If you love a wee dram of the good stuff, then you’re in the right place because Scotland is the undisputed home of whisky. For centuries (records date back to at least the 15th century), the Scots have been distilling, refining, and drinking barrel after barrel of whisky.
From the Scottish Highlands to the remote islands, whisky distillation is an art form that’s been shaped by the sea, the weather, the peat, and even the bog of Scotland. Without a doubt, whisky is the national drink of Scotland, and there are hundreds of distilleries to visit across the country.
But with so many beautiful whiskies to try, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we decided to compile our list of the best distilleries in Scotland for you. Visit these excellent distilleries, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time tasting the best whisky in Scotland!
- The 15 Best Distilleries in Scotland
- 1. The Scotch Whisky Experience
- 2. Glenfiddich Distillery
- 3. Glenlivet Distillery
- 4. Highland Park Whisky Distillery
- 5. Laphroaig Distillery
- 6. Auchentoshan Distillery
- 7. The Clydeside Distillery
- 8. Ben Nevis Distillery
- 9. Jura Distillery
- 10. Talisker Distillery
- 11. Cardhu Distillery
- 12. Glenmorangie Distillery
- 13. Old Pulteney Distillery
- 14. Wolfburn Distillery
- 15. The Isle of Harris Distillery
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The 15 Best Distilleries in Scotland
1. The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience takes pride in its place on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, and if it’s your first time in Scotland, there’s no better place to learn about the ancient art of distillation before sampling the best scotch from around the country.
This unique experience is home to a replica whisky distillery, where you’ll learn about the centuries-old processes that go into making the finest blends and malts. You’ll learn about the different ingredients, the different whisky-producing regions in Scotland, and the different flavors, tastes, and aromas that different types of whisky are known for. Oh, and there’s a fun theme-park style “barrel ride” through the experience!
You can also see the unique Diageo Claive Vidiz Whisky Collection, which is safely stored away in the vaults of The Scotch Whisky Experience. This is the largest collection of scotch whisky in the world, with the last count putting the number of bottles at 3,384. Once you’ve perused the extensive collection, you’ll be invited for a tasting session in the Amber Restaurant & Whisky Bar.
2. Glenfiddich Distillery
One of the most famous whisky brands in Scotland is Glenfiddich, and you can visit their family-owned distillery in the beautiful surrounds of remote Moray, in northeast Scotland.
Glenfiddich Distillery is unusual in a number of ways. First of all, no other distillery has won quite as many awards as this distillery for their single malts – proving the quality of their whiskies. Second, no other distillery has remained family-owned for so long, with a continuous history dating back to 1886, when the Glenfiddich Distillery was founded by William Grant.
The distillery sources its water from the Fiddich River and employs generations worth of whisky-making experience to produce an excellent single malt. This is the classic Speyside Single Malt, and if you’re partial to a dram of this iconic tipple, then this is the best place to enjoy it!
You can tour the distillery to learn more about the family’s history of whisky production and how they’ve evolved and developed their brand over the years, surviving hardships and economic forces that put many more family-owned distilleries out of business.
The tour ends with a tasting, where you’ll be able to sample the delectable Glennfiddich 12-year, 15-year, and 18-year aged bottles before finishing with the Glenfiddich Gran Reserva, which is aged for 21 years in old rum casks from the Caribbean.
3. Glenlivet Distillery
Another classic Speyside distillery is the Glenlivet Distillery, where Scotch whisky has been produced going back as far as 1822. Intriguingly, the distillery itself was founded in 1824, but George Smith, the founder, had been distilling his whisky illicitly in the Livet Valley for at least two years prior to this.
Legend has it King George IV tried the illicit whisky, loved it. When the government rules changed to allow more liberal distillation, Glenlivet Distillery instantly shot to fame once they could legally produce their excellent whisky.
You’ll be able to delve into this fascinating history with a tour of the Glenlivet Distillery, which is located in Ballindalloch, close to the River Spey in Moray. You’ll love the remote, rural location in the midst of a beautiful Scottish glen, and you’ll love tasting the single malts, the oldest of which have been aged for decades.
4. Highland Park Whisky Distillery
One of the best Scottish distilleries is found in one of the country’s most remote and difficult-to-reach destinations. The Highland Park Whisky Distillery is the most northerly distillery in Scotland, and you’ll need to make your way all the way to Kirkwall, on the island of Orkney, to enjoy a dram of this whisky at its source.
Highland Park Whisky Distillery dates back to 1798, and the master distillers draw on this long history, as well as the wild, untamable nature of Orkney, to produce a truly distinct array of whiskies. You might be intrigued to discover that the original distillery established here was an illicit one, but then again, given Orkney’s remote location (it’s closer to Norway than to London!), the islanders here have always done things their own way.
The whiskies here are single malt, and they are produced using barley that’s slowly smoked over peat that’s 4,000 years old (we did say this was a historic distillery). This unusual, ancient peat gives Highland Park’s whisky a characteristic taste and aroma, which few single malts from the mainland can ever match.
5. Laphroaig Distillery
Islay is highly regarded for its single malt whisky, and if you’re looking for Islay distilleries, there are as many as nine different distilleries producing high-quality products across the island! Islay whisky has a characteristically peaty, smoky flavor, and no other Islay whisky enshrines this more than Laphroaig.
The Laphroaig Distillery is one of the best whisky distilleries in Scotland (not just on Islay!), and we know you’re going to love exploring their visitors center and learning about the history and production process.
The distillery was founded in 1815 by members of Clan Donald, and they made use of the abundance of peat on Islay to smoke the barley before distillation. This is where that unique peaty aroma comes from, and the tradition continues today, with much of the peat and barley being locally sourced from Islay and smoked on-site.
The most popular Laphroaig is aged for at least 10 years, but there are many much older bottles available too. Make your way to Islay, and you can take a tour of the distillery, learning the process from the master distillers before trying the impressive range of peaty whiskies in an expert-led tasting session. If you only have time for one Islay distillery tour, this is the one!
6. Auchentoshan Distillery
You’ll find the Auchentoshan Distillery in the Glaswegian suburbs, next to the banks of the River Clyde in the Kilpatricks Hills to the west of the city. It’s a beautiful yet convenient location for a distillery, and it’s perfect for anyone who only has fleeting time to explore Scotland!
But convenience isn’t the only reason to visit because the Auchentoshan Distillery has whisky to rival any highland single malt or peaty barrel of island brew. Auchentoshan is very different from its rivals, too, given that this whisky is known for its sweeter aromas and flavors rather than the peaty, boggy, smoky whiskies found elsewhere.
The Auchentoshan Distillery is historic, too, being founded back in 1823. They’ve always had a unique approach to whisky distillation, and the unusual overtones are in part the result of a triple distillation process that few other whisky producers employ. Take a tour, enjoy a few tastings, and see what the Auchentoshan fuss is all about during your trip to Glasgow!
7. The Clydeside Distillery
It’s the Highland and island distilleries that take all the glory and fame when it comes to scotch, but did you know that some of the best whisky in Scotland is produced in Glasgow?
This unique Scottish distillery overlooks the old Queens Docks in Clydeside, Glasgow, where whisky from Scotland was once exported around the globe. The distillery is located within the former Pump House Building, which supplied the necessary power to operate the docks during the Victorian era.
The Clydeside Distillery, though, is relatively new to the whisky game. They only opened in 2017, but rest assured, the owners and distillers draw upon generations of whisky distillation experience. The owners previously owned Auchentoshan Distillery, Bowmore, and Glen Garioch Distilleries and they were inspired to create a dedicated single malt distillery (The Clydeside Distillery) that could return Glasgow to its former whisky-distilling glory.
The owners’ family were former whisky brokers, and they worked here at Clydeside in days past, forging a whisky trading empire. Now, their descendants are forging a new single malt empire in Scotland’s most innovative and exciting city. You can learn more about the unique story and regeneration project on a tour of The Clydeside Distillery, which obviously includes plenty of tastings.
8. Ben Nevis Distillery
Travel to Fort William, the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, and you can hike to the summit of the tallest mountain in Britain. Looming over the town is Ben Nevis, which rises to a height of 1,345 meters.
On your way down the mountain, you can stop off at the Ben Nevis Distillery, which sits in the shadow of this iconic natural attraction. Alternatively, if you’re not in the mood for a long hike to the summit, why not spend the day tasting the excellent whisky instead of climbing a mountain?
This is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, with a distinguished history dating back to 1825 when it was founded by “Long John” McDonald, a descendent of rulers of the old Highland clans. The whisky was prepared using fresh water from the mountains, a tradition that continues to this day.
The Ben Nevis Distillery produces a single malt whisky that typically is aged for 10 years. You can learn more at the distillery’s visitors center, where of course, you can also try their best whisky.
9. Jura Distillery
The Inner Hebrides is home to many distilleries, but one of the most famous is the Jura Distillery. You’ll find the distillery on the island of Jura, which for most of the year, has a permanent population of less than 200, although numbers swell in the summer when the tourists arrive from the mainland.
This isolation has always given Jura whisky a certain allure, and it’s an allure that’s matched by the whisky’s unique island-inspired flavors. Jura whiskies can be peaty, non-peaty, smoky, and even spicy, and there are a number of different varieties that you’ll need to try when you visit the distillery.
Actually reaching the Jura Distillery is all part of the experience, with the island being notoriously difficult to travel to, even when the waves are calm and the summer ferries are running. In the summer, you’ll first need to travel to Tayvallich, from where you can catch the community ferry. If that ferry isn’t running, you’ll need to travel to the island of Islay, then onto Jura.
It’s well worth it to experience one of Scotland’s best and oldest whiskies, with the Jura Distillery having a long history dating back to 1810.
10. Talisker Distillery
The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular destinations. It’s an almost mythical island where you can hike to spectacular, natural chimney stacks and swim in Fairy Pools. But as beautiful as the island is, the real reason you’re here is for the Isle of Skye whisky at Talisker.
The fabled Talisker Distillery is the Isle of Skye’s oldest distillery, with a history that can be traced back to the 1830s. The distinctive Talisker whisky with its peaty flavors is produced using much the same process as the founders, Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, used almost 200 years ago. The stills are replicas of the originals, and although the distillery was destroyed by a fire in 1960, it was restored as faithfully as possible.
The Talisker Distillery produces a number of different malts, with the classic 10-year-aged being the most popular (and it’s won awards). If you visit the distillery, you’ll be able to tour through the old production areas and see the impressive vaults, where much older barrels (some aged 35 years) are kept in the cool.
11. Cardhu Distillery
If you love a dram of whisky with a side of history, then you have to visit the Cardhu Distillery in Moray. This is one of Scotland’s most fascinating whisky stories, and unlike many other distilleries, this narrative is dominated by women.
The Cardhu Distillery was founded by whisky smuggling duo Helen and John Cumming in 1824. As the story goes, Helen would produce whisky, run the distillery, and sell the bottles from their farmhouse – all while avoiding the police. Their daughter, Elizabeth, took over the family business (by now, it was a legitimate whisky producer) and greatly expanded their production levels.
In 1893, they were bought out by Johnnie Walker, who continues to own the distillery today. Cardhu Whisky remains a distinct product, although you may recognize the aromas if you’re a Johnnie Walker fan because Cardhu is one of the whiskies used in classic Johnnie Walker blends!
You can learn about this fascinating past on a distillery tour before sampling a few wee drams of the Cardhu Distillery’s excellent Speyside single malt whiskies, which are aged from 12 to 18 years.
12. Glenmorangie Distillery
Up north in Ross-shire, they know how to make an excellent whisky, and nowhere else is quite so famous as the Glenmorangie Distillery.
This is highland distillation at its finest. The Glenmorangie Distillery believes that their whisky has been produced using a similar recipe since as early as the 1730s, when the first recorded distillery was established on the Morangie Farm. They still use the same Tarlogie Spring, located up in the hills, as a source of freshwater for the distillation process today.
Glenmorangie is classified as a single malt whisky, and uniquely, the copper stills where the whisky is produced are the tallest such stills to be found anywhere in Scotland. The distillery recently constructed a 20-meter-high, glass-covered still named the “Lighthouse,” as it aims to be at the forefront of distillation for many years to come.
The Glenmorangie Distillery is an impressive sight indeed, where modern architecture blends with 18th-century stone walls. You can see it all in person when you take a tour of the distillery, finished off with, of course, a tasting that includes a few wee drams of their signature 18- and 25-year whiskies.
13. Old Pulteney Distillery
The small, coastal town of Wick lies just 15 miles to the south of John O’Groats, the most northerly point in mainland Britain. That makes the Old Pulteney Distillery one of the most northerly (and windswept) in Scotland, and we know you’re going to love venturing here in search of their famous “maritime malt.”
Old Pulteney Whisky has been shaped by the sea salt and sea spray from the rough North Seas that whips through Wick, and for much of its long history, this was one of the most inaccessible places on the mainland. You don’t need to arrive here by boat as you did when the distillery was first founded in 1826, but you will feel the keen sense of isolation that lingers throughout the town as you head for a tasting.
Old Pulteney whiskies are characterized by their salty, almost briny aromas, and the taste of this malt really is unique. The classic 12 years aged whisky is a beautiful whisky, but you can step it up with a dram of the 15 years, 18 years, and much rarer 25-year-aged barrels.
14. Wolfburn Distillery
If you’d love to visit the most northerly distillery on the mainland (not counting the Orkney Islands further to the north!), then you need to take a trip to the Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso.
The Wolfburn Distillery first opened in 1821 and soon became known for its smooth blends distilled at the end of Britain. But the distillery was forced to close in the 1860s, and for over a century and a half, Wolfburn Whisky was all but forgotten.
But in 2013, the distillery was resurrected, and the name and brand were brought back to life in Thurso. The distillers at Old Pulteney weren’t too happy, though, as they could no longer claim to be the most northerly distillery on the mainland!
Wolfburn Whisky has more to its name than its location, though. True to their, at one point, lost heritage, the distillery takes a slow, methodical approach to distillation. Everything here is done by hand, including the bottling, and you’ll appreciate every sip when you see how much work and expertise goes into the process during your distillery tour.
15. The Isle of Harris Distillery
The Isle of Harris Distillery is the most unusual addition to our list of the best distilleries to visit in Scotland because their most famous product isn’t whisky, but gin. Yes, gin is distilled in Scotland, too (not just whisky!), and if you make your way to Tarbert on the remote Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, you can see how it’s done!
The Isle of Harris Distillery only opened in 2015, but its products draw on centuries of community, culture, and history on the island. The distillery was founded not just as a way to produce a delectable bottle of gin but to save the local islander community, which was slowly declining as the younger generations left due to a lack of work in the isolated region.
The distillery now provides many locals with an opportunity to stay and also provides visitors with a fascinating tour through the gin distillation process.
Isle of Harris gin is prepared using local seaweed, as well as other (more traditional) gin botanicals, including junipers and coriander. Every bottle is labeled by hand and quality checked by the master gin makers, so you can rest assured that this unique gin is of the finest quality.
If you are more of a whisky drinker, though, then don’t worry because the Isle of Harris Distillery also has you covered. While gin is their most famous product, they do also distill a single malt whisky named The Hearach.
There you have it! The 15 best Scottish distilleries to visit in Scotland. What’s your favorite distillery in Scotland?
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