After visiting a few distilleries in the Highlands and on the Isle of Skye during our tour in Scotland, we decided to dedicate a whole day to the most famous drink in Scotland to discover Speyside Whisky.
Where is the Speyside
Our whisky tour also took us to Speyside, the Scottish Highlands area east of Inverness, a charming little town just outside the deep north.
After spending a couple of hours in Inverness visiting the city, we moved on to Elgin and from there we walked the road to Aberlour to the site of another of our passions, Walkers Shortbread biscuits, crossing the area with the most whisky distilleries in the whole of Scotland.
Distilleries in Speyside
This area is home to the largest number of whisky distilleries in Scotland. In Spyeside, in fact, there are about 50 of the most famous distilleries in the world.
Speyside, named after the river that flows through it, is one of Scotland’s five whisky producing regions. Technically part of the Highlands, the area is home to the highest number of distilleries, which has led it to be treated as a region in its own right. Its distillates have similar characteristics although with sometimes very different stylistic notes.
The proliferation of distilleries in the Speyside is due both to the presence of the Spey River and the inaccessibility of the area. In the 17th and 18th centuries whisky was heavily taxed by the Crown and the impassable mountain area around the Spey river, rich in water springs, was the ideal place to produce whisky and escape the control of the authorities.
Speyside Scotch Whisky – features
With such a concentration of distilleries, 60% of Scottish Whisky is produced in Spyeside, whose characteristics can vary greatly in terms of style, but they differ from Islay’s single malts in that they are less peaty and therefore softer and more elegant, with a body that varies from Glenliv’s light and vegetable whisky.
The oldest “official” distillery in the area and perhaps in Scotland is that of Glenlived dating back to 1824, and Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling whisky from this area. Together with Glenlived and Macallan, it accounts for a third of the world’s whisky production.
In Speyside we produce distillates that contain the flavours and scents of green apple, vanilla, dried fruit, nutmeg and oak skilfully blended by master distillers to obtain unique bouquets.
Glen Moray, unforgettable flavours
Leaving the centre of Elgin, in the immediate vicinity is the Glen Moray Distillery, and given the appropriate time we stopped for yet another Flight.
After tasting three types of distillate, all really good, my friend John and I decided to make our second purchase after Dalwinnie. We opted for a not too old beld that we couldn’t find on the market in Italy: 10 year old Glen Moray Fired Oak.
This whisky is what I love the most, not so much for its goodness and taste, but because it gives me incredible suggestions and sipping it on these winter evenings, both the smell and the palate brings me back to the evenings spent at Fort Augustus in what we called home for four days. It has a real teleportation effect on me, in the sense that even a small sip transports me with my mind (…and this is not an exaggeration of the story) on the bench in front of our accommodation on the shores of Lake Loch Ness.
The smell of wet grass, of the lake, the wood of the structure that pervaded our house and the smells brought by the Highlands wind, while with John we sat sipping a glass on the veranda smoking our Tuscan cigar emerge clear in tasting the Glen Moray Fired Oak.
Glen Grant and the history of Whisky
Leaving Glen Moray and Elgin in the direction of Aberlour, the signs at the distilleries followed one another and were very frequent, but one hit us and we decided to make yet another stop: Glen Grant Distillery
The Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland and the second largest distillate exporter in the world, is now owned by the Italian company Campari. Leave your car in the car park and enter a well-kept park that gives access to the distillery’s visitor area. More than a place for rude scottish man had more the appearance of a jeweller’s shop. Few objects on display, very kind ladies in uniform and everything had a maniacal care.
Very originally “Michele the connoisseur” was also mentioned in passing, but everything was part of the experience. However, since we were already at 5 shots from the beginning of the day, we preferred to skip one round!
Distilleria Macallan an experience not to be missed
We could not have known that visiting a distillery could be an unforgettable experience also from an architectural point of view. Macallan is one of Scotland’s most prized and renowned Scotch whiskies appreciated all over the world.
Entering through a huge gate, the avenue led us in front of the historic Macallan distillery, now transformed into a cottage for guests, and as we got out of the car a long avenue led to the new distillery which from the outside looked more like the house of the Teletubbies than a place where whisky is produced.
From the outside, only huge grass-covered hills were visible, which formed the roof of the underground structure, hidden from prying eyes. Entering the space was enormous and the large glass walls where the bottles of many vintages were displayed rose up to the ceiling.
In the centre of the exhibition space stood a circular structure on two floors that housed the reception on the ground floor and the tasting area on the first floor. The real distillery with its huge copper stills was divided from the area open to the public by a huge glass and steel wall that allows you to see the processing in all its phases.
It could not miss a vertical tasting, a flight as they say in the distillery of three types of whisky: a 10-year-old Macallan, a special selection of which only 8000 bottles were made and a 15-year-old distillate at 65° to be stretched at will with its blending water.
Our day in Speyside ended with a visit to the Walker Shortbread biscuit factory and the consequent purchase of an industrial quantity of products and then returning to Fort Augustus along the other side of Lake Loch Ness.