Eight of Scotland's Best Whisky and Gin Distilleries to Visit

Learn to distinguish your Islay from your Skye, sniff out hand-picked botanicals and enjoy a wee dram by the fireside in these immersive distillery visits.

Scotland has the greatest density of whisky production in the world, with well over 100 grain and malt distilleries dotted around the Highlands and islands. With pure water and a history of several centuries, Scotland is believed to be the original home of whisky. The process requires just four ingredients - water, malt, peat, yeast - and yet bottles vary from smoky to floral. Gin follows closely behind and Hendrix, Gordon's and Tanqueray all hail from Scotland, joined by myriad small-batch artisans.

As we look to the UK to scratch our immediate travel itches this year, distilleries across Scotland are set to re-open with creative experiences appealing to spirit lovers. Coupled with a road trip ticking off some of the country's most picturesque spots, bespoke tours around some of the biggest players in the whisky and gin worlds gets you straight to the heart of the Highlands.

Raise a glass to the finest spirit distilleries in Scotland

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Lindores Abbey

Fife

The self-proclaimed "spiritual home of whisky", Lindores Abbey was referenced in the Scottish Exchequer Roll of 1494 - the earliest written note on scotch - and is widely recognised as being where it all began. Tours are focused on the modern production process, but the medieval abbey's surroundings ooze history. Private tastings including chocolate and cheese pairings from Fife artisans, while you can also try your hand at monastic tasks such as basket weaving or calligraphy. Come the weekend, regional chefs cook fillet steak and local lobster on a courtyard barbecue fuelled by whisky-infused wood.

Address

Abbey Road, Newburgh, Cupar KY14 6HH

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Isle of Harris Gin

Isle of Harris

Infused with sugar kelp, the mystical blue waters of Harris provide the main botanical for this gin. The seaweed is sustainably sourced, picked by hand from local sea lochs by diver Lewis Mackenzie, and the gin captures the natural elements of the island. The population of this island in the Outer Hebrides isn’t large, but more than 30 islanders are employed by the distillery. Behind-the-scenes tours are all run by local staff, who guide visitors through tastings using jars of jelly beans and botanicals, drawing you into the way of life out here. Tours are priced at £15 per person (inclusive of whisky and gin samplings) and last an hour and 15 minutes.

Address

Isle of Harris Distillers, Tarbert, Isle of Harris, HS3 3DJ

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Bladnoch

Newton Stewart

Bookings are open from 18 May for interactive tours at this 200-year-old whisky distillery in the uplands of Dumfries and Galloway. Bladnoch’s classic tours are an hour long and cost £14 per person, guiding you through the key sites and production stages. There’s also a more in depth “waterfall tour” allowing you to sample the Bladnoch and Pure Scot collection. A selection of whisky is also available to buy by the dram if you’re keen to DIY.

Address

Bladnoch Distillery, Bladnoch, Dumfries and Galloway, DG8 9AB

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Eight Lands

Keith

A tour around Glenrinnes organic estate, home of Eight Lands gin and vodka, is a one-stop shop for a rural Scottish experience if you’re pressed for time. In the morning you’ll be packed off with a flask of tea and taken up nearby Ben Rinnes mountain, where the panoramic views over eight counties give Eight Lands its name. You can enjoy a stroll around the farmland and see organic livestock on the beautiful estate – think cattle and deer – or have a go at clay-pigeon shooting as part of Glenrinnes VIP offering. Tastings of gin and vodka are done by head distiller Meeghan, who accessibly explains the intricacies of the process. Real spirit aficionados can opt in for a three-course lunch of local produce in the tasting room.

Address

Glenrinnes Distillery, Keith, AB55 4DB, Scotland

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Botanist Gin and Bruichladdich Whisky

Isle of Islay

It’s not widely known that famous Islay whisky distillers Bruichladdich – iconic for turquoise bottles and often touted as one of Scotland’s finest – also produce an excellent artisanal gin. Another favourite on Islay in the Hebrides, you can kill two birds at once with a visit to this distillery, where you’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at the production of Islay’s first dry gin and a glimpse at the sustainable foraging that helped earn them B-Corps status. If you’re more interested in drinking than distilling, you can learn how to make two botanist cocktails in a full-day tour that offers a deep dive into the terroir.

Address

Bruichladdich Distillery, Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland, PA49 7UN

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The Port of Leith Distillery

Leith

Edinburgh has an incredibly rich whisky heritage and the Port of Leith was once the epicentre of that. This distillery is the perfect option if you’re staying in Edinburgh and don’t have time for a full foray into the wilds; it's easy to get to from Leith, Edinburgh and Fife and is a frontrunner in modern gin and whisky. Over the course of 75 minutes or so, the enthusiastic founders will tell you about how they produce their signature lind and lime gin, why they go to the effort of shipping their own sherry from Spain and the various ventures they’re planning for the future.

Address

Tower Street Stillhouse, 53 Tower Street, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 7BN

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Lagavulin

Isle of Islay

There are so many distilleries on Islay alone that you could plonk yourself on this tiny Hebridean island and not visit anywhere else. In the Bay of Lagavulin, this is one of the longest-established distilleries and deeply rooted in island way of life. Islay whiskies are known for being peaty and smoky – something you’ll get a sense of as you wander around the unusual pear-shaped stills and breathe in the aromas at Lagavulin. You can do a guided tasting of four whiskies for £15, a warehouse walk to better understand the science behind it, or a private tasting of three bottles only sold at this distillery. Lagavulin are also doing virtual tours for those who can’t make it to the Hebrides.

Address

Lagavulin Distillery, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland, PA42 7DZ

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The Macallan

Easter Elchies

A whisky tour here starts with Macallan roast coffee and freshly baked scones before a guided tour of the iconic Cave Priveé, a tasting of some carefully selected Macallan whiskies and a trip to the bar for some more leisurely boozing. The Macallan Whisky Wall is particularly impressive, with hundreds of past releases lined up to peruse. Whisky tasting flights and long lunches in the on-site Elchies Brasserie can also be arranged. Tours take place every weekend and cost £50 for two and a half hours.

Address

The Macallan Estate, Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, AB38 9RX

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