Our pick of some of the best experiences, tours, shops and whisky distilleries in Scotland where you can learn about, taste and buy our national drink…
MORE FROM SCOTLAND MAGAZINE
Although this is one of the newest whisky distilleries in Scotland, only opening in 2015, the roots of distilling in the Dingwall area in which its resides (at the head of the Cromarty Firth) date back to 1690. With the last distillery closing in the area in 1926, Glenwyvis was opened as the first ever 100% community-owned distillery. Motivated to preserve the beautiful Highlands landscape that surrounds it, the distillery is also a pioneer for sustainability, using wind, hydro, solar and biomass energy. Buy the distillery’s fragrant and fruity whisky online or through speciality retailers, or for something different, Glenwyvis also offers customers the chance to buy a cask from the distillery. Choose your cask, whether Madeira, sherry, rum or bourbon, and your whisky will be left to rest for up to 10 years.
Dating back to 1896, Dewars Aberfeldy Distillery is the only Scotch whisky distillery built by the Dewar family – a blended whisky household name. Set in the heart of Highland Perthshire, the distillery sits on the banks of the Pitilie Burn, a natural water source whose gold-rich waters are still used to make Aberfeldy whisky today. The distillery’s lengthy method of fermentation and distillation in tall pot stills gives the whisky its instantly recognisable, heather and honey taste, and its filling station and warehouse remain unchanged from when it first opened, providing an atmospheric backdrop for whisky tours and cask tastings. There are several experiences on offer, from basic introductions to the whisky-making process, to the chance to taste the distillery’s oldest and rarest drams, or see what it is like to be a Master Blender. Visitors can even take home their very own blended Scotch whisky creation.
The world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky, and one of the very few single malt whisky distilleries in Scotland to remain entirely family owned, Glenfiddich’s reputation for excellence is world renowned. Fulfilling a lifelong ambition to make the ‘best dram in the valley’, William Grant from Dufftown built his distillery by hand, stone by stone. After a year of building, the first drop of spirit fell from the Glenfiddich copper stills on Christmas Day 1887. Glenfiddich is also the first whisky to have been promoted worldwide to consumers as a single malt Scotch; a well-kept Scottish secret had finally been revealed to the world. A visit to the historic distillery is a must for any dedicated whisky drinker. Explore the generations of gently maturing casks, learn how its distinct depth of flavour is created, and, of course, enjoy a tasting of several single malts to round your visit off.
While most Scottish whisky distilleries in Scotland now offer tours – few of them give you the chance to take a tour with the distillery owner. Step forward Annandale Distillery, in Dumfries and Galloway, where visitors can take a tour with Professor David Thomson, the man behind the rebirth of this distillery, which was once owned by Johnnie Walker but was forced to close in 1918. In 2007, Thomson, together with his wife, Teresa Church, revived Annandale and on this personal tour you can hear about the ‘characters’ involved in the revival – including the ‘water diviner’ and the archaeologists that worked on the project. Thomson has even been known to recite Burns poetry as he extols the virtues of the region and its whisky, and like all good tours, it ends with a tasting of some of the distillery’s whiskies. Register your interest for an owner tour by emailing I.Dupont@annandaledistillery.com.
Sitting at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, this five-star attraction is a must for anyone visiting the city, whether you are a whisky connoisseur or an amateur. You could spend hours browsing the shop, which has just about every type of whisky you could imagine, as well as plenty of gifts and whisky-related products, or book onto one of the tour experiences, which will take you on a journey through the world of Scotch. The Platinum Tour includes a tour of the country’s best whiskies, after which you can savour the flavours of the Taste of Scotland menu in the Amber Restaurant – a true Scottish culinary treat. The Barrel Ride, which kicks off tours, takes you through the whisky-making process and history of our favourite drink in a fun and immersive way.
Did you know that birch water, which Highlanders used to tap from ancient birch trees, unique to Scotland due to its geographical position and climate, is thought to be the original inspiration for whisky? The Gaelic term ‘uisge beithe’ (birch water) is a derivation of the term ‘uisge beatha’, which means ‘water of life’ or, more simply: whisky. Created by four friends who share an intimate knowledge of forestry and native Scottish species and plants, BIRKENTREE, the old Scots word for birch tree, is a natural birch water whisky mixer, highlighting the nuances in its flavours. Harvested using sustainable methods, BIRKENTREE has nothing added to it whatsoever and comes from trees that are up to 300 years old. Simple, natural, and pure, this ancient ingredient will change your whisky-drinking habits forever.
With 582% growth in 10 years, whisky collecting is now big business, and Scotch is revered by collectors across the world. There are over 20 million cases of whisky currently in Scotland’s bonded warehouses with some of it considered very valuable indeed – in 2022, a cask of Macallan from 1988 sold at auction for just under $1.3m – a record-breaking sum. Obviously some bottles of Scotch are more collectable than others, but the general rule of thumb is that the rarer the whisky the better – though with such a high demand for rare whiskies, even fairly modest limited edition bottles can increase in value. If you are considering dipping your toe – or should that be pipette? – into the world of whisky collecting, then Elite Whisky & Wine can help guide you through the process. Apart from anything else, it’s a great way to increase your knowledge of the whisky-making business in Scotland.
Located on the Isle of Islay – home to no fewer than nine whisky distilleries – as expected, this spectacular golf hotel also does a superb line in whiskies. Set amid the sand dunes on a seven-mile sandy beach, The Machrie’s Championship links are now rated among the top 100 courses in the world, so it’s the perfect place to combine a golfing holiday with some whisky tasting. Islay whiskies are known for their smokiness, with the island’s distilleries use peat cut from the local moss lands, and whether you want to try some of the island’s malts fireside in one of the hotel’s cosy lounges, or visit some of the distilleries themselves (the hotel can organise exclusive tours), you’re well placed. The Machrie’s Stay & Play package (from £285pp for one night, or £450pp for two nights) offers great rates for visitors (both novice and experienced golfers) to combine a couple of rounds on the links course with luxury accommodation in either a two-bedroom lodge on the edge of the links, or in a modern Cosy, Comfy or Comfy Luxe room, with views over the beautiful local landscape or the links course itself with the sea beyond. Guests on this package will also get a full Scottish breakfast each morning and unlimited play on both the 6-hole par 3 Wee Course and the Hebrides putting course, though alas, the whisky is extra.
In addition to glistening lochs, sweeping mountain ranges and deep valleys, Speyside is also home to the world-renowned Speyside single malt whiskies and, with more than 50 distilleries to choose from, has the highest concentration of malt whisky producers in Scotland. Simply Speyside Whisky Tours will take you on a guided tour of the region’s best distilleries, where you’ll visit the homes of famous brands such as Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. Choose the best tour to suit you, whether it’s seeing the biggest names, comparing whiskies and distilleries, or learning about the whisky-making process itself. Your expert guide will share their passion for whisky and the region, and you are guaranteed to experience some of the best whisky that Speyside has to offer.
MORE FROM SCOTLAND MAGAZINE
Published six times a year, every issue of Scotland showcases its stunning landscapes and natural beauty, and delves deep into Scottish history. From mysterious clans and famous Scots (both past and present), to the hidden histories of the country’s greatest castles and houses, Scotland‘s pages brim with the soul and secrets of the country.
Scotland magazine captures the spirit of this wild and wonderful nation, explores its history and heritage and recommends great places to visit, so you feel at home here, wherever you are in the world.