Following the Glasgow Whisky Festival I will be travelling north to Inverness and then from there will slowly make my way up as far as Wick during the week, stopping off at Glenmorangie,Balblair,Clynelish and Pulteney en route. My first stop will be either Glen Ord or Dalmore. Unfortunately, due to a combination of the distillery opening hours and the times of the trains, I cannot visit both.Any advice on which of the two to visit would be greatly appreciated.
There was a forum member here--or actually, probably over at the Other Place (where Mr Tattie Heid no longer exists--their loss) named Scottie, who had some affiliation with Dalmore, who invited me to visit there. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from following through. At the time, I was hoping he'd be able to get me into Invergordon, as well, since I've never seen any of the big grain distilleries. If I was touring in that area, I'd still ask about that.
I was incredibly dissapointed with Glen Ord, I found it to be very commercial and sterile. I was hoping that the saving grace would be the maltings that they have on site but you do not get to visit that on the tour! The dram at the end was not even Glen Ord, it was what they are now churning out which was Singleton of Ord. The only thing that I got out of Glen Ord that I liked was the discount in the shop (other diageo bottlings) and the stamp in my Classic Malts book. On the other hand I thought the Dalmore was excellent, it was a very personal experience and tailored to the knowledge of the group so that they did not cover the same old basics if they don't have to. We toured the warehouses too and got to smell the contents of a few barrels that where filled by the tour guides father in the 60s. It was an excellent tour and we also got a dram of King Alexander III after the standard dram at the end of the tour
Would go for Dalmore. Interesting stills, great spirit safe. i had a friendly and relaxed tour. And was allowed to take pictures. Glen Ord is fine, but like 13 in a dozen. Although I did quite like the shop. might be because they still ahd lagavulling 21 years old at a fair price (was some time ago though) Would definitly prefer Glen Ord if you could visit the maltings
I have never been around either distillery. With Dalmore I have turned up twice but both times was told I would have to wait over 2 hours to get on a tour; at Glen Ord I was told they were booked out for the day. With Pulteney, when I went they ran two tours a day at set times - no leeway for people to turn up at other times and they recommended booking in advance. Clynelish was open but the stills had been shut down because of technical difficulties. The girl in the shop hadn't wanted to take me around but I persuaded her. Glenmorangie offers good tours and has an excellent shop. Despite being a famous name, the distillery and tour had a very relaxed, informal feel to it.
There are a whole bunch of stills north of Inverness. Ord is the closest at about 15 miles from Inverness, but I think Dalmore is a better bet than Ord which as others have said is typical Diageo.
Teaninich is close to Dalmore in Alness but they don't do tours so don't bother trying. Also they flattened the old distillery a couple of years ago so the site is now quite sterile and uninteresting.
If you are going as far as Alness then its not too much further to Edderton and/or Tain where Balblair and Glenmorangie are. Balblair don't do regular tours but will show you around if you phone ahead and make an appointment. Very nice and worth the effort I think, although finding the distillery isn't the easiest thing. Glenmorangie is a nice site but really busy and touristy normally, although it might be better in November.
Clynelish is, as Claus says, very good and not typical of Diageo, but it is a fair bit further north and a fair round trip from Inverness. Should you decide to go that far then phone ahead and see if they can do you a private tour.
Pulteney is a very long way and the standard tour is pretty poor imo. If you were going that far then phone and ask for a higher level tour.
Edit: reread your original post and realised you are using trains. I think you will need a taxi for Balblair and you will need to check the train schedules carefully because I don't think all the trains stop at all the stops (but I could be wrong). Also I would try to do Wick as a day trip rather than overnighting there. There are nicer places on the coast to stay IMO.
It is better to have drunk it all than never to have drunk at all.
I've been to all these distilleries (Dalmore, Ord, Clynelish, Glenmorangie, Blablair, Old Pulteney) but done no tour. All of them are beautiful in their own way. I've even been to Teaninich and Invergordon but they definitely don't love you sneaking around there