Tam arrived in the valley late in the afternoon of Hogmanay. It had been a long journey on Three Ships, looking Starward and using the heavens as his Navigator for the Compass Box had gone missing. It was a moment of Enlightenment to return to the old ways of the sea. The Classic Laddie who was in charge was hopeless without the compass and Old Pulteney was not much better. The Jim Beam was dangerously close to the waterline when the ship eventually limped into Port Ellen. The whole place was boarded up and deserted. There were rumours of a grand re-opening, but Tam could not wait. It was an icy welcome On The Rocks after his Endeavour in getting to dry land.
“Jura wannna lift to Port Charlotte?” asked a passing Singleton, but Tam was too tired to be lead down a Copper Alley and was keen to get to the valley which he thought would hold the answer to his heritage - who were his ancestors? Was he just from one area or had his forebears travelled from Glen to Glen, bringing new blood into the valleys? Was he from the wrong side of the sheets on a Feathery bed? Tam wanted to know the exact make up of the spirit in his veins, but no-one could (or would) tell him.
Tam took a room with Angie who accommodated travellers and Nomads in her home. There was already a Walker there named Johnnie, and he and Tam hit it off straight away. Angie had been doing some washing for Johnnie who wanted a clean shirt for the Hogmanay celebrations. “Which one are you wanting, my Ballechin? I’ve got a Red and a Blue label of yours Johnnie”. “Have you any MorAngie?” asked Johnnie, “there should be Aultmore, a Black and a Gold label!” “Oh yes, my Littlemill, here they are, fresh from the Washback.” “Do you want to borrow a clean shirt Tam?” asked Johnnie, holding out the Red label, the plainest of them all but it was fine for Tam who liked to Blend in with the crowd.
“Tam dear, if you are looking for relatives you need to know that at Hogmanay no-one uses their first names if they are called Glen or Ben. It’s just a bit of local fun but it will make your challenge of Distilling what you know about your ancestors ard, Ardmore than usual tonight. My first name is really Glenn - you see how it works?” explained Angie, wondering if he would need any further explanation. Johnnie was just saying “Come on Tam, get your Garioch on and let’s go” when there was AcNoc at the door. “OK gents, is that a Knockandu get the door, or a knock and we won’t?” asked Angie, opening it wide to reveal a Riach of a man WyvisBowmore over his shoulder for effect than for fighting - or so Angie hoped, and another chap who looked rather in the Gauldrons. “Would your guests like to join us, Angie?” asked the taller man, who for this night was just called Keith. “Thanks mate” said Tam, Fiddich-ing with the collar of Johnnie’s shirt, “ that would be great”. After shaking hands with Keith and his friend Craig they set off down the hill, with Tam and Johnnie doing their best to cheer Craig up.
They passed a street urchin on the corner and Tam commented to him that it would be an Ardbeg on a night like this as he put a coin or two in his hand. “You shouldn’t encourage him” said Keith but Craig said “Let Tamdhu what he likes” and they carried on. Look, there’s the twins” said Keith, introducing the Johnnie and Tam to the brothers MacDuff and MiltonDuff, who were over from Dufftown. “I’m here looking for my roots - is there a Tamdhutown?” asked Tam, hopefully? “Sorry Tam, no” said Keith, “but there’s a burn of the sweetest water with your name and a little black hill too, so I think you’ll find your heritage is all single malt, and excellent stuff too!” “Oh, that’s great” said Tam, making a mental note that perhaps he was Batch No 2, a real winner with the TamDhu name.
Passing Highland Park the men couldn’t help but notice a rather noisy gathering of lads, calling out to each other at Full Volume. “Hey, Ragnvald”, “Over here, Einar”, “Svein, mate, pass it to me”, “Harald, stop upsetting Freya!” They looked as though they all had Dark Origins and were drinking by a Fire from a Black Bottle - or was it The Dark that gave that impression? “I don’t think we’ll get involved with them and their Dragon Legend telling tonight” said Craig. “If we outdo them there will be the most Famous Grouse about it which will go on until next Hogmanay!”
Jumping off the Springbank, a communal trampoline by Hazelburn, the friends made their way along the Lochside, past the little StrathIsla in the middle of the stream and on towards Kingsbarns to the Imperial, an Indian take-away which, sadly for them, was shut. I say sadly as all four of our friends had bottles in their pockets which they had been passing around and they were all now a little the worse for wear. Tam had drunk Cragganmore than he realised: Johnnie was creating his own blend having been let off the Clynelish: Keith was trying to remember where he had been to school without success, but knew it had been a FarClass from where he was now and Craig was Livet that he couldn’t think where his Lossie had Goyne.””Kilchoman” shouted Tam. “I was so looking forward to a Lamb Bunnahabhain so disappointed” he said. (Sigh!)
Digging deep into his Woodford Reserve Keith found a packet of Bourbon biscuits - no substitute for a curry, but that’s all there was. Heading back to their lodging Tam and Johnnie were surprised to find Angie up and waiting for them, a bottle in hand. “I’ve been on my own all evening” she said, and wondered whether you two would kindly have a little drink with me?” Sensing that it was going to be a Longmorn before her guests were bright eyed and ready to leave her, she was not completely surprised when they turned down her offer. “So sorry, but it’s no MorAngie for us!” Replied Tam and Johnnie as they headed off to bed.