Renowned the world over for its whisky, Speyside, Moray and the Cairngorms offer visitors a plethora of choices when it comes to experiencing Scotland’s national drink, Rosie Morton discovers
With the Moray Firth’s crystal-clear water bordered by miles of white sand, and the Cairngorms’ rolling heathery hills and ragged mountains you could just about be forgiven for thinking you were in some far-flung, tropical paradise.
Yet, it is the River Spey’s ice-cold water that has drawn scores of distilleries to Moray, Speyside and the Cairngorms, establishing what is now arguably the best place for whisky enthusiasts, old and new, to enjoy Scotland’s favourite tipple.
Nestled away in the north of Scotland, the Speyside whisky region is home to more than 50 distilleries, including two of the best-selling single malt whiskies in the world, The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
Encapsulating the history of Scotch whisky, Moray, Speyside and its surrounding areas offer an array of whisky-fuelled experiences, allowing visitors to uncover the rare and colourful tales that lie behind each and every dram.
Speyside’s distilleries produce unique ‘expressions’ of Scotland’s amber nectar. Whether you enjoy a rich, rounded whisky, or a fruity, floral or smoky note, each distillery produces a distinct flavour. As such, the ‘Malt Whisky Trail’ is a great way of tasting your way around the region. ( maltwhiskytrail.com)
Guiding visitors through nine distilleries, the trail showcases some of Scotland’s finest malt whiskies including Benromach, Dallas Dhu, Strathisla, and the renowned Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. As well as being a whisky connoisseur’s dream escape, the trail leads you through some of the country’s most spectacular landscapes, taking you from the winding northern beaches of the Moray Firth to the craggy mountains of the south. Many of us, though, seek a more active autumn break. The Dramathon, Speyside’s Single Malt Marathon, takes place on 20 October 2018. ( www.thedramathon.com)
Whether you want to run a full marathon, a half marathon, a 10km or a relay, runners will be able to take in the beautiful scenery of Moray Speyside while they compete. En-route to
the finish line, competitors pass several distilleries and receive a miniature of single malt from each distillery they pass. If running marathons seems like an uphill struggle, why not try canoeing? What could be better than immersing yourself in the landscape while paddling down the waters of the River Spey through the red-tinged forests, then stopping for a whisky tasting session? With the ‘Spirit of the Spey’ canoe journey, whisky enthusiasts can drink in 50 miles of scenery while paddling along the river, pausing to visit distilleries like The Macallan, Aberlour and Dalwhinnie. ( www.spiritofthespey.co.uk)
The Macallan Distillery, which is thought by many to produce the ‘Rolls-Royce of single malts’, was founded in 1824 by Alexander Reid, a barley farmer and school teacher. Among the first distillers in Scotland to be legally licensed, the distillery is set in an idyllic 150-hectare estate. In June this year, they opened a new distillery and visitor experience centre where guests can enjoy the ‘Six Pillars Tour’. Led by experts, the tour leads visitors through each stage of whisky production and ends with a nosing and tasting session. ( www.themacallan.com)
Gail Cleaver, general manager at The Macallan, said: ‘There is a maximum of 12 people on each tour and we only take out tours every 45 minutes. This means that when you’re out on tour with us you should pretty much feel like you’re the only guests on tour. It isn’t about herding people around, there isn’t a tour bus waiting to go, this is purely for you. It is exclusive and tailored to you. With Macallan, you’re a VIP.’
While The Macallan Distillery presents the definitive opportunity to indulge in the whisky experience, Gail Cleaver added: ‘I think our new project at The Macallan is also going to help put Speyside on the map. There is so much more in the Speyside area that people need to get out and enjoy. We’ve got the best fishing, the best walking, hills, cycle trails, lots of
wonderful places to eat… By opening what we have here, we’re just opening people’s eyes to Speyside.’
For those seeking a more relaxed autumn break, a visit to Scotland’s ‘Whisky Capital’ is likely to hold great appeal. At the heart of the Speyside whisky trail lies Dufftown, the biggest Scottish exporter of whisky.
The town is surrounded by nine distilleries – Mortlach, Glenfiddich, Dufftown, Glendullan, Balvenie, Kininvie, Pittyvaich, Parkmore and Convalmore.
From 27 September to 1 October 2018, Dufftown will also host the Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival which includes nosing and tasting, as well as organised trips to nearby distilleries. ( www.whisky. dufftown.co.uk)
If you were hoping for a more secluded whisky tour of Speyside, the ‘Speyside Whisky Experience, expert escorted tours’ may be the one for you. Derek Hancock, tour guide and driver, has over 40 years of experience in the whisky industry and will take you on a personalised tour of the region.
It is exclusive and tailored to you. With Macallan, you are a VIP
Picking you up from your hotel, Derek treats you to a day trip of the best distilleries in the area, as well as taking you to the likes of Johnstons of Elgin, a world-renowned woollen mill that produces the finest cashmere clothing and accessories. ( www. speysidewhiskyexperience.com)
So, whether you like your dram neat, shaken, stirred or on the rocks, Moray, Speyside and the Cairngorms offer up the perfect whisky retreats. Enjoy a chauffeured tour of The Whisky Region, run your way around its distilleries, or canoe down the River Spey – no matter which route you choose, the trip is sure to be dripping with single malt delights.
Image: The Cave Privée in the Macallan Distillery.
Clockwide from topleft: Guests stop for a dram during a Spirit of the Spey tour; the River Spey in Aberlour; the Dramathon; runners are rewarded; sunset over Lossiemouth lighthouse, Moray; paddling their way from one dram to the next.
Above: Gail Cleaver, The Macallan distillery. Left: Inside the Speyside whisky experience.