In a scenic corner of north east Scotland you will find a higher concentration of whisky distilleries than anywhere else. Typically floral, fruity and fragrant, Speyside malts are smooth, subtle and a soft way to ease into whisky.
For a whisky lover such as myself, the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail proved to be a great itinerary around Speyside – allowing visits to some prominent and lesser-known distilleries.
I began my own experience in Dufftown – the capital of whisky country.
This small town is a great base to visit some of the big names in the whisky industry such as Glenfiddich and Balvenie, and these two distilleries alone make Dufftown the biggest exporter of whisky in Britain!
Having visited a few small distilleries in the past I now wanted to see production on a larger scale, so I started with a tour of one of the largest whisky producers in the world – Glenfiddich. A tour here is an experience not to be missed for connoisseurs and novices alike. Smooth, sweet, and easy-drinking – Glenfiddich is a good first whisky for any occasion.
Remarkably, Glenfiddich has been a family-run business since its inception in the late 19th century, but what I found most incredible is that you can experience every part of the malting, distilling, casking, maturing and even bottling process here. In order to cater for so many thirsty whisky-lovers across the world, the sheer size of the operation means that you can witness machinery in use that you might not be able to see elsewhere.
Of course, a whisky tour would not be complete without a celebratory dram (or 4) at the end!
Invigorated by my experience at Glenfiddich, I took in some fresh air and cycled to Craigellachie. Following the Speyside Way, I cycled 6 km along the River Fiddich enjoying the sunshine and lush green landscapes.
On my way I passed the Speyside Cooperage – the only operational cooperage in the UK where you can experience the traditional art of barrel making. The 5* Master Cooper Tour is a unique opportunity to savour the smells, sounds and production process of a modern cooperage.
Craigellachie is a pretty Highland village which hosts another of the biggest whisky brands in the world – the Macallan – as well as the smaller Craigellachie Distillery. It’s also home to the wonderful Highlander Inn where you can find one of the largest variety of Speyside malts in the world, as well as an excellent collection of Japanese single malts.
Part of visiting the Malt Whisky Trail is not just visiting the larger distilleries and visitor centres, but also appreciating the whisky heritage in this part of the country. There are many smaller distilleries which might not have visitor centres, but deserve a taste nonetheless.
The Quaich Bar at The Craigellachie Hotel is a great place to try some new malts. Offering almost 700 different single malts, this is the perfect spot to stop for a few drams and ask for a recommendation from the knowledgeable bar staff.
A personal recommendation is Tamdhu – a Speyside malt reborn in 2013. Taking inspiration from its Victorian roots, this Sherry cask matured spirit is very smooth, sweet and creamy, with notes of vanilla and almonds and packed with fruits.
Keen to find your own favourite whisky? Our self-guided Speyside Malt Whisky Trail allows you to immerse yourself in Scotland’s wonderful whisky region.
If variety is what you are looking for, our Highlands and Islands Malt Whisky Trail provides a taste of different whisky regions in Scotland.
Katia Fernandez Mayo