During our seven-day tour of Scotland we visited some whisky distilleries on a real whisky tour. I must say that I have never been a fan of Scotch Whisky, I have always preferred other spirits, but during my stay in the highlands, I had the opportunity to visit many of the places where whisky production is present.
Where whisky is produced – Whisky map
Scotch Whisky can only be given to distillates produced in Scotland. There are 6 main production areas:
Scottish distilleries where they are located
Distilleries in Scotland are scattered throughout the territory as the drink made by distilling barley malt is one of the main products for the Scottish economy.
The Lowlands and its fruity and light whisky
Starting from the South of Scotland we have the Lowlands, the most industrialised and densely populated area of Scotland. It lies below the imaginary line from Glasgow to Edinburgh, but also includes the entire FIFE area. The area is completely different from the Highlands with its sheer mountains over the Lochs, moors and breathtaking waterfalls. This area produces whisky with soft characteristics where the softness of the malt and the fruity taste given by the yeast but with dry notes stand out. Malts from the Lowlands or lowlands are among the lightest in Scotland and single malts produced here are considered to be among the lightest – if the term light suits a Whisky – and therefore suitable for aperitifs.
We didn’t visit this area on our trip to Scottish soil, but I was given a good bottle of Bladnoch which I happily sipped during my Netflix series of snacks.
Our trip to Scotland for a scotch whisky tour took us straight away to the Highlands, where we had our first close encounter with whisky distillation. We had arrived in the evening in the town of Aberfeldy on the transfer stage that would take us to Fort Augustus on Lake Lochness, confident that we could taste the distillate produced right next to our hotel, but to our great disappointment the distillery was closed since Sunday.
Caratteristiche del whisky delle Highlands
In the Highlands whisky is produced with characteristics and flavours distinct from other areas, but given the vastness of the territory it must be further subdivided into macro-zones in which to identify specific distinctive features. In general the dominant aromatic notes of these whiskies are honey, vanilla, caramel and heather, but depending on the production area additional characteristics can be noted:
In the northern Highlands, from Inverness to County Wick, the distillate has generally soft and not excessively peaty characteristics, with dry to fruity flavours, it does not generally have the salty aftertaste typical of single malts produced in areas swept by ocean winds such as those on the west coast. Nelle Highlands meridionali, attorno alla contea di Perth e a ovest di essa, i distillati hanno un carattere ancor più morbido e generalmente più leggero: sono simili ai tipici malti “dal corpo leggero” delle Lowlands. La zona occidentale, la più piccola, che va da Oban (sede dell’omonimo single malt) a Fort William, produce whisky assai pastosi e leggermente affumicati.
The following morning, due to the tight time schedule and the not very suitable time to introduce alcohol into our bodies, we decided to set off immediately to the north, but the first meeting with the Scottish distillate would not be long awaited.
Blair Athol and the distillery surrounded by greenery
On the way to Lochness right on the main road is the Blair Atholl Distillery, a small jewel surrounded by flowers and ivy.
Whisky tour Scotland – Dalwhinnie and the distillery on the moors
Resumed our road towards Fort Augustus, we arrived in a great valley and in the distance we saw a great white complex that stood out clearly in the moor. This is the Dalwhinnie distillery.
The visit to the distillery was exciting. Until then I preferred Rum and grappa, the soft one mainly, but since September 2019 everything has changed a bit. The Scottish distillate gave me a sense of cold on the palate – typical of oysters to be precise, that salty taste typical of island whiskies – which I did not like, but tasting so many types in such a short time, with its own specific characteristics, projected me into a world I did not know at all and above all it accustomed my senses to tasting this product.
Dalwhinnie was the first where I had my first real tasting and I will never forget it for the rest of my life and after my experience I can count it among the best Scotch whiskies. Upon entering you immediately perceive the smells: toffee, vanilla, custard, apple and the inevitable aroma of smoke.
We couldn’t miss our first taste, a special single malt: Dalwinnie Cask Finish distilled in 2002 served in very nice brendised glasses that were donated to us at the end of the tasting. Although my nose and palate were not trained, the assistant guided us to the discovery of smells and flavours of this nectar: a smell of raspberries, dark chocolate and cream with a slightly persistent smoke and a taste of pomegranate, toasted bread and cloves. To tell you the truth, I did not perceive everything they told us, but during our trip I had the opportunity to taste it again at the Awe loch and the sensations became more persistent.
Scottish Whisky of the Islands – Skye and the Talisker
The following day, the fourth of our trip to Scotland we dedicated it to the discovery of the island of Skye one of the many naturalistic jewels of the country. Starting from Fort Augustus, we made a wonderful day trip to the Isle of Skye. The first thing I feel like saying is that one day is too little to visit Skye, in my opinion it takes at least two full days, but we managed to see a lot of the fairytale landscape of the island of the Hebrides.
From our Scottish home it took about 1 hour to reach the island, so the time to visit this beautiful place has been reduced. On Skye we visited the only distillery present, that of one of the most famous scotch whisky: The Talisker.
Talisker whisky – The distillery in the bay
The Talisker distillery is located right by the sea in a film bay at the end of a small road. Everything is very suggestive: the white building, the river next to the plant with a very pure but ferrous-coloured water. It was the right time for our first “Flight” (a vertical for wine lovers). A 10-year-old Scotch, a 15-year-old Scotch and a third one with 25 years of age.
The three small glasses with the golden nectar and a jug of cold water to dilute the alcohol content at will. I must say that Skye’s whisky reminded me of the reasons why I did not like this distillate. Especially in the youngest we drank the taste of brackish and in a certain sense of algae was evident on the palate sensation that faded as the age of the distillate increased, leaving room for the scent of peat with smoky notes, vanilla and dark chocolate.
After the tasting, we had an unusual lunch at the Oyster shed, a real shack where we tasted oysters, scallops and salmon fresh from the local fishermen.
Speyside the home of Whishy
The area of Scotland where the greatest number of distilleries and therefore the great brands of the all Scottish distillate and Speyside are concentrated.
Oban Distillery one of the most famous
The last stop of our whisky tour was in the tourist town of Oban from where the ferries to the Hebrides islands depart. Perhaps one of the few crowded places on our entire trip to Scotland as if you want to reach the Outer Hebrides islands, the port of Oban is one of the few places to start from.
Oban is also the location of one of the most important distilleries in Scotland, for us Italians certainly one of the most famous. The Oban distillery was founded in 1794 and is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.
Oban Whisky listed among the 6 “Classic malt” of Scotland
After difficult periods, the production of oban whisky has reached the highest levels, making the distillate produced here part of the original 6 “Classic Malts” series together with Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin and Talisker. The secret of its success is that its two unique stills are always the same and although small compared to the other major distilleries in Scotland, they give the distillate unique characteristics.
Oban Whisky – Features
The Oban distillery produces a whisky that is the perfect link between the very peaty distillates produced on the island of Islay and the more full-bodied, soft and less earthy distillates of the Higlands.
Oban produces around 800,000 litres of whisky per year, 20% of which is bottled as single malt and the rest is used to produce Blends.
The passion for whisky born from a journey
An important part of this journey of discovery of Scottish distillate is certainly missing, namely all the distillates produced on the island of Islay and the Outer Hebrides. Lagavulin, Caolila, Bowmore, Laphroaig, islay of Iura are just some of the distillates produced on Islay and are all among the most famous whiskies in the world.
This gives us the opportunity to organize a new trip to Scotland to continue our Whisky tour.