Speyside Whisky

A distillery tour is much more than an education in the production of whisky. Many tours give an entertaining and enlightening introduction to the history of the area with tales of the illicit distillers, the excise men, and the local characters, bringing the local architecture and landscape to life. The fields of barley, the amber colour of the peat in the burns and the casks maturing in the bonded warehouses will come to life after a distillery tour.

A tutored tasting, or nosing, will incorporate a selection of whiskies and will help you choose from the hundreds of whiskies available at local whisky bars and shops. A nosing allows you to explore a number of different whiskies, perhaps different expressions (different ages, or matured in different woods etc.) from the same distillery  or comparing whiskies from across Scotland. Your guide will explain how the amount of peat in the water, the specification for malting of the barley, the shape and heating of the still, and the cask have contributed to the flavours and aromas of each whisky.

The nosing may include discussion of which foods are suited to which whisky. A nosing is an enjoyable, relaxed way to try different whiskies and is not in any way a lecture or just for connoisseurs. The only rule is to remember to nominate a driver or book a taxi, and enjoy the experience!

Glenfarclas Distillery was purchased in 1865 by the Grant family. Currently the fifth and six generation of the family own and manage the distillery which is one of only a handful that are truly independent family run businesses. The distillery visitor centre is five minutes drive south of the village on the A95.

Distillery Visitor Centres are also great places to choose a gift to take home, or to treat yourself to a souvenir of your visit to Aberlour. As well as a wide range of whiskies and whisky liqueurs, often including products not widely available in the UK, the shops have beautiful glasses, quaichs and decanters, and clothing embellished with the distillery logo. Many local distilleries offer guided tours and nosings.

The Aberlour Distillery offers an exceptional experience that attracts visitors from across Europe and the world. There are two tours a day, with a restricted number per tour, so booking is strongly recommended. The entertaining tour takes approximately two hours, and includes a light hearted introduction to Scottish history, a guided tour around all aspects of the production of the whisky, and a tutored nosing of new-make spirit and five mature Aberlour Single Malts in a beautiful converted bonded warehouse.

The Macallan Visitor Centre sits high on a hill overlooking the River Spey, with magnificent views across to Ben Rinnes. The regular tour takes in the full production process followed by ‘The Story of Oak’ bringing to life the vital role played by their exceptional oak casks in developing the distinctive character of The Macallan. There is also the ‘Precious Tour’, which is an extended visit including the full production process and ‘The Story of Oak’, ending with a tutored nosing across a range of Macallan whiskies in the Visitor Centre.

The Cardhu Distillery is the only malt distillery pioneered by a woman, Elizabeth Cumming. The malt whisky produced at the Cardhu Distillery has a warmth and cleanliness of taste which experts describe as “silky” and is used in some of the award winning Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskies. In addition to the standard tours there is a specialised tour once a day called “The Aromas and Flavours Tour”. This comprises a tutored nosing and tasting of selected single malts and Johnny Walker Gold Label blend exploring the relationship between the whisky flavours and those of complimentary foods. It is strongly recommended that you phone ahead before visiting a distillery to enquire about the availability of tours, as it would be frustrating to miss a special tour by a few minutes, and also to check whether younger members of your group are permitted on the tour.

The cask is an essential part of the production of whisky, and has as much influence on the colour and aroma of the final product as the barley and water. Driving from Dufftown into Aberlour you will pass the Speyside Cooperage, with pyramids of casks behind. The Cooperage welcomes visitors Monday to Friday, with a display of cooperage through the ages, and short film telling the story “from acorn to cask” and a gallery where you can see the casks being repaired, including the dramatic firing.

Contact details

Aberlour Distillery 01340 881249 website
Ballindalloch Distillery 01807 500331   website
Cardhu Distillery 01479 874635 website
Cragganmore Distillery 01479 874700 website
Glenfarclas Distillery 01807 500257 website
Glen Grant Distillery 01340 832101 website
Macallan Distillery 01340 872280 website
Speyside Cooperage 01340 871108 website