Heading back to Dufftown, after a fine morning at the Strathisla Distillery, we drove past a tiny unassuming Inn alongside the Fiddich River. Needing something more thirst quenching than the wee drams on offer, we went in.
This tiny bar looked closed for business, but we knocked and went in. We were greeted by Old Joe Brandie (no, the names is not my poetic license).
Fronting hundreds of whiskies – most from Speyside, but some from afar – Islay and even Ireland and China! The choice was daunting for whisky lovers – a little easier if you wanted beer – just 2 drafts on offer – this is whisky country after all!
As we were the only patrons, we began chatting with Old Joe – he is 87 and has been running the bar for 53 years – he is alone behind the counter and has closed the bar for only 4 days in all those years – to mourn the death of his wife, Dorothy – daughter of the original owners.
In this new world of gastro pubs with trendy gins, foreign wines, extensive cocktail lists and often top end food (yes… which we love to frequent) – it is refreshing to find a place that is simply a local haunt – with pretty much only whisky and apologizes that there is no food! OK, some salted peanuts could be found for the desperate!
The tiny bar has only a few bar stools and apparently managed to squeeze in 40 guests one Christmas. There are tables and chairs outside along the banks of the Fiddich, looking out on a beautiful old bridge – but the greater charm was sitting with Old Joe.
He happily allowed me to take pics as he explained his next priority – he wants to work for 3 more years – in time to celebrate the bar turning 100 – the whole time in the hands of the same family. No talk of slowing down before then!
We sat with Joe – me drinking a Craigallachie Single Malt (seemed rude not to, despite the choice on hand) and my poor driver Pete sipping a soda.
It turns out that Old Joe is a Speyside legend, and looking on TripAdvisor and other media, it seems that whisky aficionados and Malt Clubs from around the world all stop by to visit Old Joe – we found him and the Inn by luck, just around a bend in the road… alongside the Fiddich River.