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Issue 10 - The stuff on drams

Scotland Magazine Issue 10
September 2003


This article is 15 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The stuff on drams


So you’d like to visit a distillery. No problem. Around 40 of Scotland’s finest open their doors to the public and invite you to take a look around. Chances are your favourite has a guided tour, a visitor centre, and a shop where you can stock up. You’ll receive a warm welcome and a pleasant dram.

Here are some of the best:

Edinburgh: The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – right by the Castle. It’s not actually a distillery, but the next best thing: a centre dedicated to the art of distilling. There’s a ride through history (in a whisky cask); a great tasting bar and well-stocked shop. It’s supported by the industry as a whole, so it has virtually every major brand and a few specials for good measure.

If you want the real thing, take the short drive to Glenkinchie in Pencaitland, just outside the capital. One of the last Lowland single malt distilleries still in action, Glenkinchie has an attractive centre with a stunning scale model, dating from the 1936 Empire Exhibition.

From Glasgow you can head north to Glengoyne. Right on the Highland line, Glengoyne is one of the prettiest distilleries you could hope to find and home to an under-rated single malt that’s deceptively easy to drink! It’s handy for Loch Lomond too.

With children – go to the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret distillery in Crieff. They’ll love the light hearted graphics, the jokey television commercials and Glenturret’s multimillion pound ‘flight of the grouse’ interactive simulator. And afterwards, everyone will enjoy the restaurant.

For blends try the Dewar’s World of Whisky at Aberfeldy. Rated “the ultimate Scotch Whisky visitor centre” by Whisky Magazine it’s just collected a richly deserved 5* award from VisitScotland. The lavish centre tells the story of Tommy Dewar and the dynasty that he founded, combined with a distillery tour, nature trail and welcoming coffee bar.

You’d rather visit a garden, but your partner wants whisky: Glen Grant in Rothes is not only home to a worldrenowned whisky but also a fascinating Victorian garden.

Glenfarclas too, boasts lots of space to walk in and has great views of Ben Rinnes. Friendly, too.

Then there’s the original: Glenfiddich in Dufftown. When they opened the first distillery visitor centre in 1969 their competitors quietly scoffed – then opened their own a few years later. It’s still free and you see the world’s favourite single malt being distilled, warehoused and bottled all on one site by this stoutly independent family company.

You’d just like a sherry: try The Macallan, in the heart of Speyside. This popular malt is famous for only maturing its whisky in old sherry casks and, at their attractive new centre, you can find out why.

For the hard-core enthusiast there’s only one place – but it’s difficult. First, get along to Campbeltown.

Once the most famous distilling town in Scotland until it fell on hard times. Now only the sublime Springbank remains open to the public; but only in the summer; only once a day and only four days a week.

So you have to book in advance and plan your pilgrimage – but you’ll never forget this quite unique place.

Finally, if you want to do the tour yourself, go to Strathisla in Keith, and they’ll let you.

After coffee, shortbread and the morning papers in the library you can stroll through the distillery on your own. Sadly, they lock up the warehouses – this is Scotland, after all.

That’s a whistle-stop tour through 10 of my favourites. There isn’t space to mention Edradour, Scotland’s smallest; Dalwhinnie, Scotland’s highest; Arran, Scotland’s newest or a host of others that you’d certainly enjoy. You’ll just have to come back another day. Slainte!