SPEYSIDE WHISKY TOUR
Speyside whiskies are among Scotland’s lightest, sweetest single malts. There is a low mineral content in the waters of Speyside, lying on the Grampians, with their granite content proffering soft waters. The Speyside style has altered over time, a traditional Speyside single malt would be more akin to a Highland whisky, with a definite robustness and a marked peat. More recent expressions are lighter, sweeter whiskies; honeyed and fine. Lacking the peat of Islay or the Highlands, the ozone and salinity of coastal malts or the dry, perfume of the Lowlands; Speyside whiskies are sweet and subtle. There is however, no hard and fast rule as to the characteristics of Speyside whisky
The River Spey doth run with scotch whisky
Older variants, particularly from those powerhouse distilleries: Macallan and Glenfarclas are often well-sherried, thick drams. There is a tendency to steer away from heavily finished whiskies, indeed most are matured in either ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. A heavily sherried Speyside single malt is often felt to be the perfect companion to a medium-bodied cigar.
The Inward day – Golf
The Speyside golf course that we feel has the strongest connection with whisky is probably Old Moray in Lossiemouth. In times gone past, this seemed to be the choice club for the distillery owners that played. It also sits neatly between the Highland courses of Dornoch and Castle Stuart, and the links of the Aberdeenshire area too. In many respects, it performs the sort of logistical role that Gleneagles can in threading together Fife and Ayrshire.
Daylight can offer us the chance to play it later after the distilleries are closed, and switch things around a bit if you preferred.
| The Glen Grant Distillery |
| Moray Old course at Lossiemouth
We propose staying in the Speyside centre of Aberlour, and that puts Glen Grant in a direct line of travel with Lossiemouth. We can also loop around
Glen Grant is in the small town of Rothes and ever since 1840 has been pushing at the boundaries of convention. The distillery is perhaps best known for ‘The Major’ Grant, who inherited the business on the founder’s death. Stories about ‘The Major’ abound, a legendary innovator, socialiser and traveller, he lived by his own rules and set his own standards. New ideas fascinated him and he wasn’t afraid to explore them. He was the first man in the Highlands to own a car. Glen Grant was the first distillery to have electric light. And he introduced the tall slender stills and purifiers which created the fresh malty flavour and clear colour that defines Glen Grant whisky to this day.
The Full Whisky Day
You’re in the heartland of Speyside at Aberlour. The Craigellachie hotel is surrounded by some of the most ‘Famous Names’. You would have the following distilleries to choose from (amongst others too);
Macallan (1 mile) John Dewar (1½ miles) Glenrothes (3 miles), Aberlour (3¼ miles), Glen Grant (4 miles), Glenallachie (4 miles), Balvenie (4 miles), Cardhu (7 miles), Glenfiddich (8 miles), Glenfarcas (8 miles) and Strathsila (13 miles) Glenlivet (14 miles)
There’s no explanation needed beyond name dropping these. Macallan is normally regarded as doing the best tour. Glenfddich is a popular choice and is always a slickly presented tour and well-staffed. We’d advise that you get a map out, draw a 20 mile radius around Aberlour and start serial killing them! As a general rule, you should easily be able to accommodate three in a day (dependent on the geographic spread and the intensity that you wish the tour to go into. Balvenine for example, tend to lay theirs out for the more knowledgeable connoisseur, which means it costs more and lasts longer
The Macallan distillery was licensed to Alexander Reid in 1824. The site originally held a farm distillery, which was frequented by cattle drovers crossing the ford. The Macallan has the smallest stills on Speyside giving the spirit maximum contact with the copper. The Macallan has earned a reputation for outstanding quality and has established itself as one of the ‘big three’ malt whiskies of Scotland
Since 1865 Glenfarclas has been owned and managed by just one family, the Grants of Glenfarclas. To this day Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family owned and managed. Now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generations of the family. The distillery has six stills which are the largest on Speyside
The Cardhu Distillery is one of Speysides more aesthetic and nestles in a picturesque setting. The Cardhu distillery is the only distillery started by a woman, albeit it was John Cumming who took the rap in 1816 when he was thrice convicted for illegal production. Cardhu is not only a world renowned brand in itself but also has a very close connection to Johnnie Walker. Johnnie Walker is the biggest selling blended whisky in the world and Cardhu is the spiritual home of Johnnie Walker in Speyside.
| Aberlour |
| Macallan visitors centre
Glenfiddich is one of the most recognisable names in whisky yet alone Speyside. William Grant, the founder of Glenfiddich, was born in 1839 in Dufftown. His dream was to build his own distillery and create the best dram in the valley. The first spirit flowed from the stills on Christmas Day 1887. The crystal-clear water of the Robbie Dhu Springs, the barley, the pure Highland air and the unusually small size of the stills, produced a single malt Scotch whisky of outstanding quality that has seen Glenfiddich establish itself firmly amongst the ‘big 3’ best-selling malts
The Speyside Cooperage offers visitors a unique insight as the only working cooperage in the UK where you can see skilled craftsmen at work, and even attempt a mini cask yourself. Casks are made from the finest American oak using traditional methods
Glenlivet is one of the most mighty and respected names in Scottish whisky. Glenlivet has a turbulent history for this is where it all started. The Glenlivet distillery is a little bit further away than the others. The distance isn’t enough to prevent you visiting it as a part of the full-day, but it might squeeze our ambition to schedule three distilleries. There could be a case for handling Glenlivet in conjunction with Castle Stuart yet
The Outward Day en-route to Aberdeenshire
A short journey from Aberlour heading east takes us to Keith, and here we find the charismatic old distillery of Strathisla. Although the argument of ‘oldest’ distillery in Scotland rages, Strathisla claims it dating from 1786. The buildings have changed little, from the old cobbled courtyard to the distinctive double pagodas, making it one of the most picturesque distilleries in Scotland. Today it’s best known for being home to Chivas Regal
Speyside is the only Scottish whisky producing region that has its own official ‘trail’. Brown signposts dot the countryside and guide you on your odyssey. To do this justice you would need to be thinking in terms of two or three dedicated days however. Having said that, you could shave a couple of golf courses off the itinerary if you wanted to achieve a better balance between playing and drinking!
The official trail variously takes in Benromach, Cardhu, Craigellachie, Dallas Dhu, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, The Glenlivet, Glen Moray, Knockando, Strathisla, and the Speyside Cooperage
| Cardhu Distillery |
| Glenfiddich |
| Speyside cooperage
You might prefer to ‘cherry-pick’ your own favourites. Most distilleries have a tour or private visitor arrangements, so the answer really is to supply us with a list and we’ll work the mileage and journey times out and then start ringing round and seeing what we can do for you! Fear not, we will also provide the transport as doubtless the euphemism that goes by the name ‘sampling’ will be put to use!
We’re also assured that whisky has amazing benefits for your golf too. If you consume an obliging quantity it can have the effect of not only erasing every bad shot you’ve played during the day from memory, but will also cause you to realise that some of your equally modest efforts were in fact borderline superb