Scotland's Whisky Distilleries
ABOVE: Ruined church on the Isle of Islay,
where seven distilleries produce distinctive single-malt whiskies.
By Durant Imboden
whisky has been distilled, in one form or another, since Celtic times. The Scotch Whisky Association writes:
Throughout the centuries, Whisky has become inextricably woven into
the fabric of Scotland’s history, culture and customs.
This has not been without its
hardships. Around the time of the Act of Union with England in 1707, whisky production was
effectively driven underground to evade excessive levels of taxation, a tax problem still
faced today. For well over a hundred years, the distillers fought a series of bloody
skirmishes with the excisemen.
In 1823, the Excise Act was passed, sanctioning distilling in exchange for a fee. Since
then, Scotch Whisky has established itself as the world’s leading national drink. It
has developed - from uncertain origins and through turbulent times - to become the
colourful creation we know today, with a richly-flavoured history to match.
Today, Scotch isn't just a tipple. It's also a tourist attraction, with
more than 40 distilleries welcoming individual visitors or groups. Some charge admission,
others credit shop purchases against the ticket price, while some--among them,
Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Laphroaig--are free.
If you'd like to visit one or more distilleries while touring Scotland,
keep these tips in mind:
Plan ahead. Hours,
admission policies, and prices vary, so check the links below for visitors'
Allow plenty of time. In distilleries that offer formal tours,
the pace is set by the tour guide.
Don't look for mass-market brands.
Popular whiskies (including
some highly regarded labels) are "blended" or "vatted" to a recipe,
using spirits that may come from more than one source. They may be fine whiskies, but they
seldom if ever have their own distilleries.
Don't drink and drive. If you're offered a sample at the end of
the tour, say "No, thanks" to undrunk drams from the teetotalers in your group
unless someone else is driving.
Whisky and distillery Web links
ABOVE: Craigellachie Bridge in Scotland's Spey Valley,
home to nearly a dozen distilleries.
A short introduction to Scotch whisky with book recommendations and useful addresses.
From the Scottish FAQ at
Whisky travel information
The Whisky Portal's Maps
Plan your tippling tour with one of these three maps from Collins Publishers
and Neil Wilson.
Edinburgh Malt Whisky Tour
Read the FAQ and other information, then click the active map for
descriptions of more than 50 distilleries.
"The only malt whisky trail in the world" is for people who prefer bottles to
backpacks. The site includes The
Distillery Web sites
This distillery has produced single-malt Scotch whisky since 1887.
Even non-drinkers will enjoy the stunning photos here. The distillery is 35
minutes from Glasgow and 70 minutes from Edinburgh by car.
Learn about the distillery and book a room at
in nearby Cadboll. (If you're visiting the Invergordon/Inverness area in
August, you can enjoy a complimentary wee dram at the
The northernmost whisky distillery in the world offers tours year-round. The
distillery, which is located in the Orkey Islands, has earned a "five-star"
award from the Scottish Tourist Board for its visitor facilities. Great quote:
"Wind, rain, lightning, ice, crashing waves, crushing hail, all of this--every
crack of thunder, every blast of wind--goes into Highland Park. Maybe if we’d
been in the Bahamas we’d have made great smoothies."
Isle of Arran
Although Scotland's newest whisky distillery opened in 1995, it uses
traditional distilling methods and is situated to take advantage of water that
is "cleansed by granite and softened by peat as it comes down from the
mountain above." The distillery has a Visitor Centre with a café.
The Macallan Distillery is located on a 485-acre estate in Craigellachie on the River Spey.
It was founded in 1824, was one of Scotland's earliest licensed distilleries,
and is known for its fine single-malt whiskies.
The Scotland national tourist board's official Web site is packed with information for
tipplers and teetotalers alike.
Scotland for Visitors
Read the articles, explore the links, and view the picture galleries at this
This is Edinburgh
The Scottish capital's well-organized tourism site has information on Edinburgh and its nearby
countryside and coast.
Guide to Scotland
Joanne Mackenzie-Winters wrote this 80,000-word guide, which emphasizes the
Highlands and islands of Scotland.