A stay in Inverness, the unofficial capital of the Scottish Highlands, would not be complete without a visit to at least one of the local distilleries. Situated close to Speyside, Inverness is also within a short distance of some Highland distilleries. Here are eight that are worth exploring.
A drive, or rail journey, south of Inverness leads to Dalwhinnie. Technically referred to as a Highland malt, there is an argument that, since the water comes from a tributary of the Spey, it should be called a Speyside whisky. As well as an informative tour, the distillery offers an interesting tasting experience — pairing whisky with chocolates.
Just north of Inverness is Muir of Ord, home to Glen Ord distillery. Founded in 1838, this is an old home to the ‘water of life’, and creates a sweet and dry whisky that is usually exported to Asian markets. Indeed, the only way to buy The Singleton of Glen Ord within Europe is by a visit to the distillery.
A short distance east of Inverness is Speyside, home to some classic Highland whiskies. Tomatin is only 16 miles south of the city, and can easily be reached by a taxi, for those who wish to sample the whisky during one of the different tours on offer. The distillery also offers the rare opportunity to fill a bottle directly from a cask. Booking in advance is recommended.
Meaning ‘black rock’ in Gaelic, this distillery was originally recorded as being licensed in 1824, although rumour has it this was mere paperwork, as an illicit still had been in operation for some time before this date. A huge percentage of this whisky goes into the Johnnie Walker blends, and one of the biggest markets for the single malt itself is Spain. There are four different experiences to choose from, one that includes tasting six different malts.
A short distance from the Cardhu distillery is the home of The Macallan, one of the largest producers of whisky in Scotland. The tour takes in the famously small stills and booking is advised, as the tour groups are limited to 10 people. The Six Pillars tour includes tasting of four Macallan whiskies.
On the outskirts of Elgin, the tour of the distillery at Glen Moray is often given by one of the workers themselves, whether the mashman or the manager or another key member of the team — they all know the process inside and out and back to front. This depth of knowledge makes the tour exceptional. The whisky itself is spicy, rich, and smooth.
This distillery sits close to the Dornoch Firth, to the north of Inverness, and is different to others in that it labels bottles with the year the whisky was laid down, rather than the age. The Balblair visitor centre is recently constructed, and well thought out, with three different levels of tour to choose from. The opportunity to try rare vintages is not to be missed.
The tallest stills in Scotland — as tall as a fully grown giraffe — await you at this famous distillery, sitting on the edge of the Dornoch Firth as it has since 1843. The distillery was one of the first to experiment with different casks to mature the whisky within. There are three different tours: the Original, the Signet, and the Heritage.