15 OF THE BEST WHISKY DISTILLERIES TO VISIT IN SCOTLAND
The magic of distilleries has never ceased to capture the imagination of the world over and over; and invoke a sense of the mystical and the unknown, even though the process remains largely the same today as it was over a thousand years ago.
Scotch whisky is one of Scotland’s most famous products and there are over 120 whisky distilleries in Scotland. Most of our visitors to Scotland and Ireland make time for a distillery visit during their stay here and whether they are bottling, blending or creating their own labels, each and every one shares the same delight in one of the Scot’s most traditional of practices. The main whisky regions of Scotland are The Highlands, The Lowlands, Islay and Campbeltown.
There are two main types of Scotch whisky, single malt and single grain. Malt whisky is produced from 100% malted barley and blended whiskies are made from a mixture of malt and grain whisky.
Most importantly, enjoying and sampling some of the best whisky that Scotland produces is a lot of fun and educational too. These are some of my favorite distilleries, and best distilleries to visit in Scotland, in no particular order:
1. TALISKER, ISLE OF SKYE
Found underneath the Cuillin hills of Skye, this distillery boasts a very peaty and full-bodied malt from their copper stills. The dramatic coastal scenery and wildlife are part of Talisker’s charm and they offer a decent tour too. Even better, it’s close by to the Kinloch Lodge and wonderful Three Chimneys, a particular favorite of mine.
2. EDRADOUR, PITLOCHRY
Possibly the smallest distillery in Scotland. Edradour is famous for it’s Highland single malt whiskey. Found in 1825 and tucked away in the heart of Pitlochry, it also has a delightful shop and visitor experience and remains a bit of a hidden gem for me. If you’re staying at Kinross House, this is an ideal distillery to visit.
3. HIGHLAND PARK, ORKNEY
This is well worth the trip. Orkney may be almost 310 miles from Edinburgh and Highland Park is certainly the most northerly distillery in Scotland but it really does produce the most fabulous whiskey. Their 12 year old with a touch of peat and smokey tones is divine and the tasting makes visiting this distillery a real delight. It is also a stone’s throw from the fabulous Balfour Castle on Shapinsay. We can organize some fabulous Orkney whiskey tours.
4. LINDORES ABBEY, FIFE
Steeped in rich history, Lindores Abbey is known as the “Spriritual home of Scotch Whiskey” – believed to be the first recorded distillery to produce what is known today as whiskey. The Abbey has housed Kings, Princes – even William Wallace, and in September 2017, they throw open their doors to the public for the very first time, bringing whiskey home. This is the brainchild of dear friends of mine, Helen and Drew MacKenzie Smith and at LTR we wish them all the best. Guests of Birkhill Castle will be able to easily make a trip to Lindores Abbey.
5. GLENMORANGIE, TAIN
On the southern bank of the Moray Firth comes the golden nectar that has been crafted by the men of Tain for centuries. The Glenmorangie Distillery tour is a gentle amble through time and shows off the distillery and warehouses with rare access. If you overindulge, don’t worry because Glenmorangie House, next door, offers a very comfortable stay.
6. ARDBEG, PORT ELLEN, ISLAY
In common with the rest of the famous Islay family of distilleries, Ardbeg stands out, for me, as one of the greatest distilleries on earth. As good on its own or splashed over oysters, Ardbeg whiskey evokes an unsurpassed flavor and the stillery offers a fascinating insight into their secret world.
7. BALVENIE, DUFFTOWN
This special Speyside distillery not only offers visitors behind-the-scenes insight but also a vast range of tastings crafted from in-house floor maltings and locally hand-cut peat. Balvenie is a true delight.
8. BRUICHLADDICH, ISLAY
I have very fond memories of visiting this distillery with a client some years ago for a very personal tour conducted by the owner. We arrived by helicopter, blended, bottled and labelled our own whiskey and, after an excellent lobster lunch, we were very sorry to leave. My client had ordered a cask which is still sitting there and he visits from time to time to check that the Angel’s share has not completely evaporated. A really magic place.
9. GLENLIVET, BALLINDALLOCH
Nestled deep in the wild and beautiful Speyside valley, Glenlivet Distilleryis home to the production of its namesake and has grown to become one of the biggest single malt distilleries in order to keep up with global demand. Their single malt whisky is the biggest selling in US and their distillery doesn’t disappoint. The intimate tours are both educational and inspiring. Kincardine Castle is next door and offers first class exclusive accommodation to the weary reveler.
10. GLENKINCHIE, PENCAITLAND
This is a great little distillery, just south of Edinburgh, offering the best of lowland malts. An exceptional visitor experience kicking off with an exhibition on the Malting Floors, a tour of the distillery production areas and finishing with more tasting. The stunning, Adam-designed Gilmerton House is a 10 minute drive and well worth a stay either before or after a visit to Glenkinchie.
11. KNOCKANDO, SPEYSIDE
As Knockando say themselves, they do whiskey “a little differently”. Their award winning anCnoc (meaning “the hill”) is a refreshingly modern take on the traditional production methods and the result is a lighter-tasting single malt. Despite being a small distillery, Knockando is forward-thinking and the perfect embodiment of a modern establishment. Kids get down there now.
12. LAPHROAIG, PORT ELLEN, ISLAY
Laphroaig, for me, offers one of the best distillery tours in Scotland. Expertly run, the staff at Laphroaig are informative and passionate about their craft. Check out the gift shop and make sure you grab your national flag and map, set out onto the bogs and claim your very own plot in a fun twist to the day. Modern and up-scale, Laphroaig ticks all the boxes for the present day whiskey lover.
13. LAGAVULIN, PORT ELLEN, ISLAY
Possibly one of my favorite distilleries. The sheer name conjures up such wonderful images of the world-famous whiskey and the distillery more than lives up to its reputation. Rich, smoky and full bodied, Lagavulin is hard to beat. The Queen of the Hebrides, as Islay is often referred to, doesn’t disappoint with this gem as it is set fairly and squarely at the heart of it.
14. DALWHINNIE, HIGHLANDS
One of the highest distilleries in Scotland, the fabulously remote Dalwhinnie does whisky with a twist – combining their 15 year old single malt with … handmade chocolates! If you don’t have time for a tour of the distillery, make sure you have time for a dram and a chocolate before you leave. A distillery with real charm and a great pit-stop of your’re on your way north.
15. THE MACALLAN, CRAIGELLACHIE
The Macallan is the last distillery on my list of Scottish distilleries, but by no means the least. Its reputation proceeds it and, for most of my clients outside of the UK, is the most well-known. Set in the heart of Speyside, the Macallan use uniquely shaped copper stills in order to have maximum contact with the whiskey. This, alongside many other Macallan secrets learnt on their exclusive tour, combines to make the world-famous flavor that we all know so well. It is very well worth taking a Macallan distillery tour if you’re staying nearby.
As you can see we are passionate about the whiskey produced in this wonderful country. We get great pleasure and satisfaction from planning wonderful vacations round Scotland for our clients and including visits to some of the best distilleries in Scotland. Please get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone + 44 (0) 1835 824642 to see how we can help plan a really fabulous trip for you and your family or friends so that you can visit some of the best whiskey distilleries in Scotland.