Whisky distilleries have always depended on having perfect local resources such as the purest spring water and the very best quality and fragrant golden barley. Where better than the Scottish Highlands and in particular the Speyside region. The Speyside Whisky Trail has over half of the malt whisky distilleries operating in Scotland and they all offer a whisky with a unique taste and smell not to mention a very individual welcome.
All of the Speyside distilleries provide tours that highlight their traditions giving information on their recipes, how to malt the barley and the size of their stills. Each Speyside whisky distillery is very unique and visitors can expect to sample some of the finest whisky plus receive some insight into the complex art of blending whisky and malt with a few nosings and the odd tasting.
You can follow the world-famous Malt Whisky Trail through Speyside to any of these working distilleries in addition to the Speyside Cooperage.
Benromach Distillery is the smallest Speyside distillery with only two workers and a maximum capacity of only half million litres annually. Benromach was established in 1898 which was when numerous other distilleries came about. It was built by the Benromach Distillery Company and is located on the northern outskirts of Forres in Speyside. Benromach closed in 1983 but was reopened officially by Prince Charles in 1998 and became the first distillery to release a Soil Association certified whisky with their “Organic” released in 2006 by owners Gordon and MacPhail.
Cardhu Distillery sits on the Northern banks of the River Spey in Moraytown overlooking the Ben Rinnes mountain range and was founded by John Cumming, a notorious whisky smuggler, in 1811. Cardhu was acquired by John Walker and Sons in 1893 who then became the producers of the well known blends know as Johnnie Walker. In 1930 the distillery was acquired by Distillers Company Ltd who then became part of Diageo. Most of the Cardhu spirit is used in Diageo’s Johnnie Walker products and less than one third is matured and bottled as single malt.
Dallas Dhu Distillery previously named Dallasmore by a blender by the name of Wright and Grieg Ltd from Glasgow was founded in1898. The distillery itself was designed by a distillery architect located in Elgin by the name of Charles Doig. The distillery is sited to the south of Forres and uses water from the Altyre Burn. Dallasmore was later renamed Dallas Dhu which comes from the Gaelic words “dail eas dubh” which means “dark water valley”. The reasoning behind this is because the distillery lies in a hallow.
Glenfiddich Distillery is one of the three whisky distilleries that are owned by William Grant and they are all located near to each other just north of Dufftown. The Glenfiddich Distillery was founded by William Grant in 1886 at is one of only three distilleries which doe on-site bottling and has stills with a massive total yearly capacity of ten million litres. Glenfiddich also matures its single-malt whisky in its onsite warehouses that can hold 800,000 casks. Glenfiddich now concentrates on Single Malt Whisky production.
Glen Grant is one of the top five bestselling Scotch single malt distilleries in the world and was purchased from the Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) by the Campari Group in 2006 for £100 million. Under this new ownership Glen Grant will probably grow considerably in size. Glen Grant distillery currently houses six stills and is running at almost full capacity producing just under 6 million litres per annum but this is likely to increase to possibly 12 million litres with the probably addition of a power plant and an additional eight stills. Half of Glen Grant’s Scotch whisky production is utilised for blending particularly the Chivas blends and the majority of the spirit is sent to mature in the Chivas warehouses or to Glen Grant’s new 60,000 cask storage facilities in Rothes. The whisky distillery was founded in 1840 by brothers John and James Grant and was the first distillery to have electric lighting.
The Glenlivet is located on the site of an old farm named Upper Drummin and was established by George Smith in 1824 after the introduction of the Excise Act in 1823. Smith was the first distiller in the Scottish Highlands to be issued with a license for distillation at a time when most of the other distilleries in the area were being run illegally and had involvement with smuggling. George Smith is alleged to have carried a pair of pistols for his own protection as the neighbouring distilleries were so angry with him for running Glenlivet within the law. Because The Glenlivet name has always been associated with high quality many other distilleries refer to the name despite not being anywhere near the “Glen Of Livet”.
Glen Moray was founded in 1897 at the reconstructed site of the West Brewery west of Elgin on the banks of the River Lossie . The distillery closed very soon after in 1910 but opened again two years later and only to close yet again. Macdonald and Muir purchased Glen Moray distillery in 1920 and production of spirit began operating its own floor maltings changing to a Saladin Box in 1957 which continued to be used until 1978. In 1970s two new stills were brought in to replace the old ones and production increased to around two million litres each year. Macdonald and Muir Ltd changed the name of the distillery to Glenmorangie Plc and in 2004 the group was acquired by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy for the huge amount of 300 million pounds.
Strathisla Distillery uses water from the Broomhill Spring is free of peat and has high calcium levels. The distillery was founded in 1786 by George Taylor and Alexander Milne and named Milltown but this was changed a later date to Milton. The original name is thought to refer to the town of Keith where the distillery lies because at this time there was large scale production of linen and the milling of the linen there. The moniker “Strathisla” was given to the spirit from the Milton distillery and in 1870 this became the official name for the distillery in 1870. Strathisla is the oldest distillery in the North of Scotland starting as a farm distillery but expanded in the 19th century especially after a massive fire in 1876. William Longmore owned the distillery from 1830 and passed it down to John Geddes-Brown, his son-in-law, when he retired in 1880. The name was changed back to Milton.
Speyside Cooperage is located near Craigellachie and is the only working cooperage in the UK where you can enjoy the traditional skill of coopering. The Speyside Cooperage has been family owned since 1947 and has produced the finest casks using the best American Oak. Today the cooperage still produces the casks using traditional methods and despite many of them being shipped across the world a lot of the casks stay in Scotland to be used in the process of making Scotch Whisky.