It was 11.15am on Wednesday 22nd November. I’d left my job the day before and was stood in my bright pink Gymshark leggings, protein shake in hand, poised to leave my house and head to my ‘Booty Barre’ class at the gym (fully aware I am the definition of Basic Bitch at this moment in time) to break out a sweat before coming home and knuckling down to some job hunting. And then Max from @Adwaiz called. ‘Oh no’. ‘Oh dear God, no’, I muttered to myself. When Max flashes up on my home screen (notifications, not actual flashing I must clarify), I know it’s going to be one of two things. He’s either tagging me in something about chicken nuggets (don’t ask), or he’s about to corrupt my plans to be a healthy, sensible adult.
‘Hi Fern, can you get to Euston in 30 minutes to come on a Glenfiddich whisky train adventure?’
My new-found freedom got the better of me and I went from well-intended, gym-clothed, bare-faced Fern to rocking up at Euston with a full face of make-up, bag packed and ready to get frisky with some whisky in 30 minutes flat. I was a victim of fun, spontaneity and alcohol joining forces against me. I really had no choice.
So there I was at Euston station, ready to board what I had imagined in my head as The Orient Express meets Glenfiddich, when I was handed a ticket for the 12.24 London Midland service from Euston to Milton Keynes Central, stopping off at our destination of Cheddington.
‘Max, what are we even doing? Where are we going?!’
‘I have no idea, no one does. I’m sure it will be fun’.
Orient Express it was not, but fun it most certainly was.
We arrived at Cheddington, having munched our way through some lunch that had been provided (admittedly, on top of my designated salad I also sneakily pocketed a Pret bar, Pret brownie and 2 of some of the best brownie bites I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of scoffing, courtesy of Potage… Baggy Christmas jumper season is absolutely not an opportunity to be passed up, guys). So, at Cheddington station we were briefed by God of Glenfiddich @singlemaltmark and Microadventure Maverick @al_humphreys as to our forthcoming adventure. We were to hike through the hills of Ivanhoe in what I was soon to realise were pretty much gale-force winds (what?!), making intermittent pit stops in order to sample various Glenfiddich whiskies (ah, okay, all good). I’m definitely a city girl but my God, did Al bring out the nature-loving hiker harboured within my concrete-loving soul. Al is actually a former National Geographic adventurer of the year and I’m not entirely sure what he made of me, stood in my Cavalli bomber jacket and Chanel scarf, shrieking in my irritating-to-many public-school accent about how much I was enjoying “feeling in touch with nature, darling!”.
Al actually coined the term ‘microadventure’ himself to describe the experiences he has come up with in order to preach to people: “Look, the wilderness is closer than you think!’. Admittedly the closest thing I’d experienced to the wilderness in the preceding months were the Dom-Pérignon fuelled mating calls taking place between rich men and beautiful women whilst I was swaying around shitfaced in Maddox Club… This was a somewhat different experience that brought me right back down to the beautiful, fresh-aired wilderness of reality I was in much need of.
Among the samples of the world’s most-awarded single malt whisky was the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment. When I’m out and about in restaurants, I really appreciate a dish whose flavours evolve as I’m chewing the food, and this was my alcoholic equivalent. Vibrant, zesty, citrus notes filled my mouth before the 43% ABV trickled down my throat, delivering a much-needed warmth to my otherwise frozen self and giving way to a wave of softer, sweeter, vanilla-infused hops. I’m not a beer fan at all but for some reason I really appreciated the flavour profile at play here, so much so that I was the last person to completely finish my sample since I really took my time between sips to enjoy the long-lasting finish of the first single malt whisky to have ever been finished in craft IPA casks.
The other standout of the day for me was the Project XX, the second of Glenfiddich’s experimental series. Mark explained that 20 Glenfiddich ambassadors had been invited to select any expression of their choosing from thousands of stacked casks. The final 20 chosen malts, matured in everything from port pipes to virgin bourbon barrels, resulted in what I can only describe as liquid gold, not only in colour, but also in complexity and depth. A cloud of candyfloss sweetness floated delicately over the pool of rich, vanilla oakiness in my mouth, before droplets of toasted almonds, cinnamon and crisp tannin made for a flavour explosion I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
It may not have been the Glenfiddich Orient Express I had anticipated, but I can honestly say this was one of the best days I’ve had in a while. I learned about whisky from the Glenfiddich ambassador of Scotland himself Mark Thomson, who even managed the unthinkable and got me enjoying the flavour of hops, and was reminded by Alastair Humphreys how a very short train ride out of London can make you feel a million miles away, in the very best way possible. I’m not sure I’ll ever quite reach his level of adventurer (he once trekked Iceland’s interior unsupported), but I can take some inspiration (I once trekked Iceland’s wine and spirits aisle on my own in a bid to find the elusive Chardonnay). Unfortunately, Glenfiddich can’t be found in Iceland stores, so here’s a quick link if you feel like purchasing yourself some of these bottles of joy: https://shop.glenfiddich.com/experimental-series