Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland

Friday, 8:00 am – 7:00 pm

May weather: Average temps of 60°/45°F. Record temps of 79°/30°F. Average precip of 2.7″.

Currency: Pounds Sterling (£). Three Scottish banks issue their own banknotes.

The ship docks in Greenock, which is approximately 45 minutes from Glasgow.

Getting Started

Today’s plan just included Marie and Ernie and Stan and I–not a big group. I’d inquired via the web about cabs and was told it’d be £30-35 to take a cab to the Auchentoshan Distillery and that there would be lots of cabs waiting in Greenock. There were cabs waiting in Greenock, we told the driver where we wanted to go and settled in. He told us that it wasn’t a good tour–and didn’t we want to go to the other distillery. I told him we had a reservation. It was strange–Stan couldn’t understand how someone whose job has a tourism aspect would want to discourage a tourist from somewhere they were already committed to go. We all wondered if perhaps he got some sort of kickback if he brought people to Glengoyne.

We’d been riding quite a while–more than half an hour, when I asked how much longer it would be. He told me about 20 minutes and I said that I thought it was closer to half an hour from port. (Yes, I’d done the Google Map thing while preparing for the trip.) He pulled over and I showed him the map I had that showed the location of the distillery. He was clearly very shook up and apologetic–he’d never been to Auchentoshan before and was mistaken about where it was. (That begs the question of how he could possibly “know” it wasn’t a good tour to go on.) When it was clear that he was going to be backtracking, he turned off the meter. We gave him £20 anyway, though. He also didn’t seem to understand that we had a reservation for something other than the “standard” tour. He told us that tours started all of the time. The standard tour was in fact scheduled regularly–but our Ultimate Experience Tour was reserved at a set time. Fortunately, we arrived only about 5 minutes late and we were the only ones on the tour so it worked out well.

The Ultimate Auchentoshan Experience

Their reception area was open with some stuff for sale, but none of the kitsch that we saw at Old Bushmill’s. We started pretty promptly and met our guide (Darran) who told us we could take pictures everywhere but the warehouse, which was nice after not being able to take pictures inside of Old Bushmill’s at all.

Mash Tun

After hearing it several times at Old Bushmill’s and getting through the mash room here, I finally figured out what they were saying–mash tun. I’m not quite sure why it’s called a tun. One disadvantage of blogging from the cruise ship, though, is that I don’t have Google handy and can’t look up ‘mash tun’ to find out why it’s called that.

A treat that we got because it was a special tour was that we actually got to look into the mash tun and see the mashing happening. It looked as if it was bubbling but it looked more like porridge than anything else!

After our mash tun viewing we had the first of our many tastings here. Stan showed his kindness and generosity by helping me finish my share–I tasted everything but didn’t finish any of them myself. (As compared to the wine tasting a few days later where I finished all of mine and the one that Stan didn’t finish as well.)


Auchentoshan has three fermentation wash tubs. Since fermentation is about 54 hours (can’t remember exactly), fermentation is started on Friday so that it can ferment over the weekend and distillation can start on Monday.

Two of the wash tubs were already filled and the third was actively filling and someone was adding yeast to the mix. When we we offered the chance to add some of the yeast, I jumped at the chance and was able to spread the yeast down into the silo. The yeast is added early in the process so there wasn’t much liquid in the silo yet. The yeast is added earlier in the process so that it has time to start growing. Twelve or so years from now, people will be drinking Scotch that I helped along!

Triple Distilling

Auchentoshan uses copper stills for its triple distillation process. Neat things we learned–the wort that comes from the fermentation process is called beer–but it’s pretty darned bad beer. Each time through the distillation process, it gets clearer and cleaner. For the third distillation, the head and tail are discarded and the heart (middle 80%) is what is moved into the barrels for the aging process. (One of the results of these whiskey distillery tours is that I now know things it seems as if every other person in the world already knew about whiskey!)

We had the opportunity to taste the results of the third distillation. Darran seemed surprised that most of us tried it, but I figured that this was a “one time only” opportunity–and it doesn’t pay to not answer when opportunity knocks!

The Warehouse

We didn’t get to take pictures in the warehouse, which was a much cooler temperature than outside. Darran told us that the temperature stayed constant in the warehouse in the heat of summer and when there was was snow on the ground.

One of the things we had the opportunity to do was to taste Scotch that was taken directly from the cask. I never really knew how the bunghole was opened. I took the mallet and pounded on either side of the bunghole and the cork came out. So now I know how to open a barrel of whiskey–never know when that will come in handy again.

There was a titration device that Darran used to extract the whiskey from the barrel and then release it into a beaker to pour into our glasses. One of the barrels was from 1996 and the other from 2001. The 1996 was incredibly smooth and we’re taking home a 200 ml bottle from that cask. Princess let us bring it on board, which was sort of a surprise, but we don’t intend to open it on the ship.

Nose Test

So, all four of us failed the Nose Test. Apparently, you have to get 70% to be on the Nose testing team. Ernie did the best of us (5 out of 12). I got 4, Marie 3, and Stan (with his cold) 2. We passed along small bottles with fragrance in them and tried to identify them from just the smell. I got the first two pretty specifically–orange and rose. After that, it got hard. The first one (orange) I couldn’t tell from the little sniffer bottle, but when Darran soaked a taper and let us smell that, the orange came out strongly enough to smell.

It was pretty interesting (and more than a bit humbling) to do the nose test. It made it perfectly clear that I don’t have a future in any type of tasting–I just couldn’t differentiate smells well enough–and then couldn’t identify most of even the ones I “recognized”–such as clove. I thought one of the medicinal scents smelled like bandaids. Stan claimed that bandaids don’t have a smell, but I’m quite sure they do–and equally sure that I don’t want to drink them!

Finishing up at the distillery

We did a small bit of shopping–Stan now has two Scotch glasses. We bought a water pitcher for Lori and Marshall as well as one for ourselves. (Every time we buy something I wonder about getting it home, but I’m sure we’ll manage even if we have to break out the expandable totes–that is why we brought them, after all!

Moving on to Glasgow

The distillery staff was kind enough to call a taxi for us for our trip into Glasgow where we asked to be let off at the cathedral. En route, Marie and Ernie asked about a Harley Davidson dealer and there was one just two minutes off of our route so we stopped so Ernie could acquire t-shirts (one for him and one for Marie). Marie and I waited in the cab but Stan joined Ernie in his t-shirt quest.

Our driver asked how we were getting back to the ship and we told him we were planning on taking the train. He said it was normally about £60 but offered to take us for £40. Since we were all pretty tired (and knew we were going to get more so), it seemed like a really good option so we agreed to meet at 4:30 for him to pick us up and take us to the ship.

As we got to the cathedral, it became clear that we really needed food, so instead of leaving the cab at the cathedral, we asked him to drop us off where we could get lunch. We all had fish and chips with diet coke. No experimentation or variation! It was nice enough to sit outside which was a nice treat–not something any of us expected to be able to do in Scotland in May! It did get a bit cool when the sun slipped behind the clouds but it was really pleasant sitting on the terrace and I’m glad we did! From what we’d been told pre-trip, I didn’t think we’d have any days that were that warm!

Glasgow Cathedral

The Glasgow Cathedral is the burial place of St Mungo. As I understand it, the tomb is in the lower area and the bones have been moved elsewhere in the cathedral, but I wasn’t quite clear where they were moved to.

Photography in a cathedral is challenging. Capturing the stained glass or the repeating patterns in the dark light isn’t a camera’s strongest point. I kept wanting the perfect pictures, though.

Returning to the ship

By the time we met up with our taxi driver to head back to the ship, we were all beat and perfectly happy to sit quietly and semi-converse with our driver. He’s hoping to take his kids to Disneyland when the youngest is 4 or so. We all recommended Florida’s Disney World over California’s Disneyland. I say “semi-converse” because his dialect was a bit difficult at some points–and not at all an issue at others. We made it back to the ship just in time to put things in our cabins and head down to dinner.

Pre-visit Plan

Auchentoshan Distillery  The Ultimate Auchentoshan Experience  You’ll also receive a master class in 3 of our core range whiskies, and sample 2 of our archive whiskies, exclusive to Auchentoshan Distillery, in our Blender’s Room.  (£50)  We’ve made arrangements to do the tour–the four of us will take a cab to the distillery for our 10:30 Experience.  That will probably be about £30 – £35.  Google maps says it’s about a 30 minute drive.  We’ll want to catch the cab around 9:30 or 9:45–if we’re early we can wander around their gift shop. The tour is 135 minutes.

Map to Auchenstoshan distillery

Map from the Greenock Ocean Terminal to Auchenstoshan distillery


After the distillery experience, we’ll have lunch–not sure where.  Then we’ll take a cab into Glasgow and probably be asked to be let off at the Glasgow Cathedral.  That will probably be about £20.  

Auchenstoshan Distillery to Glasgow Cathedral

Auchenstoshan Distillery to Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral was built in the 13th-15th centuries; it survived the Reformation intact. This is one I’d really like to see.  Open 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.  Free admission.

Glasgow Cathedral to Glasgow Central map

The walking route from the Glasgow Cathedral to Glasgow Central

From Glasgow Central Station, there are trains to Greenock West at 16:55 (arrive 17:31), 17:06 (arrive 17:49), 17:25 (arrive 17:56), and 17:37 (arrive 18:20).  The last one would feel like “cutting it way too close” to me.  Fare is £6.10.  I’m not sure, if there are still four of us together, if it wouldn’t be close to the same for us to take a cab, but it’s a 40 minute drive or so.  Based on the other fares, I’d expect it to be £40 or so, but that’s just a guess.    I guess I’d want to leave the cathedral by 4:30 in order to make the 16:55 train–we’d be back on the ship in time for dinner!

Places we might visit another time

I looked into transportation to get to Pollok County Parkto see the Burrell Collection. The Burrell Collection in the heart of Pollok Country Park, this award-winning building houses a collection by artists including Rodin, Degas and Cézanne, as well as late medieval, Chinese and Islamic art.  I don’t think we can make it work, time-wise.   We had to choose between the Glasgow Cathedral and the Burrell Collection.  I didn’t want to have to make that choice! Stan and Ernie voted for the cathedral.  Marie would have been happy either way, as would I.  So, that means the cathedral.  The Burrell Collection will be added to my “next time” list.

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