The water of life. With its infinite array of distinct notes and characters it’s little surprise that whisky has won fans all over the world. This traditional spirit, whose name derives from the Gaelic word ‘uisge’ - pronounced ush-guh, is a true icon of Scotland. The country is dotted with distilleries and its rich landscapes, varied geology, crystal waters and centuries of whisky-making know-how have all combined to produce spirits that are as unique as a finger-print. It is this dazzling variety that brings whisky connoisseurs flocking to Scotland time and again. And nowhere is that more evident than in Speyside. Located in the Highlands, this region is one of the most famous whisky-producing areas in the whole country - and some of the world’s biggest names are based here. And nowhere else in Scotland is the concentration of distilleries higher - making it a true place of pilgrimage for whisky lovers. So where should you head during your visit to this beautiful corner of Scotland? These are just some of the top malt whiskies which have their home in Speyside.
1. The Glenfarclas Distillery
Tradition and whisky go hand in hand. So when a distillery stays within the same family’s ownership for generations you can rest assured it has a particularly fine pedigree. Such is the case with Glenfarclas. Owned by the Grants since 1865, it is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that remains truly independent and is still solely family owned and managed - a fact it is fiercely proud of. It was also one of the first distilleries in the country to throw its doors open to the public and give visitors a chance to glimpse behind the curtain at the labour, production techniques and, yes, tradition, which goes into each cask of this delectable spirit. Doors on the visitor centre opened way back in 1973 and today it is open all year round offering a range of tours and tastings that cater to everyone from general visitors to true whisky connoisseurs.
Address: Glenfarclas Distillery, Ballindalloch, Banffshire, AB37 9BD
Price: Classic tour: 7.50 GBP (10.60 USD); Connoisseur tour and tasting: 40 GBP (56.53 USD); Five Decades tour and tasting: 100 GBP (141.34 USD)
Opening Hours: Tour times vary. Advance booking recommended. Check website.
Contact: +44 1807 500345 or email [email protected]
Website: Glenfarclas Distillery
2. The Glen Grant Distillery
Founded way back in 1840, Glen Grant was one of the first Highland distilleries to be licensed to produce whisky. It was a trend setter back in the day, with the site becoming the first to be powered by electricity, and its owner being the first to own a car in the Highlands. The distillery is also home to an impressive Victorian era garden - which is not something you’d normally associated with a working distillery, but which enchants visitors nevertheless. As for the whisky itself, its bright and crisp yet deep flavour has made it especially popular among fans of the ‘water of life’.
Glen Grant Distillery
Address: Glen Grant Distillery, Rothes, Aberlour, AB38 7BS
Price: 5 GBP (7.07 USD). Under 18s go free. Children under 8 cannot enter production areas but welcome in visitor centre and garden.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 5pm (last tour at 4pm), Sundays (April to October) 9.30am to 5pm (last tour at 4pm). Other Sundays 12pm to 5pm (last tour at 4pm). Distillery open Mid-January to mid-December.
Contact: +44 1340 832118 or email [email protected]
Website: Glen Grant Distillery
3. The Glen Moray Distillery
Those looking for a whisky with a rich and spicy character will wish to make a beeline for Glen Moray, which matures its products in barrels once used by the bourbon industry for a delightful flavour. This small distillery has its roots as far back as 1831, when it operated as a brewery. Whisky production took over shortly before the end of the 1800s and it has been producing classic Speyside malt ever since. Its dedicated staff have proven so loyal that the current manager is only the fifth to hold that post in the distillery’s entire history. Visitor experiences range in length from the standard tour up to its ‘Fifth Chapter Tour’ - which includes tastings in the company of the distillery’s manager.
Glen Moray Distillery
Address: Glen Moray Distillery, Bruceland Road, Elgin, IV30 1YE
Price: Adults 5 GBP (7.07 USD). Under 18s go free.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm; Saturday (May to September) 10am to 4.30pm. Closed over Christmas and New Year. Tour times vary (booking advised). Check website.
Contact: +44 1343 550900
Website: Glen Moray Distillery
4. The Glenlivet Distillery
A name that has truly travelled the world. The Glenlivet is one of Speyside whisky’s most famous names and is among those illustrious few to have become almost synonymous with this wonderful spirit. It is also one of the very oldest, with its roots going back to 1824, when a George Smith was granted the first license to produce whisky in Glenlivet at Upper Drumin. The distillery is open for a range of tours - from the ‘classic’ to the more in depth 'Glenlivet Experience’. Those looking for something special may wish to consider the 'Legacy Tasting Experience’, which gives visitors the chance to taste some aged and rare whiskies.
Address: The Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch, Banffshire, AB37 9DB
Price: Tours from 10 GBP (14.13 USD)
Opening Hours: Daily, 9.30am to 6pm (mid-March to mid-November). Last entry at 4.30pm.
Contact: +44 1340 821720 or email [email protected]
Website: The Glenlivet
5. The Aberlour Distillery
A range of malts with rich velvety notes awaits those whisky fans who head to Aberlour. This small Speyside distillery, whose name means ‘mouth of the chattering burn’ in Gaelic, is located where the Lour burn meets the river Spey. Those looking for a truly memorable experience should head for the special tastings in the distillery’s luxurious Fleming Rooms. Drams on offer during this 'Casks from the Past’ experience include some drams that cannot be found anywhere else. Places and times for this experience are limited so check in advance. Those who take the tours will also get the chance to buy an exclusive cask strength malt.
Address: Aberlour Distillery, Aberlour, Banffshire, AB38 9PJ
Opening Hours: Vary. Check website.
Contact: +44 1340 881249
Website: Aberlour Distillery
6. The Glenfiddich Distillery
A true icon among Speyside malts, Glenfiddich is another of the world’s most famous whiskies. Indeed, it is actually the biggest selling single-malt on the planet. Based in Dufftown, its distillery has been operational since 1886 and no fewer than 32 spirit stills operate at the site, with a huge capacity of 13 million litres. What’s more, this distillery was the start of the famous William Grant & Sons company. Grant was the founder of this distillery, and the company which bears his name and which now operates a number of whisky brands, is the third largest producer of Scottish whisky.
Address: The Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Banffshire, AB55 4DH
Opening Hours: Varies. Check website.
Contact: +44 1340 820 373 or email [email protected]
Website: Glenfiddich Distillery
7. The Macallan Distillery
Another globally renowned name in whisky, the Macallan is one of the world’s top three biggest selling single malts alongside fellow Speyside brands, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. Its small stills, which are among the smallest in the area, are so famous within the industry they’ve actually appeared on money - the back of a £10 Bank of Scotland note to be precise.
And its whiskies come in a rich and varied range that make use of a host of different casks to full effect - including the classic sherry oak, double cask and fine oak that add so much to the flavour. Indeed, the distillery is responsible for nearly two-thirds of the fresh sherry seasoned oak casks that are imported into Scotland for use in the whisky making process.
The Macallan Distillery
Address: The Macallan Visitor Centre, The Macallan Distillers, Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, AB38 9RX
Opening Hours: 9.30pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday (October to Easter); 9.30am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday (Easter to September)
Contact: +44 1340 872 280 or email [email protected]
Website: The Macallan Distillery
8. The Benromach Distillery
A true survivor, Benromach’s roots date back as far as 1898. Its distillery, in Forres, operated for many years until 1983 when it ‘fell silent’ and was closed. But that was not the end of the story. The growing love of malt whisky around the world has led to a renaissance in the industry in recent decades, and a number of silent distilleries have sprung back to life. In the case of Benromach it did not sit idle long. It was bought in 1993 and restored to working order four years later. Today it is an award winner, bagging the coveted Best Speyside Single Malt for whiskies 12 years and under at the World Whisky Awards in 2014 - quite the achievement given the strength of the competition.
Address: Benromach Distillery, Invererne Road, Forres, Moray, IV36 3EB
Price: Tours from 6 GBP (8.48 USD).
Opening Hours: Vary. Check website.
Contact: +44 1309 675 968 or email [email protected]
Website: Benromach Distillery
9. The Cragganmore Distillery
One of whisky’s most delightful characteristics is the wide range of flavours that can be generated from such simple ingredients. Water, underlying geology, type of cask, the time left for it to mature and numerous other production techniques all have an influence on the final single malt. At Craganmore, which dates back to 1869, its unusual whisky stills are one of the reasons for its award-winning flavour. These stills, which are relatively short and boast a flat top, have resulted in a whisky with a unique taste. And it has won plenty of favour with connoisseurs, picking up numerous awards at the famous San Francisco World Spirits competition.
Address: Cragganmore Distillery, Ballindalloch, Banffshire, AB37 9AB
Price: Tours from 5 GBP (7.07 USD)
Opening Hours: Varies. Check website.
Contact: +44 1479 874715 or email [email protected]
Website: Cragganmore Distillery
10. The Strathisla Distillery
If it’s rich history you’re after then it doesn’t get much richer than this. The Strathisla Distillery is the oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland and dates back as far as 1786. As well as producing a range of delightful single malts - all badged under the Strathisla name - this distillery is also home to the Chivas Regal blended whisky. This spirit, which has its roots back in 1909, was the world’s first self-styled ‘luxury whisky’. So whether you’re a fan of this 12-year tipple, or wish to sample some of the single malt at its heart, a trip and tour of this distillery should be on your itinerary.
Address: Strathisla Distillery, Seafield Avenue, Keith, AB55 5BS
Opening Hours: Varies. Check website.
Contact: +44 1542 783044 or email [email protected]
Website: Strathisla Distillery
Take the Malt Whisky Trail
Any one of these distilleries would make a great destination for a day trip but why stop at just one? Speyside’s high concentration of distilleries means that in some towns and villages - such as Dufftown - you can find several located right next to one another. Indeed, a special touring route, known as the Malt Whisky Trail, has been created for fans of the water of life who wish to visit more than one site during their stay. Where will you head next?
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