Cat & Fiddle Distillery 13th October

On 13th October, was the Donmog Centre visit to the Cat and Fiddle which is the highest point between Buxton and Macclesfield. It is also the highest whisky distillery in England and we were booked in for a visit and lunch. The drive up was interesting as the weather was very variable and as I climbed up higher, found myself following a cement lorry in very thick cloud.

Cloud can obscure things as well as a sense of distance and so it came as a surprise to find that I had arrived at my destination when believing that I had another couple of miles to go.

It was very chilly and foggy in the car park and so we were glad to get inside the buildings where we were given a warm greeting by the staff and the log fires which were blazing away. We were welcomed by Tom the young distillery manager who took us into a comfortable and cosy dining room and proceeded to pour us our first sample of whisky to warm us up. Coffee, tea and soft drinks were also on offer. As I was driving, I limited myself to a small portion and a couple of sips as a taster later on. I have a partiality to single malts and I must say that the Forest Distillery whisky is one of the smoothest and flavoursome drams I have ever tasted.

Tom is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and has the great skill of being able to educate and entertain at the same time. He first told us about the history of the Cat and Fiddle and the four thousand year old history of the making of whisky, which did not start in Scotland but somewhere near Iran. We were then served lunch of homemade pies, mash and mushy peas with lots of gravy. I had steak and whisky pie which was not only very substantial but extremely tasty as well.

To burn off all the calories afterwards we were then given a tour of the cellars where we saw the storage of the whisky. The distillery is still being developed and so for the moment the underground tour is limited to storage rooms.

It was then upstairs and into the shop before departure. I treated myself to a limited bottling of whisky which comes in a locally made black ceramic bottle decorated with 23 carat gold. I also bought a couple of locally made pork pies to take home and a jar of local honey. They also use the spirit to produce a hand sanitiser which I found to be good as it is quick drying and non sticky. Incidentally for those who, unlike me, prefer gin, there is a Forest Gin distillery just down the hill owned by the same local family. I made a mental note that I must go again and this time take Liz who is tee-total so that I can accept all the whisky I was offered which would be much more in keeping with the “spirit” of the place. Thanks to Dick Jennens for organising this.

Words and pictures – Phil Royle