From Edinburgh to Loch Ness, Scotland’s tourist havens attract over 3.2 million overseas visitors a year, as well as over 11.5 million British residents.
People flock from far and wide to sample the nation’s unique history and lifestyle, and there’s never been a better time for tourists to immerse themselves in Scotland’s storied drinking culture.
Whisky tourism is booming, with the most recent records from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) illustrating an 11.4% increase in Scottish distillery visits between 2017 and 2018. There are six main Scottish whisky regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Island, Islay, Lowland, and Speyside. And with over 120 active distilleries across the country, you’re spoilt for choice in terms of things to see. Read on to find out why it’s time to embark on a Scotch whisky tour.
Why 2019 is the Time for a Whisky Tour
Major players in the Scotch industry have contributed significant funds to the sector. For example, Diageo pledged a £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism in April 2018, which will cover creation of a Johnnie Walker visitor centre in Edinburgh, as well as the operation of a number of major Scotch distilleries.
According to the SWA, the value of whisky tourism has also encouraged Scottish distilleries to improve their visitors’ experiences. These updates include increased interactivity, extended opening hours, upgrades to infrastructure, and enhancing tour guide knowledge.
If you’re visiting Scotland from outside the UK, it’s also never been cheaper. The pound sterling has been consistently weak as a result of Brexit, which is why so many international visitors are touring Scotland’s distilleries. The highest number of visitors are flying in from Germany and the USA, followed by India, China, and Japan. The favourable exchange rate is also encouraging whisky tourists to spend more, with the average daily spend per person rising by £11 since 2010.
The Best Whisky Distilleries in Scotland
Talisker is the oldest working distillery on the glorious Isle of Skye, and the only one of its kind currently open to the public. Visitors will catch a glimpse of the five copper pot stills and traditional worm tubs that make the drink so unique, and sample the award-winning Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky at the bar. According to wine and spirits merchants Justerini & Brooks, this whisky is “big and punchy with plenty character.” In addition to the conventional distillery tour, other options include chocolate tastings, or the chance to take home a complimentary nosing glass as the perfect memento.
The most famous of the Islay whiskies—and also Prince Charles’s tipple of choice—Laphroaig is a particularly special distillery to visit. Unlike the majority of Scotch distilleries, Laphroaig has retained its own floor maltings—especially unusual given its substantial size—and you can catch a glimpse of the process during the tour. Visitors are also able to join the Friends of Laphroaig community. This gives you the chance to become a ‘whisky landlord’ and receive an honorary plot in the Laphroaig peat fields. The best bit? You’ll receive a dram of Laphroaig upon your next visit as ‘rent’ for your land.
Only 15 miles away from the Scottish capital, this Lowland distillery is home of ‘The Edinburgh Malt’. There are a number of different tours available, covering everything from wildlife to the flavours of Scotland, and a trip to Glenkinchie is also known for its friendly and personal touch. Your visit starts with a look around the museum and a complimentary dram of Glenkinchie 12-year-old single malt, before a tour of the distillery. This teaches you about every stage of producing single malt whisky, and you’ll also get a chance to see one of the largest copper pot stills in Scotland.
Whether you’re a whisky connoisseur, or have yet to sample your very first dram, a whisky tour across the spectacular Scottish landscape will no doubt please visitors of all levels and experience. With endless locations to explore, this will be a trip you’ll never forget.