In our four days of touring Scotland, we visited twelve distilleries in the Highlands and Speyside whisky-making regions. The visits ranged in depth, duration and quantity of sampling. Some were delightful, some simply educational, some brief but pleasant, and a couple marginally disappointing. I will eventually process more detailed notes to post in the Travelog section, but for now, here is a picture per distillery with the name in the frame and a quick summary of our visit.
Dalwhinnie – the highest distillery above the sea level (by just 1 meter over the next contender); we took a full tour, which ended with a single sampling. B.
Macallan – we took an excellent Six Pillars Tour, led by a marvelous guide, and ending with a sampling of a low wine and four different malts. A.
Glenfiddich – having planned to take a full tour here later in the trip, we decided that two full tours at the start of the journey was more than enough for us. Instead, we came in for a walk-in visit; the shop was being renovated and temporarily combined with the cafè, and we were told that impromptu samplings were not on offer. D.
Cardhu – we opted for a paid sampling of two malts, but because we joined the “Friends of Classic Malts” program at Dalwhinnie (for free), we got an additional offering from a very knowledgeable tasting lead. A-.
Strathisla – one of the most picturesque distilleries, this is Chivas brand. The shop extends into an atmospheric lounge. We got a welcome offering, and then, after a bit of conversation with the friendliest staff members, were offered another. A.
Glen Moray – this was a “maybe” stop on the original plan that ended up fitting into itinerary, but all we got was an explanation of how we could not get a complimentary taste. As this was our fifth distillery of the day, we did not have capacity for a formal tasting. Had coffee instead. D+.
Benromach – made it to the shop less than 10 minutes before closure. This was also an “extra” stop on the itinerary, but the staff here graciously managed to make those few minutes quite enjoyable. We got not one, but two complimentary tastes. B+.
Tomatin – not in the original plans at all, but we were driving by with time to spare. Got two complimentary samples, one of which was of the malt not exported to the US. B.
Royal Lochnagar – this distillery challenged us the most to get to, with a road sign on the approach sending us roundabout way. Once there, we had a nice chat with the staff and watched a short Food Channel-like movie on the reason the distillery has “Royal” in its name, but only got a single sample, and that only on account of our “Friends” status. C.
Blair Athol – barely made it before closing but still got a complimentary swig because it is also in the “Friends” lineup. C.
Famous Grouse at Glenturret – opened till later in the day than others, which afforded us a comparatively leisurely “nightcap”. There are several paid multi-tasting options in the bar, one of which we picked. B+.
Glengoyne – the last and nearly the best of all of our stops. The distillery straddles Highlands/Lowlands boundary, but is considered to belong to Highlands region because the distillation occurs on that side of the road. I remember it delighted me on my first visit here 6 years ago, and I was not disappointed now. We thought we would buy a tasting option with three malts, but somehow the staff talked us into tasting half a dozen different varieties in smaller measures for free. A great conclusion to the whisky portion of the trip. A+.