idea in people’s heads. Still, the (over 1000 odd) punters all seemed happy, and our stall seemed particularly busy compared to a few others. I went for a few lenses through the day- 28-70, the 200mm for close-ups and even the helios for a bit of fun, but nothing beat the 50mm. The combination of sharpness and deep colour that it produced was just second to none, and in the future, I’ll stick with that exclusively for these darker indoor events. The only problem was that it’s not perfect if you’re needing to also record video along with the photos.

I did manage to get some good video though, and what’s more, I even managed to edit and upload some of it right there at the event! That’s what I think really pushes us over the edge sometimes compared to our competitors in that we can get good, high-quality images and decent looking videos out in the moment, and it paid off with a few retweets and comments during the afternoon.

We also had two masterclasses- one that was presented by Iain, debuting some of our cask samples and explaining our process. We had a nice venue in The Poetry Club, which sounded more upper-class than it really was- especially after Scott told us some stories of the mad raves that seem to happen there on Friday nights (I did think the floor was slightly sticky)! The presentation went great though, and Scott provided some great extras by bringing up images and video while Iain talked about the various aspects of the distilling process. In the afternoon, Chris then did a really interesting ‘live blending’, where he used a few Tweedale, Raasay whiskies and others to explain the blending process, all while giving an insight into Tweeddale in general.

After all was over and the happy, drunken punters staggered off home, we were out by about 7 and racing back to the hotel to dump the land rover so we could go get some dinner. It’s not the most secure vehicle in the world, so I was much happier now that there were less alcoholic liquids in it (especially on a Saturday night). Myself, Iain and Chris then went to Brewdog to celebrate the weekend- a first for me (BrewDog, not celebrating) – and before we knew it, myself and Iain were sat, bleary-eyed and rumbling back down to Raasay again. This time, however, we had a bit more time to spare for the 5PM ferry, and so we got a chance to stop a few times to snap some pictures of the spectacular views and heavy snow on the way home.

My best ansel adams impression

Not too bad for some shots taken from a moving landy. Anyway, now home, tired and ready to go away again on Wednesday for some invasive dentistry. Hurrah.

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