Distilleries in the Scottish Highlands

The Spey valley is the home of the annual Spring ‘Spirit of Speyside’ Whisky festival and the Malt Whisky trail. Some of the finest whiskies in the world are proudly and lovingly produced in this ‘neck ‘o the woods’. Once tasted, this amber liquid becomes a pleasure to be repeated and the tasting of different single malts and blends a must. Below are a selection of the distilleries in the valley which beg to be visited.

Aberlour – Due to the increasing interest in and appreciation of malt whisky, a greater range of whisky is being produced by this distillery using the soft water rising from the granite of Ben Rinnes. The village of Aberlour lies in the heart of Speyside malt-distilling and Aberlour distillery can certainly be traced back to 1826 and was rebuilt in 1879 and 1898 leading to expansion in 1945 when it was purchased by Campbell Distillers. It is presently owned by Pernod Ricard. www.aberlour.co.uk

Glenfiddich – The Glen of the river Fiddich gives its name to this biggest-selling single malt whisky in the world. The distillery lies on the river Fiddich (meaning that the river runs through the valley of the deer), in Dufftown. This small but world famous distillery was founded in 1886-87 and is still owned by the original family. It is a limited company with its own bottling line on site, producing mature malts some of great value and age. A new product from this distillery is Glenfiddich Malt Whisky Liquer. This certainly has to be tasted. www.glenfiddich.com

The Balvenie – Next door to Glenfiddich and founded by the same company in 1892 – added Kininvie in 1990 and remains a family firm.The Balvenie whiskies are sweeter and richer following the Speyside heather-honey style and the barley is supplied from the family farm. www.thebalvenie.com

Cardhu – Cardhu, on a hillside near the Spey, was rebuilt by one of several women prominent in the whisky industry in 1872. Elizabeth Cumming’s family were involved with the Johnnie Walker blends which contain Cardhu malt whisky. Recently, however, a single malt Cardhu has been produced and in 1998 a Rare Malts edition. www.malts.com

Glenfarclas – One of the best known, respected and fiercely independent distilleries of Speyside. Although not widely known their whiskies are much sought after by the connoisseurs. The distillery, privately family owned by J. and G. Grant, (no connection with any other whisky Grants), is situated about a mile from the river Spey, below heather-covered hills, beneath Ben Rinnes. Using the same soft water as Aberlour. www.glenfarclas.co.uk

Glenlivet – The distillery is situated on the River Livet which flows into the Spey, deep in the mountains. A prime site as regards water and climate conditions, as the very cold water off the mountains is ideal for the condensers. The malt whiskies produced are of a rare and elegant quality from the most famous whisky producing area in the world. A product greatly influenced by history and politics and the facts regarding domestic and illicit distillation. www.theglenlivet.com

Macallan – Became part of the Highland Distillers group in 1996 which group inherited a distillery of very high standards. The malt whiskies distilled in recent years come to maturity shortly and are awaited eagerly. Meanwhile the variety of whiskies produced by this company are consistently of a high standard. However, the short supply of special barley has proved somewhat of a problem and other strains of grain have had to be included, with their loyalty to Jerez sherry still firmly intact. In fact these whiskies of quality have been made on the Macallan Speyside site near Craigellachie since late 1700. www.themacallan.com

Glenrothes – The highly esteemed merchants Berry Brothers and Rudd have, over the recent years, chosen this whisky as their house malt. It has long been used as an integral ingredient of Berry’s Cutty Sark, named after the fast tea clipper Cutty Sark, a connection through Berry’s tea, grocery and wine selling days. It is also widely favoured by blenders. www.thefamousgrouse.com

Knockando – An unusual name for a very elegant whisky with strong influence in the J&B blends. A love-sick Italian persuing an opera singer to Britain in 1749 resulted in a job of liquer making and a progression to selling Scotch whisky. A very fruitful experience even though the romance was a failure!! Brooks of J&B later became a partner in the firm. www.thewhiskyexchange.com

Strathisla – Last in our list but not the least – this is the oldest distillery in the north of Scotland which has been producing whisky since 1786. Dominican monks used the same water, in the13th century, in their beer brewing. The whisky, which has a dry, fruity, oaky taste, is a main contributor to Chivas Regal blend. www.chivas.com

Want to know more – then take the Whisky Trail. Below we have listed some useful website links specialising in this great Scottish industry.