Like Edinburgh castle and Burell collection in Glasgow, Scotch is virtually an international symbol of Scotland. The liquor is in fact named for its home –where it’s been brewed arguably since the fifteenth century. Fortunately you don’t have to return to the Scottish monastery where the first brew was recorded to get a taste of the genuine thing, the distilleries are easily accessible from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Make an apartment in Edinburgh your home base, using websites like Wimdu, enjoy one of the many Edinburgh pubs, and branch to the highlands from there.
If you’re a connoisseur, your first stop on a tour of Scotland’s whisky distilleries should be Speyside. Speyside is Scotland’s Whisky Country in the north-eastern highlands. More than half of Scotland’s distilleries make their home in the region, including some of the major Scot whisky distilleries such as Glenfiddich and Balvenie. It’s a gorgeous area with dolphin watching and golf for those that have had too much scotch. A popular and well-trod route, the region’s Malt Whisky trail will take you through the legendary Scotch distilleries, many of whom sit along the River Spey. You’ll find a significant number of the more sophisticated single malt scotch whiskies in this area. Increasingly these companies are opening up to tours of their facilities, if no individual tour is available, check to see whether group tours are allowed.
Besides Speyside, Scotland has other famous Scotch whisky producing regions: the Lowlands, the Highlands, Islay and Campbeltown. Islay, an island just off the western coast of Scotland, has eight Scotch distilleries and is home to an annual cultural festival which takes place in May. Scotch whisky from the lowlands is generally deemed simpler and better for beginners, something to keep in mind if you’re traveling with a bigger crowd.
There are over 125 distilleries in Scotland spread out across the country. If you’re serious about your scotch whisky, check out this detailed Scotch Distillery Map, which gives information on each and every distillery. Most organized Scotch tours will start in the lowlands, conveniently where both Glasgow and Edinburgh are located, so truly you don’t have to go too far to visit distilleries. Several of the multi-day organized tours from Glasgow stay at atmospheric bed and breakfasts along the way, a nice touch to the whole experience. If you stay at a bed and breakfast in Glasgow you might even have the opportunity to share a Scotch whisky or two, or three with your host!
IF YOU GO: Organized Scotch whisky tours generally run out of Glasgow, but you’ll find many of the distilleries offer tours themselves. Visit Scotland has a great set of itineraries and activities along the Scotch whisky route that’s worth a peak before you visit.
This article produced in collaboration with Adam G. of Wimdu who is a graphic designer traveling around the world. He enjoys doing things and seeing places all over the world.