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.