6 Unbelievable Scottish Distilleries You Won't Want to Miss
1. Balvenie - Speyside Distillery
Excellent Single Malt Whisky with the Best Distillery Tour
This distillery makes the top distillery on Bubbly Tourist's list. Why? Quite simply it provides the most comprehensive tour that you can have. This is true because at Balvenie, they believe in owning almost every single stage in the process of making whisky. So you can see the entire end-to-end process of a whisky producer including the cooperage (barrel repair). Not only is the tour comprehensive but the whisky is top quality as well. The above photo shows the whiskies that we tasted on our tour.
Fun Fact: There is a two-way relationship between the barrels used making whisky in Scotland and bourbon whiskey made in the States. Bourbon requires virgin barrels be used and Scottish whisky wants the harshness from the barrels be removed before casking. So as a result Scotland purchases the majority of the used bourbon barrels from the States and uses cooperage houses to repair any damage.
2. Oban - Highlands Distillery
Peaty whisky where one can learn how to properly drink it
Nestled within the city of Oban on the west side of Scotland, this Highland whisky makes our number two distillery spot at Bubbly Tourist. Why? Besides being one of the oldest active distilleries (established 1794), the tasting at Oban actually took the time to teach us how to drink whisky properly. The guides are humorous but also taught us how that very first taste should set your palate by sitting on your tongue for 20 seconds. That information was gold (Jerry) and will make a lifetime of difference for all whiskies to come! And like all the whiskies on the west side of the country, the whisky is peaty - which we favor - and excellent.
Fun Fact: We were able to book our tasting a day before and it came with a free whisky glass shown in the middle of the photo above. FYI, there is both a tasting and a distillery tour at the same morning slot so make sure you book and show up for the correct one.
3. Strathisla - Speyside Distillery
Home of Chivas Regal
Strathisla is the oldest distillery in Speyside. It is the home of Chivas Regal. The distillery itself is quite impressive as seen in the photo above and this is in part why we list it as as our number 3 distillery in Scotland. What really impressed us too was the friendliness of the staff and their willingness to share all their whiskies for a tasting despite the fact that we had no reservation. We just showed up, asked for a free tasting and sampled to our hearts' content. Keep in mind that this available to all customers so go for it if you're interested!
Fun Fact: Every Chivas Regal blend has at its core the Stathisla single malt
4. Glen Grant - Speyside Distillery
The on-site gardens are spectacular!
Full disclosure: Bubbly Tourist didn't sample the whiskies here but we did visit their 22 acre gardens. And let us be clear, they are magnificent! There are several sections to the gardens: the orchards, the rhododendrons, the lily pond and the river gorge. All is beautiful in its own way. There is no fee to visit the gardens. Just pass through the visitor center on your way in. If you're curious what else to see and do while in Speyside - or Scotland for that matter - follow this link to Scotland off the Beaten path.
Fun Fact: Major James Grant used to stash his prized whisky in a vault on the grounds where he'd store some whisky for his guests. This vault is available in what might be the most beautiful part of the gardens. See the photo above.
5. Aberlour - Speyside Distillery
Free Tasting in the Shop
Bubbly Tourist wasn't able to book a tasting at Aberlour Distillery but we were able to stop right in for a sampling anyhow. Right in the shop where they sell whisky and merchandise, the kind gentleman said we could taste any of the whiskies but the real expensive ones for free. When I pointed at the 44 year old whisky they have for sale, he confirmed it was not for tasting (it was something like £6000 so one can't blame him). Regardless, he happily helped us sample a number of whiskies while helping educate us. We used the savings and purchased some merch.
Fun Fact: Aberlour Single Malt is the biggest selling Single Malt Scotch Whisky in France
6. The Quaich Whisky Room at the Craigellachie Hotel - Speyside Bar
A Cup of Love, a Cup of Friendship
Okay, it's not a distillery tour but in some ways it's better. Why limit yourself on what distillery to visit when you can taste them all in one setting? You'll find many whisky bars throughout Scotland but since we were staying at the Craigellachie Hotel in the center of Speyside whisky country, Bubbly Tourist also chose to frequent its 120 year old whisky bar called The Quaich Bar to continue our eduction of whiskies. You can work with the barkeep on what you like and don't like and let him steer you appropriately across this worldwide collection. Whether its a Laphroaig from Islay, Glenlivet down the street in Speyside, or some other country's whisky your choices are virtually unlimited in this unbelievable selection of almost 1000 whiskies.
Fun Fact: The Quaich is a traditional Scottish drinking cup that has been used for centuries to share a dram of whisky with friends and guests. Its history can be traced back to the 16th century with Kings James VI of Scotland giving a special decorative Quaich to Anne of Denmark in 1589 as a wedding gift.