Distillery Focus

Worth a visit?

It's hard to believe that just a few years ago public access to a distillery was rare. Now many offer tours or tastings and they're becoming increasingly sophisticated. Dominic Roskrow reports
By Dominic Roskrow
Later this year Whisky Magazine will publish its 50th issue and we’ll be taking a look at how the industry has changed in that time.Almost certainly among the scores of new and successful launches and the distillery sales, closures and takeovers, the rise and rise of the visitor centre will feature prominently. But there has been a subtler change too: distillery tours are becoming increasingly sophisticated, VIP versions have started to pop up, and specialised and more informative tastings have been introduced.Whisky tourism is growing up, and distilleries are facing up to the challenge of trying to offer the experienced whisky enthusiast something to keep him and her interested while not putting the novice off.“The bottom line is that a visitor coming to a distillery in Speyside or on Islay for the third or fourth time isn’t interested in the basic version of the tour,” commented a tour guide at Glenfiddich, the distillery where it all started.“But it is an art accommodating for them and keeping new visitors happy, too. And we offer tours in an array of languages and if you make tours more technical, then that opens up a whole new set of problems, too.”Increasingly distillery tours are falling in to three general categories: the basic ‘how whisky is made’ tour, the advanced version with special tastings and greater access to warehouses and so on, and the family tourist tour which tend to be as much about Scotland as whisky.The general standards of tours and of the visitor centres they are based around have risen immeasurably, too, as whisky producers have seen their commercial potential. From the days of a quick dram of a standard malt and the possibility of buying a t-shirt, marketing tools such as a £5 voucher to redeem against purchases, and an array of literature including Whisky Magazine have become the norm.Whatever your level of knowledge, it is almost certainly the case that there will be a distillery somewhere that would be worth your while visiting either for the first time or for a revisit.This writer’s experience is that unlike breweries, which can become boring after you’ve seen more than a couple, distilleries become more fascinating the more you visit.And the more you visit, the more you’re called back to the others to compare and contrast.The distilleries set out below are a summary of what Scotland has to offer. It is very difficult indeed to be totally comprehensive because centres and tours are being upgraded or opened all the time.Of late we’ve seen Tullibardine, Auchentoshan, Dalmore and Glen Garioch extend the visiting facilities, and there are almost certainly more in the process of doing so and yet to tell us.The information is as correct as we can make it at the time of going to press, and has been compiled from the experiences of myself, distillery focus writer Ian Buxton, and our mystery visitor.We also used as a main reference source Duncan and Wendy Graham’s excellent book Visiting Distilleries.ABERFELDY
Region: Highlands
Website: www.dewarswow.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1887 822 010
Type of tour: Family/intermediate
Cost: £5
Seasons: All year (silent season is October)
Comment: Home to the internationally-renowned World of Whiskies, which is an interactive family experience of only marginal interest to the serious enthusiast. But separate Aberfeldy distillery tours are also conductedARDBEG
Region: Islay
Website: www.ardbeg.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 302 244
Type of tour: Intermediate
Cost: £2.50 (redeemable in shop on purchases over £17)
Seasons: All year
Catering: Cafe with outstanding home made food. Great snacks and soupsBEN NEVIS
Region: West coast Highlands
Website: www.bennevisdistillery.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1397 700 200
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: £2 (redeemable in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: Coffee shop and restaurantBENROMACH
Region: Speyside
Website: www.benromach.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1309 675 968
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £3 (£2.50 redeemable on 70cl whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: NoBLADNOCH
Region: Lowlands
Website: www.bladnoch.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1988 402 605
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £3
Seasons: Easter to end November or by appointment
Catering: No but close to Bladnoch InnBLAIR ATHOL
Region: Highlands
Website: No
Telephone: +44 (0)1796 482 003
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediary
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year but restricted winter
Catering: Soups, sandwiches, sconesBOWMORE
Region: Islay
Website: www.morrisonbowmore.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 810 671
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: £2 (redeemable in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: No but places close by
Comment: Rare chance to see and peated malting in actionBUNNAHABHAIN
Region: Islay
Website: www.bunnhabhain.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 840 646
Type of tour: Intermediate
Cost: Free
Seasons: All year by appointment only
Catering: NoCAOL ILA
Region: Islay
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 302 760
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: £4 (£3 redeemable in shop)
Seasons: March-October by
appointment only
Catering: NoCARDHU
Region: Speyside
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1340 872 555
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £4 (£3 redeemable in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: No
Comments: Home of Johnnie Walker, with pleasant gardensCLYNELISH
Region : North East
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1408 623 000
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £4 (£3 redeemable in shop)
Seasons: March to October
Catering: NoDALMORE
Region: North East Highlands
Website: www.thedalmore.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1349 882 362
Type of tour: Intermediate/advanced
Cost: Free
Seasons: All year
Catering: No
Comments: Has one of the newest visitor centres of any distillery and widely rated as a place to visit despite the distance.DALWHINNIE
Region: Highlands
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1540 672 219
Type of tour: Beginner
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: NoEDRADOUR
Region: Highlands
Website: www.edradour.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1796 472 095
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediary
Cost: Free
Seasons: All year
Catering: No
Comment: Winner of our Visitor
Centre of the Year. Tour accompanied by video presentationFETTERCAIRN
Region: Highlands
Website: No
Telephone: +44 (0)1561 340 205
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: Free
Seasons: May to September only
Catering: NoGLEN GRANT
Region: Speyside
Website: No
Telephone: +44 (0)1542 783 318
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: Free
Seasons: April to October
Catering: No
Comments: Worth a visit for the gardens aloneGLEN MORAY
Region: Speyside
Website: www.glenmoray.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1343 550 900
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: £2.50
Seasons: All year
Catering: Snacks in new centreGLEN ORD
Region: North East Highlands
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1463 872 004
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year but restricted November to January
Catering: NoGLENDRONACH
Region: Speyside
Website: www.theglendronach.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1466 730 202
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: Free
Seasons: All year (starts August 2005)
Catering: NoGLENFARCLAS
Region: Speyside
Website: www.glenfarclas.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1807 500 257
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: £3.50
Seasons: All year
Catering: NoGLENFIDDICH
Region: Speyside
Website: www.glenfiddich.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1340 820 373
Type of tour: Family/Beginners
Cost: £12
Seasons: All year
Catering: Beverages and snacks
Comments: Has revamped visitor centre but this is one of the busiest distilleries of allGLENGOYNE
Region: Lowland
Website: www.glengoyne.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1360 550 254
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: £4.50
Seasons: All year
Catering: No, but Beech Tree Inn nearbyGLENKINCHIE
Region: Lowland
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1875 342 004
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: No
Comments: Distillery includes history museumGLENLIVET
Region: Speyside
Website: www.glenlivet.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1542 783 220
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: Free
Seasons: April to October
Catering: Sandwiches, pastries and
hot snacks
Comments: Tour highly regarded at all levelsGLENMORANGIE
Region: North East Highlands
Website: www.glenmorangie.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1862 892 477
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: £2.50 (redeemable in shop on purchases over £16)
Seasons: All year
Catering: Refreshments and snacksGLENTURRET
Region: Highlands
Website: www.famousgrouse.co.uk/experience
Telephone: +44 (0)1764 656 565
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: £6.95 (50 minute tour)
£3.95 (30 minute tour)
Seasons: All year
Catering: Yes, highly regarded for full meals, snacks and sandwichesHIGHLAND PARK
Region: Orkney
Website: www.highland.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1856 874 619
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediary
Cost: £5
Seasons: All year but restricted in winter
Catering: Coffee shop with snacks
Comments: Has floor maltingISLE OF ARRAN
Region: Arran
Website: www.arranwhisky.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1770 830 264
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediary
Cost: £3.50
Seasons: All year
Catering: Restaurants with extensive lunch menu, teas, coffees and home bakingISLE OF JURA
Region: Jura
Website: www.isleofjura.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 820 240
Type of tour: Intermediate
Cost: £2
Seasons: All year by appointment
Catering: No but opposite Jura HotelLAGAVULIN
Region: Islay
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 302 400
Type of tour: Intermediate
Cost: £4 (£3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year by appointment
Catering: No but next to ArdbegLAPHROAIG
Region: Islay
Website: www.laphroaig.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1496 302418
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediate
Cost: Free
Seasons: All year by appointment only
Catering: No
Comment: Has a working maltingMACALLAN
Region: Speyside
Website: www.themacallan.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1340 872 280
Type of tour: Intermediate
Cost: Free (30min); £8 (1hour); £15 (nosing and tasting tour)
Seasons: All year (silent season end of June – middle of August)
Catering: No
Comments: Iconic and sizeable distillery with a tour worthy of itOBAN
Region: West Coast Highlands
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1631 572 004
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediary
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: No (but in centre of town)PULTENEY
Region: North East Highlands
Website: www.oldpulteney.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1955 602 371
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £3.50 (redeemable in shop on
purchases over £20)
Seasons: All year but restricted in winter
Catering: No but close to WickROYAL LOCHNAGAR
Region: Highlands
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1339 742 700
Type of tour: Advanced
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: NoSCOTCH WHISKY HERITAGE CENTRE
Region: Edinburgh
Website: www.whisky-heritage.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)131 220 0441
Type of tour: Family/beginners
Cost: £8.50
Seasons: All year
Catering: Meals and a full range of snacks, beverages and drinks
Comments: Not a distillery but a great starting point for any potential enthusiastSPEYSIDE COOPERAGE
Region: Speyside
Website: www.speysidecooperage.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1340 871 108
Type of tour: Family
Cost: £3.10
Seasons: All year
Catering: Café with beverages and snacks
Comments: Slightly different tour - lovely setting, stacks of barrels, and coopering in action. Well worthwhileSPRINGBANK
Region: Campbeltown
Website: www.springbankdistillers.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1586 552 085
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediary
Cost: £3
Seasons: April to September by appointment
Catering: No but places nearbySTRATHISLA
Region: Speyside
Website: www.chivas.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1542 783 044
Type of tour: Beginners/intermediate
Cost: £5
Seasons: April to end October
Catering: Coffee and shortbreadTALISKER
Region: Skye
Website: www.malts.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1478 640 314
Type of tour: Beginner/intermediary
Cost: £4 (worth £3 off whisky in shop)
Seasons: All year
Catering: NoTOBERMORY
Region: Mull
Website: No
Telephone: +44 (0)1688 302 645
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: £2.50
Seasons: Easter to October or by appointment
Catering: NoTOMATIN
Region: North East
Website: www.tomatin.co.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1808 511 444
Type of tour: Beginners
Cost: Free
Seasons: All year but restricted in winter
Catering: NoTULLIBARDINERegion: Central Highlands, Perthshire
Website: www.tullibardine.com
Telephone: +44 (0)1764 682 252
Type of tour: Family/beginners
Cost: £3 (redeemable on whisky)
Seasons: All year
Catering: Restaurant for up to 100 people