Scotch Whisky & Scotland’s Whisky Trail
With a history and origin shrouded in mystery, whisky has evolved a lot in the past 500 years, from being considered a cure or a relief for palsy, colic and smallpox to a stimulant for cold winters. The first appearance was in the 15th century, in print, but many think that it has an unwritten story before that. The name of this amber nectar has its roots in Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic dialect spoken in Scotland, “usquebaugh” or “uisge beatha” word which can be translated as “water of life”.
Evidence shows that whisky may have been brought by Christian monks, although no one can prove that the farmers didn’t learn the art of distilling by themselves with the surplus of barley that they had. The process of making whisky is very interesting and the best way to learn about it is by taking the Scottish Whisky Trail. The authentic scotch is produced under a strict license, ensuring the safety and quality – drinks that are improperly produced can be very poisonous.
Even if Scotland is divided in five major whisky producing regions with different styles, by far Speyside is the most famous of all. Speyside is approximately located between Aberdeen and Inverness which is perfect for tourists visiting the Highlands of Scotland. Located on the River Spey in Moray, this region is recognized for the unique character of its whisky and for being home of brands like The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and The Macallan. Another independent region is The Isle of Islay, with nine famous distilleries, the oldest one having a century.
Take the Malt Whisky Trail tour if you want to learn more about the secrets behind the art of whisky production. Speyside is the starting point for a wonderful incursion in the world of whisky. Often known as the Malt Whisky Country, Speyside is the place where more than half of the malt distilleries of Scotland are. From barrel to bottle, this trail is the paradise of the amber nectar lovers.
Along the trail, from the nine distilleries included in the tour, tourists will visit a historic distillery and also the famous Speyside Cooperage. Not all the distilleries are open to the public, but those included in the route are well marked and full of tourists. The distilleries can be visited in any order: Benromach, Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Speyside Cooperage and Strashisla.
Dating from 1947 and located right in the heart of the rolling hills of Scotland, Speyside Cooperage has made the best casks using the finest American oak. This is the only place in the entire UK where you can see with your own eyes how whisky barrels are made using ancient methods along with traditional tools. Pay attention because at one point you will have to create your own mini cask. Unfortunately, in 2008 the Taylor family, the owners of the cooperage, sold it to Tonnellerie François Frères a French company.
Each distillery offers a unique experience from tasting and nosing sessions to samples of handcrafted malts. Benromach distillery, is not only the smallest working distillery but is also owned and managed for over 118 years by Gordon & MacPhail, a family business run by the 3rd and 4th generation of the Urquhart family.
Located just on the outskirts of the beautiful ancient market town of Forres, tourists will find two passionate and experienced distillers that use the purest spring water and the finest Scottish barley to hand craft Benromach. Behind the scenes, tourists will learn all about the process used from malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation.
The oldest distillery in the Highlands is by far Strathisla Distillery, dating from 1786. Prepare yourself to be blown away by the Highland hospitality while learning about the art of blending and distilling the whisky. This ancient distillery is home of Chivas Regal, a famous whisky brand. If possible, book the all 3 tours, The Ultimate Chivas Experience and also the 2 tours that explore the different aspects of blended and single malt whiskies.
Another fascinating distillery is Cardhu, because it is the only one pioneered by a woman. Set right above the River Spey, on the Mannoch Hill, this distillery saw the light of day in 1811. With a clean and warm taste, often described by the critics as being “silky”, the malt whisky produced here is used in a couple of award winning Johnnie Walker blends. In 1893, the Walker family and the Cumming family teamed up to ensure the quality of the Johnnie Walker blends and also the international popularity growth. The whisky produced here is maturated for 12 years in very old oak casks.
The industry of Scotch whisky is very large and is continuously growing. The traditional methods and values are adapted to the modern world, especially to the new generation of consumers. Use all your senses when you embark on a journey of learning all about whisky.