Single Malt Scotch aficionados dream of exploring the distinct whisky regions of Scotland – getting a first-hand look at this time-honored tradition. Fortunately, the distilleries welcome visitors who are on the lookout for the perfect Single Malt. According to law, this premium whisky is required to be distilled at a single distillery by bath distillation in a pot still, and must be made solely with malted barley and no other grains.
Scotland has 4 major whisky regions, and one minor region: Lowland, Islay, Highland, Speyside and the small Campbeltown. The distilleries continue a multi-century tradition of using local pure spring water that helps to distinguish each proud flavor and aroma profile. Our 36-hour tasting tour allows for sampling a dram and swirling your glass in three of the regions sampling some of the most celebrated distilleries in Scotland.
The River Spey gave this region its name, and is home to some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery. Begin your tour in Edinburgh with a Platinum-level tasting at the Scotch Whisky Experience located right next to Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile. The tasting will give you an overview of each region, and the flavor of Scotland.
The self-driving tour begins in the Speyside region, at the nearby Macallan Distillery. Founded in 1824, Macallan is one of the most famous distilleries in Speyside. Macallan uses “curiously small spirits stills”- the smallest in Speyside. The stills allow for maximum contact of the malted barley with the copper stills to produce full-bodies flavors. Macallan’s inviting visitor center offers samples of Macallan Ruby, Macallan Sienna, Macallan 10 year Sherry Oak, Macallan Amber, and Macallan Gold.
The nearby Glenfiddich Distillery is the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky distillery. Glenfiddich, which translates to “valley of the deer,” celebrates its 1886 founder’s vision to be the “best dram in the valley.” Sample the Glenfiddich 12 year old, 30 year old, 40 year old, Glenfiddich Age of Discovery Madeira Cask Finish, Bourbon Cask Reserve, 125th Anniversary Edition and the Ultimate 38 Year Old. End your day in Speyside and choose one of the quaint inns or hotels offering warm hospitality. The Craigellachie Hotel is a beautiful well-regarded luxury hotel near the Macallan Distillery.
Take a drive the following morning westward to Islay, on Scotland’s west coast. Islay is just 25 miles long, and according to legend, monks first brought the practice and art of whisky making from Ireland. Islay boasts an abundance of Single Malt ingredients: pure spring water, peat and barley. It is the smoky and powerful aromas of peat that distinguish most Islay Scotch.
Founded in 1779, Bowmore is Islay’s first Single Malt Scotch. This impressive company now features a 50 Year Old Collection Series which ages in the Bowmore No. 1 Vaults, one of the world’s oldest Scotch maturation warehouses. Savor the aromas of black truffles, tropical fruits and smoke while the finish evolves into almond cake, salt, seaweed, peat, and caramelized pear flavors. Sample a dram of Bowmore 12 year, 15 year, 18 year, 25 year, Bowmore Legend and Bowmore Small batch for the full Bowmore experience.
In beautiful whitewashed storage houses, Lagavulin and Laphroaig Distilleries lay on Islay’s Southern coast. Both are well known for their intense peat smoke. At Lagavulin, sample the 12 year old, 16 year old and the Lagavulin Distiller Edition. Laphroaig is considered the smokiest of the Islay whiskies, and be sure to sample the 10 year, 18 year, 25 year, Laphroaig Triple Wood and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. The single malts’ slightly saline tastes have much to do with the direct path of strong salty sea winds from the Atlantic Ocean.
Consider visiting The Islay House, a beautifully appointed luxurious country house hotel set in 28 acres on the island. With fishing, sailing and even golf at the nearby Machrie Golf Links, there are plenty of diversions for guests to enjoy a getaway as action-packed or peaceful as desired.
Complete your 36-hour tour with a morning drive to the Highland region. Highland is the largest geographical whisky region that stretches from Orkney in the north, to the Isle of Arran in the south, and to Aberdeenshire to the Outer Hebrides east to west. Loch Lomond Distillery sits in one of the most picturesque sites. Try to catch a sight of “Nessy” on the way to a tasting of Loch Lomond Original and Loch Lomond 12 year old whisky. The nearby Glengoyne Distillery is significant in that it distills at a slower rate than any other malt whisky to create complex, fruity flavor, an award-winning spirit. Sample the Glengoyne 10-year, 15-year, 18-year, and 21-year single malts.
Consider Extending Your Tour
For a complete tour of Scotland’s Single Malt whisky world, visit the Lowlands and Campbeltown regions too. Visiting these five very special whisky regions of Scotland allows you to discover more about the landscape, culture, and the people who shape the taste of the Scotch whisky you love.