Whisky Distilleries You Must Visit in Scotland

With so many distilleries to see, be sure to visit one of Scotlands best whisky-making wonders at Talisker
With so many distilleries to see, be sure to visit one of Scotland's best whisky-making wonders at Talisker | © Tim Graham / Alamy Stock Photo

Shortbread, tartan, kilts, bagpipes – ask anyone what springs to mind when you mention Scotland and it’ll likely be one of those. Or, of course, whisky. There are six distinct whisky-producing regions and 125 distilleries in Scotland – many of which offer visitors a glimpse at their creative process with tours and tastings. Here’s our guide to some of the best to visit here. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Highland Park

Highland Park Distillery

Situated on the islands of Orkney, this is the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland, offering a variety of tours at different price points. One tour – the Magnus Eunson – allows the visitor to taste seven different whiskies. There is even the option of a specialist tour, which allows the keen visitor to work a day at the distillery. Highland Park still has a traditional malting floor – where the grain is turned by hand – something that is rare in most modernised distilleries. Making whisky since 1798, Highland Park has won the award for Best Spirit in the World three times.

Old Pulteney

Old Pulteney Distillery

Cross the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth on your way south from a visit to Orkney and the Old Pulteney distillery in Wick is just a short drive away. Known as the ‘maritime malt’, Old Pulteney was founded in 1826 – at a time when Wick was known as the herring capital of the world. Disaster struck the distillery when – in 1922 – the town was declared an alcohol-free area. Fortunately for the whisky, prohibition was lifted 25 years later – and in recent years, the whisky has gone from strength to strength. There are two tours a day so booking is advised.

Isle of Harris Distillery

Isle of Harris Distillery

The Isle of Harris Distillery is not easily missed as you approach either by land or by sea, proudly overlooking the bay of Tarbert. Opened in 2015, it is by comparison to its counterparts a very young distillery – but no less excellent in terms of the quality of its product. Its single malt whisky – dubbed ‘the Hearach’ – is infused with sugar kelp to give a sweet and representative flavour of the island’s maritime character. This is also the key botanical of its gin, which the distillery has already gained a lot of attention for. The distillery is normally open to the public Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm – and there is a canteen that serves hearty soups and bread in the winter months and cheese boards and seafood to pair with your tipple during the summer months.

Blair Athol

Blair Athol whisky distillery in Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland

Situated in Pitlochry – the Perthshire town at the gateway to the Highlands – this distillery produces malt whisky that is added to the famous Bell’s blend, as well as a small selection of single malt bottles. The tour is engaging and well thought out, with expert guides capable of answering even the most complex of questions. If you like your whisky without a trace of peaty, smoky nose and flavour, this is the tour for you.

Glenkinchie

Glenkinchie distillery Scotland established in 1837

The ‘Edinburgh Malt’, this distillery is within an easy distance of the Scottish capital – and is well worth a visit. There is an excellent model of the distillery in the visitor centre and there is a selection of tours to choose from. With a handy shuttle bus from Edinburgh possible, you do not need to worry about designating a driver.

Lagavulin

Stunning view of Lagavulin Distillery

The tours available at this Islay distillery are varied – with options including a warehouse demonstration, matched whisky and food treats, or premium tasting, as well as the standard tour. If you are a fan of peaty whisky, Lagavulin is a must-visit – the whisky is sometimes described as the aristocrat of Islay whiskies.

Laphroaig

Copper pot stills, Laphroaig Whisky Distillery, Islay, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

A single year older than Lagavulin, the Laphroaig name is the most famous of the Islay whiskies and consistently sells the most worldwide. The name itself means ‘the beautiful hollow by the broad bay’. This distillery also offers a selection of different experiences – ranging from tastings to a four-and-a-half-hour ‘water to whisky’ experience. As a part of the standard tour, the option to take away your wee dram as a miniature if you are driving is a good touch.

Talisker

Talisker Distillery at Carbost on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Moving north to the Isle of Skye, Talisker is now the only distillery to visit on this famous island and the dramatic views of the Cuillin mountains are to be savoured. In summer, this distillery can get very busy, so it is wise to book a tour in advance. The whisky is not as peaty as those from Islay but is still heavier than those from Speyside – or other Island whiskies. The standard tour is also available with a ‘bolt on’ whisky flight, for those who cannot spare the time for the full tasting.

Isle of Arran

One of two stills for distilling Scotch Whisky at the Isle of Arran Distillery.

A relatively young distillery, this is currently the only one on the Isle of Arran. It features an excellent visitor experience – as well as tours and tastings, there is also an on-site café and the distillery won Scottish Field Magazine’s Distillery Visitor Experience of the Year for two years in a row. An interesting piece of trivia relates to the two eagles on the logo – during the building of the distillery, a pair of golden eagles nested on cliffs nearby and work had to pause until the young had fledged.

The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet whisky Distillery near the Cairngorms in the Highlands of Scotland.

Another award-winning visitor experience, this Speyside distillery is situated in a remote Cairngorm glen full of history and exciting stories. A favourite whisky of Charles Dickens – around half of the single malt produced by the Glenlivet distillery is sold to America. As well as a selection of tours and tastings, the distillery provides details of different local walks in the area, tied in with the smugglers’ history of the whisky.

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