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On the scent of magic

It is funny how so many urban Scots - OK, me at least - take the wonderful things this country has to offer for granted, be that the wonderful scenery just beyond our urban sprawl or the uisge beatha, our national drink.

Yet every day, people from all over the world descend en masse to our shores in search of them. You can find them in roving packs all across the Highlands, in twos or threes in Glasgow's pubs or in teeming masses on Edinburgh's streets. So in a bid to see what all the fuss is about I decided to combine the pursuit of these two wonderfully Scottish things.

First of all, I need a suitable candidate and luckily Glasgow has not one but three distilleries close by.

The first and closest is Auchentoshan. It's the quintessential Lowland malt but something is lacking though: the spectacular scenery.

Loch Lomond distillery? It certainly sounds scenic but it doesn't do tours.

Finally, I decide on the perfect pick, Glengoyne, at the foot of Dumgoyne in the Campsies, with fantastic scenery to go with a couple of drams.

The day I set off is a typical Scottish spring afternoon - before we embark on the bus we are sheltering from the rain, an hour later we got off to sunshine and blue skies.

The short walk from the bus stop brings the pristine white walls and typical pagoda roof of the distillery into sight, while rising up to our right is the dramatic rise of Dumgoyne.

The first thing I notice is a wonderful smell, what I can only describe as toasted bananas. Ripe, warm and welcoming.

We wander up to the visitors' centre hiding at the back of the little cluster of white buildings. Val, our tour guide, resplendent in tartan trews and wind breaker beckons us up the stairs and before we can even ask any questions she has us in comfortable chairs, a whisky in hand, and is popping on an introductory video.

She then leads us out on to a deck to show us the distillery's private waterfall.

Standing there, listening to the water flow, watching wildlife such as pheasants and rabbits duck in and out of the daffodils as Val chats about whisky production, it is easy to see the appeal that draws so many visitors to this, one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. Outside we pass groups of tourists, while Val shares pleasantries with other members of staff. It feels like a wonderful little gated community, shut off from the pressures and annoyances of the modern world. Inside the distillation building we are shown the mash tun.

Imagine the biggest teapot you've ever seen minus the spout, this is where the malted barley is mixed with heated water to produce the wort, a mix of water and the sugary enzymes in the barley. It's also the source of that wonderful smell.

From here we head to the wash backs, huge wooden vats, resembling giant wooden casks, where the wort is mixed with yeast to produce the alcohol. We stick our heads in to get a good look but Val warns us about leaning in too far - a by-product being carbon dioxide which is prone to make you feel light headed if you take in too much. Similar to whisky, I joke. Val laughs politely.

Finally, we get to the room where the magic happens, three large copper stills standing elevated upon a mezzanine, looking like large copper wine glasses turned upon their heads. They are beautiful, the golden orange metal, polished meticulously, reflects the light and the colour of the whisky.

Val points to the spirit safe, the small glass tank where clear spirit is pouring down into small glass bowls. "It always amazes me how it begins as water and returns to the same clear liquid state but transformed into something more."

We head back to the tasting house. Val once more sits us down and produces more glasses, this time we get an 18-year-old, fruity and nutty, and a 21-year-old, rich and sherried, to try. We chat while in the next room a boisterous crowd try blending their own whiskies. It's a relaxed and fun atmosphere and we finally say our goodbyes before heading out once more into the wonderful scenery for a little wander.

Tours run all year round, running on the hour from 10am to 4pm and the distillery is open seven days a week. The basic tour starts at £7.50 person, the tasting tour £10-£20 (depending on the number of drams) with special blending tours where you can blend your own whisky at £40pp, and the master tour, the most in-depth distillery tour offered in Scotland for £125pp. First Bus to Balfron (No 10) runs from Glasgow hourly and stops outside of the distillery.

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