A Pilgrimage to the Source: Distilleries to Visit in Scotland
There are five whisky regions in Scotland. Try visiting at least one distillery in each area (most offer tours and tastings) and you’ll get a pretty good sense of the best drams the country has to offer.
The largest of all the whisky-producing regions in Scotland, the Highlands are home to many of the country’s distilleries. Visit several and see if you can distinguish between the peatier offerings of the whiskies produced at higher elevations and the salt air-infused drams from more coastal areas.
You’ll find the Ben Nevis Distillery in Loch Bridge, Fort William. Built-in 1825 by John McDonald, Ben Nevis is surrounded by stunning scenery. The mountains and hills are home to the source of the clear, pure water that’s used in making the fine whiskies you’ll be able to sample here. Hector McDram, a mythical giant, will entertain you at the visitor centre in Fort William and after a tour of what was once an old bottling facility, you’ll be able to enjoy a sample (included in the price of admission).
You’ll find eight distilleries on the small island of Islay. Located off the west coast of Scotland, Islay produces some of the world’s most distinctive whiskies.
Imagine the pleasure of sipping a dram of Lagavulin 16 at the edge of the sea, the scent of peat in the air and in the glass… Mmmmm. Lagavulin has been around since the beginning of whisky on Islay, even if the name of the distillery has changed over the years. Enjoy one of various tours offered by Lagavulin while visiting this remote, windswept island.
Not far from Islay is the Kintyre Peninsula and burgh of Campbeltown. Once proclaiming itself to be the whisky capital of the world, the area is now home to only three distilleries, but while you are in the area, they are definitely worth a look.
Treat yourself to a tour with none other than the legend himself, Frank McCardy. Visit both the Springbank and Glengyle distilleries and sample some of Frank’s favourite drams. Learn about whisky-making and something of the history of spirits in Campbeltown. Other tour and tasting options are available.
While you are in Campbeltown, pop into Glen Scotia and sample a dram of their Double Cask, a whisky that truly captures the historical essence of this area’s whiskies.
Fully half of Scotland’s distilleries can be found in Speyside, the region on the eastern side of the Highlands and bordering the River Spey.
Founded in 1886, this venerable distillery offers several excellent tours for visitors. Watch an introductory film, tour the distillery, and sample the offerings or go all out and take part in a half-day masterclass and personalized tour. Note that this Pioneers Tour must be booked a week in advance.
The south of Scotland is where you’ll find the lowland distilleries. Just like the landscape in which they are made, these whiskies are a little more mellow than their more rugged cousins.
In addition to the expected facility and tasting tour options, Glenkinchie also offers a Whisky in the Wild Tour. Enjoy learning bit about local natural history and sample four whiskies as part of this guided tour through the area surrounding Glenkinchie.
If you can’t get away for a tour of the distilleries, let us bring a taste of whiskies from far afield to you. Whisky Loot’s subscription service delivers tasty samples from the far-flung corners of the world right to your door.