Discovering Scotland’s most popular drink, whiskey, through the best distilleries scattered throughout the territory.
In the green and lush Scotland, the ruins of the castles and the breath taking fjords are not the only stops to consider. In fact, the northern part of the United Kingdom is internationally famous also for the production of a renowned whiskey. Therefore, a tour of 10 charming whiskey distilleries in Scotland can be a valid and equally interesting alternative to the most common Scottish destinations.
Founded in 1794, the Oban Distillery is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. It’s located in the namesake town of Oban, on the west coast of the country.
This distillery is mainly famous for having preserved its traditional whiskey handwork. In this building, you can witness the fermentation process through all the structures involved in its creation. At the end of the tour, you have the opportunity to taste the whiskey of the distillery, which focuses on single malt production, that is the most traditional and surely the most valuable. This process involves the continuous fermentation of malted barley, which gets subsequently toasted in special ovens where peat is used to feed them. It’s this phase that gives the whiskey its unmistakable flavour.
Oban PA34 5NH, UK
+44 1631 572004
Blair Athol Distillery
Another ancient distillery is the Blair Athol, inaugurated in 1798 by John Stewart and Robert Robertson with the original name of Aldour Distillery. The whiskey that is produced here consists in a single bottling that takes 12 years to make, aged in sherry casks from which it acquires the typical sweetish taste.
About 2.5 million litres of alcohol per year are produced in this distillery, using 4 pot stills with a pear shape. Two of them are filled with water and have a capacity of 13,000 litres each, while the other two contain alcohol and have a capacity of 12,000 litres. Thanks to the organized tour, you can visit the warehouses, the entire structure of the factory, and taste their product directly from the casks.
Perth Rd, Pitlochry PH16 5LY, UK
+44 1796 482003
Proceeding further north, you can find the beautiful Isle of Skye, which is connected to the mainland through a bridge. Among its striking mountain, on the shores of Loch Harport, stands the white Talisker Distillery. It’s primarily known for its rather salty whiskey, so much that it advertised it with the slogan “Made by the sea“.
Here you can choose between three different types of tours, ranging from the simplest one with a short duration, dedicated to those who are facing this world for the first time, to the one for experts that lasts 2 hours, in which you can also taste 5 types of whiskey.
Carbost, Isle of Skye IV47 8SR, UK
+44 1478 614308
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
In addition to the castle of Balmoral, the Aberdeenshire also offers the opportunity to visit the Royal Lochnagar Distillery. The whiskey that is produced here is known to be a single malt with a royal warrant and a unique flavour.
The distillery is just at a 20-minute walk from the castle, and this makes it a mandatory stop to personally get to know the production processes of the famous whiskey, from barley harvest to bottling. And, as for other distilleries, you can taste a dram or two of free whiskey, depending on the type of ticket purchased.
Crathie, Ballater AB35 5TB, UK
+44 1339 742700
In the south of the city of Inverness, stands the Tomatin Distillery, founded in 1897 under the name of Tomatin Spey Distillery Co Ltd. In 1906, unfortunately it went bankrupt, and in 1909 it was bought and reopened but in 1985 Japanese shareholders took over.
The secret of the Tomatin whiskey is using 12 distillers, which can produce about 2.5 million litres of product, and above all the spring water coming from the Monadhliath mountains, which gives this whiskey its unmistakable flavour. In addition to this, the distillery features old oak casks previously used for the production of bourbon or sherry.
Inverness IV13 7YT, UK
+44 01463 248144
Glen Ord Distillery
When, in 1820,Thomas MacKenzie of Ord inherited the estate of his ancestors, he decided to rent it for the construction of a distillery, given the large plantation of barley of the area, and thus succeeding in also providing employment to local men.
This distillery is located in the famous and characteristic Highlands, and it’s the last one of the Black Isle peninsula to produce single malt whiskeys. Moreover, Glen Ord boasts the best single malt award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 1994 and 1996, and at the Monde Selection in 1996 and 1997. Its whiskey can be aged 12 to 20 years or, in some cases, even over 30 years.
Muir of Ord IV6 7UJ, UK
+44 1463 872004
The smallest distillery in Scotland is the Edradour Distillery, near Pitlochry, and it has been famous for this until the appearance of the Strathearn Distillery, which now holds the record.
For over 150 years, its management has been entrusted only to three men, recently moved to two. This means that its production makes 18 casks a week, with stills that have a capacity of 4200 litres or about 2000 litres. Despite the small scale, the distillery offers a good variety of whiskeys that, unlike others, remains firmly on the production high quality.
Pitlochry, Perthshire PH16 5JP, UK
+44 1796 472095
Caol Ila Distillery
With its typical pale colour, and the rich peaty and floral notes, the whiskey from the Caol Ila Distillery derives its name from the Gaelic “Caol Ìle“, which stands for “Sound of Islay”, as the distillery is located in Port Askaig, on the island of Islay.
Since its opening in 1846, the distillery has always been in operation, with the exception of the period during the Second World War in which regulations concerning the use of barley were in force. In 1972, it was rebuilt to improve its performance, and this allowed the increase from two to six stills, which still today are placed right in front of a large window overlooking the sea.
Port Askaig, Isle of Islay PA46 7RL, UK
+44 1496 302769
The oldest distillery on the island of Islay, however, remains the Bowmore, which was founded in 1779 by John Simpson. Over the years, this place has had several owners but in 1994 the Japanese company Suntory Ltd acquired it definitively.
The changes in properties have not altered the production processes that distinguish this distillery; such as the malting floor, that consists in drafting barley on the stone floors and then proceed with its drying on the classic peat fire that characterizes most of the scotch whiskey.
The particularity of this distillery, however, resides in one of its warehouses, which is the oldest in Scotland and is located below the sea level, making it a one of a kind.
Bowmore Distillery, School Street, Bowmore PA43 7JS, UK
+44 1496 810441
One of the most appreciated whiskeys in Scotland is certainly the one produced by Glenmorangie Distillery. Located in the town of Tain in Ross-shire, this distillery produces a wide range of whiskey bottlings that are mainly 10-year-old single malt called The Original. All thanks to the tallest stills in Scotland, which have lids with a round shape and are equipped with a high collar that starts from the lid itself. The water that is used for the production of whisky comes from the Tarlogie Springs, born from the homonymous hills.
Glenomorangie’s warehouses still employ earthen floor, while the casks are mainly made of American oak and a blend of different woods, including sherry and sauternes.
A9, Tain IV19 1PZ, UK
+44 1862 892043