The laughter flowed like a wave, accompanied by the pitter-patter of light rain all around us. We were outside – among the lush, rolling green of the grounds.
But we were inside – cocooned in a crystal dome, protected from the elements that were so close I should have been able to reach out and get my hand wet.
If I could choose anywhere to drink whisky, this would be it.
I’ve lounged outside the Kingshouse in Glen Coe after my pal and I first conquered the Buachaille Etive Mor and shared a hipflask of Springbank as we stared up at the mountain.
I’ve sat on the banks of the mighty Tay, glass of Glenmorangie in my hand and the biggest smile on my face, as the magic of catching a spring salmon slowly sank in.
Being among new friends in this dome as the rain fell around us. This was what whisky was about.
We were staying at Meldrum House Hotel, a beautifully luxurious destination in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire.
A true paradise
It was already famed for its accommodation, food and golf, but the thing that has really put it on the international map has been these domes, erected as a way to accommodate diners during the pandemic… and, I found out that day, one of the best places to drink whisky anywhere.
You’d expect a true whisky paradise to be on the banks of the Spey, or braving the salt-laden winds of Islay, but this place is a malt-lover’s must-visit in its own right.
As well as having a wonderfully-stocked bar and those domes in which to have a meal and a sip, it also has one of my favourite distilleries just two minutes down the road.
If you’ve not tried it, Glen Garioch is a wonder of a dram. Rich, sweet and gorgeously creamy, the spirit is a perfect echo of this part of Scotland.
And a visit to the distillery is a true pleasure – almost a trip back in time.
Just this year, they brought back direct-fired stills, which has given an already great spirit an extra layer of character.
It will be years until the fruits of this change are fully appreciated, but we were able to compare new-make spirit from the “old” and “new” production, and the signs are good, to say the least.
Until then, the current Glen Garioch range is just waiting to be explored.
So, if you’re ever in these parts – or fancy the ultimate Christmas gift for a whisky-lover in your life – why not drop in on Glen Garioch and sample some of its delights?
The only thing that would better the experience would be a few drams in those wonderful domes afterwards.
For more on Meldrum House and Glen Garioch, visit: dram-whisky.com