There are few alcoholic drinks so iconic and respected as scotch, and a lot of that has to do with its exclusivity. The label of scotch whiskey is allowed only for spirits distilled in the highlands of Scotland, where scotch is more than a drink — it’s a a proud cultural tradition. While the country has no shortage of traditions and destinations to be proud of, it’s hard to beat the allure of one of the old scotch distilleries brewing up the legendary spirit dotted across the land. If you’re planning a trip to the lovely highlands of Scotland, here are eight scotch distilleries you won’t regret visiting, if you can even remember your visit after gorging yourself on their tasty product.
Housed in a drab, dreary but perfectly symmetrical building in Speyside, the Macallan distillery is responsible for distilling some of the most coveted varieties of scotch in existence, selling wonderfully aged whiskeys for upwards of $10,000. Even if you’re not paying that much, guests are free to tour the lovely facilities and see their prestigious whiskey-making process for themselves.
Edradour is the smallest traditional distillery in the country, producing a measly dozen casks of whiskey per week in their modest red-and-white headquarters in the Perthshire countryside. The small size of the distillery allows for very personal and detailed tours, which run from April to October every year, that take guests through a distilling process that has successfully endured since Edradour’s founding in 1825.
Located alongside a saltwater inlet on the Isle of Skye, the Talisker Distillery has no shortage of natural scenery to behold and no shortage of perfectly aged scotch whiskeys. Their 34-year-old casks are available for daily samplings in their tasting room, which also doubles as the barrel room itself, so one can partake in a whiskey while witnessing the rest being made, slowly aging inside their oak casks.
If you can make it to the Isle of Islay during summer, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to visit one of Scotland’s most photographed distilleries, one that has also been featured in movies and TV shows multiple times, noted for the scenic beauty of its rocky shores and the sleek, striking designs of their pear-shaped stills. Of course, that’s not even mentioning the scotch itself, of which their most popular and well-regarded brand is a 16-year single malt whiskey.
Though today the distillery is owned by Bacardi, the Royal Brackla brand has a significant history as the whiskey of King William IV’s Royal Court, bringing the brand to the forefront of scotch whiskey at the time. Their commitment to quality endures until today, and they provide tours of their distillery in Nairn, with optional tastings available by appointment.
The Isle of Arran is easily accessible from Glasgow, making this distillery one of the most popular among scotch distilleries in the nation. But Arran has more going for it than convenience, including their cask storage warehouse that allows individual owners to store and age casks of whiskey there. Tours walk through the distillation process and picturesque surroundings before guests are allowed to make purchases or explore the rest of the island’s considerable food and drink offerings.
In contrast, Highland Park is easily one of Scotland’s most inaccessible distilleries, due to its location on the island of Orkney around the northernmost part of the country. The distillery is brimming with fascinating history, however, as it began as an illegal operation in the 18th century before becoming a decorated distillery, one of the few that still malts their own barley. For those willing to make the journey to this rustic stone building on the lonely isle, there’s plenty more to learn about Highland, as well as plenty of whiskey waiting to be tasted alongside a friendly tour guide.
The Heritage Tour of the Glenmorangie distillery in the tiny town called Tain offers visitors lunch and whiskey sampling on its way through the storied distillery whose biggest claim to fame is holding the country’s tallest stills, measuring 17 feet each. The trip goes through the stills and casks as well as away from the beautiful stone structure this whiskey calls home towards their nearby water source, the peaceful Tarlogie Springs. Don’t miss the tour, but especially don’t miss their special cask whiskeys, as well as their classic 18- and 25-year-old bottlings.