We’ve teamed up with the Inverurie Whisky Shop to give away of pair of tickets to a tour of some of the region’s best distilleries.
All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is complete the form below.
You’ve got until 6pm on Thursday to enter, with the tour taking place this weekend!
And for an idea of what you could experience, we sent Joe Churcher to try some of the best whiskies on offer.
The sun is barely above the horizon, let alone the yard arm.
Yet here I am, unable to sleep for wondering when and where I will get my first whisky of the day.
It doesn’t take long to find the answer: 10am, GlenDronach, with a couple of strangers, a jaunty-hat-sporting booze shop manager, a veteran distillery worker with many tales to tell and – well – an actual shaggy dog.
Such is the sort of intriguing start to the day that you can expect when embarking on a magical mystery tour of the many famous distilleries that pepper the map of the north-east.
And with the Inverurie Whisky Shop’s immensely knowledgeable Mike Stuart at the helm, it’s not so much a dot-to-dot puzzle as a tot-to-tot – a day-long journey from one great single malt to another.
The van is the latest venture in a career that has seen the locally born-and-bred connoisseur move from golf club barman via turning around the fortunes of a pub to opening the town’s first Scotch shop.
So it was with some confidence that we climbed aboard the “Malt Machine” for our Saturday spin.
It usually takes a maximum of eight on a variety of geographically-themed tours – Garioch, Gordon, Royal Deeside or a bespoke combination tailored to your particular fancy.
This time however, in a clear signal of Mike’s willingness to adapt, there was room to squeeze in one more: Dillan the dog in the boot.
Robin Laing’s Whisky for Breakfast on the stereo, we set off in search of the water of life (via a quick stop at the often-seen but rarely visited memorial to the very bloody Battle of Harlaw).
Soon we were at the first distillery of the day – the delightfully unspoiled GlenDronach, in Forgue by Huntly.
It is the favoured dram of film director Matthew Vaughn and has some of the old-fashioned eccentricity of his Kingsman films, for the latest of which a special edition vintage has been produced.
Our guide Louis restricted his action scenes to the unceremonious eviction of a frog from a malt store.
But his dialogue was perfect, sticking only vaguely to the prepared script in preference for tales of characters and exploits drawn from decades in the business, punctuated by no-holds-barred assessments of the modern ways.
If on occasion you might wish a perfunctory tour over quickly in order to get to the tasting, this was quite the reverse: I was happy to wait; and it was worth every minute.
The sherry cask-infused spirits lined up for our verdict were all every bit as good as their reputation would suggest.
If not for breakfast, these were at least whiskies for elevenses and so it was with rather light heads that we set off to line our stomachs in readiness for the delights to come.
Not that lunch either was without a small glass of amber to wash it down.
This time is was a Glenfarclas from the collection kept by the Mash Tun in Aberlour – believed to be the only one in the world to include single cask examples from 49 consecutive years from the same distillery.
It is not always the case that establishments whose reputation is based on one thing excel at others but the food was also exceptional, a salmon fillet and salad served simply but carrying great flavours.
With bellies filled and Dillan walked, it was back into the van for more of Mike’s informative chat en route to our next destination.
The joy of such small-scale tours is their adaptability and that next stop was an unscheduled one, based on my fleeting mention of the architecturally stunning new Dalmunach distillery near Carron.
After admiring the striking mix of modern materials and age-old technologies, it was off to another location where the 21st century is transforming the look of spirits production.
The as-yet-unused underground stills at The Macallan may look like something from the Teletubbies, but they will no doubt continue the tradition of reliably consistent flavours we were treated to at the shop.
As the afternoon moved on, there was time for one more tour – another informative stroll along the route taken by the barley on its way to becoming Cardhu and then – in all probability – Johnnie Walker.
It finished with a blind tasting test that was none the less enjoyable for my failure to outscore a boisterous group of visiting Scandinavians.
If it hadn’t been for not wanting to miss out on Mike’s musings about the state of the industry, all that imbibing would have seen me soundly asleep on the drive back to his impressively-stocked shop.
All in all, a highly recommended day out.
For more information visit http://www.whiskytoursofscotland.co.uk or call 01467 622412