Love whisky? Today is your day!
May is World Whisky Month, so what better time to celebrate and enjoy Scotland’s most iconic drink? Let us take you on a tour on some of the country’s finest whisky experiences at distilleries - many old, others rediscovered - across Scotland. Join us to celebrate the month of whisky and discover all the new distilleries opening this year. Make a plan to sample Scotland’s finest.
Here are some of our recommended distilleries you should have seen.
The distillery was originally the Elgin West Brewery, which opened in 1830, producing local ales. Surviving handwritten ledgers show the first spirit run was made on September 13th, 1897, using local barley. This new make spirit was filled into a wide variety of casks, an unusual practice for the time. It’s a tradition that continues today – our whisky matures in our onsite warehouses in everything from sherry and chardonnay to port casks, producing an intricate spectrum of flavours. Indeed after being bought by Macdonald & Muir, a famous wine and spirits merchant, such was the demand for Glen Moray single malt that in 1924, an 1893 vintage was bottled and put on sale at the distillery. It was an unusually rare gem, considering the infancy of single malt whisky released during the era.
Location: Elgin, Moray
Arran has always been a fine place to make good whisky, but when quantity was prized over quality our wee island couldn’t compete economically, and one by one the distilleries fell into disuse. We revived the tradition when we built our new distillery in Lochranza, at the north end of the island. When a three-year old cask was opened on 25th July 1998, our guests enjoyed the first legal dram of Arran whisky in over 160 years. In June 2016 the distillery celebrated their 21st anniversary and the christening of 'Rowan House' a brand new blending and tasting building in the grounds of their Lochranza Distillery. The distilery have been building their second distillery at Lagg, at the south end of the Isle of Arran. Times have never been more exciting for Arran.
Location: Lochranza, Isle of Arran
Bruichladdich Distillery is located on the southwestern tip of the remote Hebridean island of Islay where they distil four unique spirits. Home to Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore single malt whiskies and The Botanist Islay dry gin. Their spirits should have character; an authenticity derived from where they are distilled and the philosophies of those who distil them. There are many attributes they share with their distant Gaelic forefathers: stubborn, resolute, self-sufficient, tough, hard-working, enduring, straight-talking, emotional, passionate, philosophical and engaging… perhaps with a certain roguish quality. They seek to produce the most natural, thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating & enjoyable spirits possible. Obsessive? Probably – but if all you want is generic spirit, the world is awash with the stuff.
Location: Rhinns, Isle of Islay
The story is one of a community and the many people who have made it what it is today. Brought together by a shared craft, the inhabitants of Deanston have spent many decades inspiring a commitment to innovation, authentic craftsmanship and community spirit. The story of our Distillery has inspired us, in the production of our many Single Malts, and the hand crafted techniques which give Deanston the fresh, honeyed sweetness it's known for. In 1785 the Deanston Cotton Mill opened its doors. Designed by one of the fathers of the industrial revolution, Richard Arkwright, Deanston was at the forefront of new beginnings as Scotland moved from agriculture to industrialisation. The mill flourished and as the workforce grew, so did the need for accommodation. The owners saw the opportunity to create a self-contained village and so built housing for 300 workers which still form the centre of Deanston today. Deanston was also the first industrial establishment to issue its own currency.
Location: Doune, Stirling
The Scottish Wemyss family have had a longstanding passion for malt whisky and their connections with the industry date back to the turn of the 19th century when John Haig (founder of Haig's) built his first distillery on Wemyss land. The story of Kingsbarns Single Malt Scotch Whisky begins with the conversion of a historic and semi-derelict farm steading into a distillery. At Kingsbarns Distillery, they take Fife grown barley and water from an aquifer 100m below the distillery and through our process of milling, mashing, fermentation and distilling to fill our casks with our fruity and floral spirit. The whisky is designed to be light, fruity and floral with every element of the process tailored to the region style. We believe our spirit is a true representative of a Lowland malt.
Location: Kingsbarns, Kingdom of Fife
Nestled deep in the beautiful Spey valley, Ballindalloch Castle has been the home of the Macpherson-Grant family since 1546. Indeed, Guy Macpherson-Grant is the 23rd generation of his family to live at the Castle. Throughout those generations, this much loved Highland estate has upheld tradition while continuing to grow and look to the future. The latest addition to the range of activities is offered at Ballindalloch Single Malt Distillery. Returning the family to the distilling traditions of previous generations, Ballindalloch Distillery embraces an approach to whisky making rarely seen today. As a guest at Ballindalloch, your time with them will be tailored to you. Whether you are new to distilleries or a regular visitor, there will be something new enjoy. The unique nature of the distillery allows you to get closer to the production process than almost anywhere else. Visits are by appointment only and we wold love to bring you there.
Location: Ballindalloch, Speyside
More to follow
There are currently more than 120 active distilleries in Scotland, but we're not stopping there, with two classics ready to come back to life. Their names have been uttered in reverential tones for decades, their whiskies passing into legend. Brora and Port Ellen joined the ranks of Scotland’s ghost distilleries when they closed in 1983 and since then their whiskies have fetched thousands at auction. In 2017 one golden age malt from Brora sold for £15,000 in Hong Kong. Now both distilleries are set to re-open in 2020. They will be among Scotland’s smallest distilleries, with visitor centres on-site and their master blenders working to replicate the original tastes of the whiskies.
Plans are also at an advanced stage to transform one of Edinburgh’s most well-known buildings into a ‘world class whisky experience’ and create yet another landmark on Princes Street. Taking over the former House of Fraser building, the Johnnie Walker Experience will occupy all floors from the ground up and literally raise the roof with a new rooftop bar. The listed building’s original features, including the famous cantilevered clock will be protected. The experience will also create 180 new jobs in the capital and include an events space for performances and shows and a ‘bar academy’. The project is on schedule to open in 2020.
It should come as no surprise that the home of whisky is also the home of the whisky festival and every year events across the country pull in visitors from all around the world. Ostensibly they are here for the scenery and castles but much of their time is spent at the distilleries. The sites all feature prominently in the tours. Cragganmore and Cardhu are part of the Speyside Whisky Festival, which takes place over five days in May. The Highland Whisky Festival includes Glen Ord and Clynelish and is the only festival celebrating the finest distilleries on the iconic North Coast 500 route. The Hebridean Whisky Festival is the new kid on the block, launching their very first festival on the islands of Harris, Raasay and Skye, including Talisker on the latter. And the Islay Feis, a celebration of whisky and music, is on from May 24 until May 31.