The Whisky Tasting Club

Book Tour Part 6: St Andrews

Week three is a big step up and has already taken up a considerable amount of time even before I’ve left the house.

I have three tastings away from home, so will leave home at breakfast time on Monday and not get home until Thursday afternoon. That means booking three hotels and working out complicated train journeys.

Then there is the issue of whisky and whisky glasses. I have to get from Norfolk to St Andrews for tonight, St Andrews to Edinburgh tomorrow, and from Edinburgh to Guildford in Surrey for Wednesday night. And at each i have to have at least three bottles of whisky, six in the case of Edinburgh, and glasses to serve it in.

I manage to cram 50 glasses in to a suitcase which I intend to drag up and down the country, and I put five bottles of whisky in a rucksack to cover tonight’s event and an additional charity event I’m doing in Edinburgh. I have arranged with Ian Bankier to pick up  the whisky I need from the Whisky Shops in Edinburgh and Guildford and return the same number of bottles to the shop in Norwich. So that just leaves the small matter of finding enough space for four days’ clean clothes…

My mouth and throat are still agony so I don’t set off on my first epic train journey of the week – about eight hours to St Andrews – in the best of moods.

It’s funny but at no time today did I feel quite right about tonight’s Waterstones tasting, and the generally depressing day doesn’t help. By mid afternoon it’s dark and when I arrive at Leuchars it’s bitterly cold and very wet.

St Andrews seems deserted and the Waterstones staff inform me that Raisin weekend has just finished. This is an annual tradition in which older students adopt ‘children’ from the new intake and act as parents as they settle in to university life. The name comes from the tradition of giving parents a pound of raisins, but now it’s basically a totally drunken weekend culminating in a huge foam fight.

So today the students have drunk St Andrews dry, all have massive hangovers and have a choice of spending a quiet Monday evening at home or coming out in the freezing cold and wet to see me and drink more alcohol. Great.

It is a quiet evening, just eight people. But on the plus side I sell six books, which is way above the average, and a photographer turns up from what I am told is the country’s biggest selling regional newspaper, so that makes the visit worthwhile in itself.

I eat in a pub which most certainly isn’t a student pub. It’s got the football on all full volume, everybody is completely drunk, and they’re all shouting profanities at each other.

Not the highlight of the tour so far. I retire to my hotel for an early night but can’t sleep.


Tour is sponsored by Maxxium, the home to Ardmore, Glenrothes, Highland Park, The Macallan and Laphroaig.

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