Do you live in Scotland? Or maybe you just visit. Perhaps you have yet to set foot on the land renowned for its history, beauty and personalities. Chances are however that if you are reading this article it is the countryâ€™s national drink which particularly holds your interest. We hope to help bring the rewards of this noble spirit into sharper focus by highlighting the influences which contribute to our favourite spiritâ€™s character. One way to do this is to experience first hand the place of its origin.
Be it a Hebridean island, an urban setting or a rural hideaway the place where a dram is created surely is as much part of its personality as the people who craft it. Although not a large country it is often remarked just how much time is needed to do justice to Scotlandâ€™s spread of riches. Here we shall begin a list of some of the places worth special mention to the whisky tourist.
Starting in Scotlandâ€™s two great cities, where the majority of international visitors arrive and domestic population reside, both have either end of the supply chain covered with distilleries as well as shops and bars allowing the whisky fan plenty to enjoy.
In the west, Auchentoshan and Glen Goyne distilleries show alternative styles of production and location. There is Auchentoshan, now surrounded by suburbia, with its throw back triple distillation and Glen Goyne with more traditional countryside environment and relatively small scale output.
At the other end of the barrel, Glasgow has several bars of note perhaps most particularly The Pot Still in Hope Street. As well as being home to many whisky companiesâ€™ offices and facilities there is also a clutch of retailers worth seeking out: The Whisky Shop and Robert Graham are conspicuous in their high profile.
Over in the East the capital takes the consumer end of provision a few stages higher. No longer the address of so many historic businesses, Edinburgh now excels in hospitality rather than industry. From the popular Whisky Experience through to the members only Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a couple of days would be needed to make the most of all that is on offer as so many whisky shops and bars speckle the way from the castle to Leith.
Look out for Royal Mile Whiskies, The Whisky Shop, Robert Graham (again), Cadenheads as well as many other less specialised but still generous sources of bottled wares.
By the glass try the Bow Bar, the Canny Mans, Whiski, Albanach, Leslies Bar and either Mathers, amongst many others. A short trip east finds the pretty Glen Kinchie distillery with its top quality visitor facilities.
South and West
If journeying south, the most noteworthy destination is tucked away in the south west in Dumfries and Galloway. Ever since its resurrection under the vision of Raymond Armstrong, Bladnoch distillery has played host to the passion of producers and public alike. A privately owned outpost in what can often seem like a big business wilderness, their personal approach is most refreshing.
The website offers a great resource through its online forum. Ask about their whisky schools. While in this part of the world bear in mind Robbieâ€™s Drams annual festival in Ayr. Venturing further round the Ayrshire coast will take you to Ardrossan and the welcoming Isle of Arran with its now well established distillery.
Next time, we’ll take a look north and west.
Although not bang up-to-date, â€˜Visiting Distilleriesâ€™ by Wendy and Duncan Graham is a marvellously comprehensive resource for choosing the most suitable stills to stop at. (ISBN 1-903238-64-1)
You can purchase this book from Amazon here