Speyside is one of the five Scottish Whisky regions and most notably the largest with 50+ distilleries! It is situated close to the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, which makes any visit here even more adventurous. Back in 2017, I spent a week visiting the area and checking out some of the distilleries around (it was February so a lot were actually closed to visitors during the off-peak season).
This was the first distillery I visited in Scotland – and it was stunning. The entrance was a long tree-lined drive way, but once the trees cleared, there was a beautiful distillery situated at the foothills of a mountain. Given the time of the year, we were the only people on the tour but this made the tour all the better. We got up close and personal to see the mash tuns in use and the yeast being fermented in the wash backs. Glenfarclas is a family run distillery and the family live onsite, which we learned was quite unusual. The distillery is very small compared to many of the others in the region, but its highly recommended!
Glenfiddich have beautiful site in Dufftown. This tour was longer than most and started off with a small video about how the distillery began, before moving through the site. A couple of things we noticed about the distillery was the huge amount of wash backs, it was interesting that when they could no longer be used, they were taken apart and new ones were built onsite as they were too big to be moved into the distillery. They also had quite small pot stills, which was unusual compared to the other distilleries! Our tour guide who talked a lot about the marrying process and the specifics of each of the whisky’s. One fascinating thing about this distillery was their onsite cooperage and bottling plant, this was the only distillery we visited where bottling was done onsite.
This distillery was a little hidden but we made it for the last tour of the day. This distillery was quite different, as the process was all automated and didn’t stick to the traditional roots like the others we had visited. This was the most generous tasting with three large measures of different whiskeys (2 traditional whisky’s and 1 cask strength) and their new make spirit. You can pay to do the tasting instead of having to do the tour also if you preferred!
We had heard this was one of the best tours around, and as they only have a 10am or 2pm tour, it took us a while to get booked onto one. This was the biggest tour group also, with about 15 people on it. It was the only tour where we got to see the mill in use and where we got to taste the ‘beer’ after the fermentation process, which was pretty vile. The distillery here is quite small and traditional but we got to walk through each piece of it, and see everything working. We went for a tasting which was really good, with 6 different tastings including the new make spirit.
I highly recommend a visit!
This little distillery is in Pitlochry, a cute little village on the road back to Edinburgh (not technically in Speyside) and its produces mainly blended whiskey (mainly Bell’s) but they have their own small batch of whisky which we picked up a bottle of. It was founded in 1798 but wasn’t the most successful and soon closed. It went through a number of bad patches before being bought by Bell’s in the 1930’s and later bought by Diageo who are the current owners. The distillery is made up of a number of small, stone buildings, one of which was the shop. We didn’t join the tour, as we could talk through the whisky making process in our sleep and only wanted to do the tasting. It’s a nice pitstop if you’re in the area
The distillery is on the other side of the river Spey and is up on a hill with unbelievable views down onto the river and valley. They are expanding the distillery at the moment and the work being done is huge, with a beautiful new distillery and visitor centre in the middle. Our tour guide here was Jody, she was quite new and admitted she knew nothing about whisky before getting this job. Our first stop was to talk about the malting and fermentation process. She was super clear and made sure everyone understood what was happening. We had been to a few distilleries and knew the process, but she described it the best! The interesting thing about Macallan was after going through the wash still, the low wines are divided into two separate spirit stills, this was the only distillery we visited where this happened. We could also see and touch the new make spirit running through clear pipes as it came out of the spirit still. Jody gave a really good description of how Macallan source their own casks and brought us through the cask making process.
Highly recommend a visit!