Pull your chair up to the fire, lasses and laddies—it's still a might damp and cold for late spring, isn't it? Let me pour you a wee dram, just to take the chill off. I'm having one myself—for professional reasons only, of course—just to keep my whistle wet while I tell you the story of a sea voyage aboard the gaff-rigged cutter Eda Frandsen.
It all began back in 1994—the year the Classic Malts Cruise first came to be, on the 200th anniversary of Scotland's Oban Distillery. The Classic Malts people had an idea: They'd approach the local Clyde Cruising Club, and together start a rally celebrating that most natural of partnerships—water and whisky. Well, they must have been on to something, because they began with 25, mostly Scottish, boats and now they're up to 200. More than half the sailors who now cruise the west coast of Scotland, touring distilleries and sampling single malts, are non-Scots. Nowadays, the Classic Malts Cruise is such a popular event that the World Cruising Club runs it, and it's become the second largest non-competitive sailing event in all of Europe.
So, 'twas fitting that we started our own journey, the third leg of the Classic Malts Cruise, from the west coast seaport of Oban. It's a pretty town that marketeers have labeled the Seafood Capital of Scotland. It's true it's a fishing town, but before there was Oban the town, there was Oban the Distillery. I suppose it wasn't long before townsfolk noticed they had plenty to drink but needed to throw some fish in the pot.
The Oban distillery sits on the hillside, just above the bay, and on the sunny day we arrived for our adventure, there was a nice breeze and the smell of peat in the air. We toured the facility, sampling the Oban 14 and the Distillers Edition. Two stills produce 700,000 liters of the stuff per year. It's not half bad, I have to say. I'm particularly fond of the Distillers Edition. By the way, shall I just top that off for you, before we continue?