Andy Gem­mell’s

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The Fid­dich­side Inn Craigel­lachie, Aber­lour

What is it: This iconic Spey­side pub was run by leg­endary land­lord Joe Brandie, who sadly passed away last month. This has in­spired me to write this week­end’s re­view in hon­our of that in­cred­i­ble man. The pub it­self was built in 1840 as a meet­ing house for the men work­ing on the nearby rail­way line. It sits perched on the banks of the River Fid­dich, which flows into the Spey and, over the course of more than a cen­tury, not much has changed in The Fid­dich­side Inn. Walk­ing in here is a bit like walk­ing into a small (10 foot by 15 foot to be ex­act) well-loved liv­ing room, with the rest of the build­ing be­ing made up of Joe’s house. The in­te­rior is no-frills but that is also part of the at­trac­tion for me: this is a proper pub, a place to have a drink and a chat.

The land­lord: Joe Brandie first stepped be­hind the bar in 1959 and be­lieve it or not he only ever took four days off in all his time here and that was to mourn the pass­ing of his wife, Dorothy, in 2009. Be­fore his time be­hind the bar at The Fid­dich­side Inn, Joe was a cooper, creat­ing bar­rels for the whisky in­dus­try. He later worked as a ghillie on the River Spey. His mother-in-law Dorothy ran the pub un­til 1964 when Joe took on the li­cence. By 2019, the pub would have been in the same fam­ily own­er­ship for 100 years and Joe him­self would have notched up 60 years be­hind the bar.

Ver­dict: I met Joe on sev­eral oc­ca­sions over the years, as many of us whisky geeks did, and I doubt there is any­one who can deny his ef­fort­less hos­pi­tal­ity you re­ceived ev­ery time you walked through the doors of the pub. There are fewer and fewer of these places around that are all about the peo­ple who run it, and where it’s not about the decor but about a feel­ing of be­long­ing. He was a true le­gend of Spey­side and its com­mu­nity and will be sadly missed. I don’t know what will hap­pen to this amaz­ing pub but I hope what­ever hap­pens that Joe will be look­ing down rais­ing a glass.

Drink: As the pub is slap bang in the mid­dle of whisky coun­try, the back bar is a cel­e­bra­tion of the whiskies from the re­gion. It is not about quan­tity here, more about qual­ity with only around 50 malts on of­fer. If you wanted to visit some dis­til­leries while you are here the Craigel­lachie, Ma­callan and Glen Grant are nearby.

Food: No food on of­fer but if you’re lucky you may get a bag of salted nuts.

Prices: Great prices here and you will come across some bot­tles of malt you won’t find any­where else.

Per­fect for: Set­tling down af­ter vis­it­ing a few lo­cal dis­til­leries and warm­ing your­self next to the open fire.

Avoid if: Craigel­lachie is just too far to come for a sin­gle malt.

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