Scotch Whisky Distilleries



Or in North East Scotland 

Strathisla Distillery near Keith



No visit to Scotland would be complete without the taste of a whisky or a visit to a whisky distillery. The North - East of Scotland is the base for many of the finest distilleries in Scotland. Indeed just north of Braemar the Spey Valley is the home of the Scotch Whisky trail where some of the greatest Scotch Whiskies are produced, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, The Macallan, Chivas Regal to name just a few. Many are open to the public providing tours and the opportunity to taste the product. Though some distilleries are large modern complexes many are small and reflect the traditional nature of Scotch Whisky making. Indeed the Dallas Dhu distillery at Forres is one of the visitor attractions offered by Historic Scotland.

But the great thing about visiting the distilleries is that they provide an excuse for a leisurely drive through beautiful highland scenery. Thus the drive between Crieff and Montrose passing through Braemar, though not part of the 'Whisky Trail', combines exceptional countryside with some special distilleries.


Whisky Production

Scotch Whisky is (predominantly) produced by converting barley grain into alcohol. There are four main stages in the process : malting, fermentation, distillation and maturation. Few distilleries perform all these stages and malting in particular is usually performed elsewhere. In the malting process the barley grains are allowed to germinate which causes the production of special sugars. The grain are then crushed and the malt extract or ' wort ' passes through to the fermentation stage. In this stage yeast is added and the resulting liquid or ' wash' contains about 10% alcohol. The wash is then distilled to produce more concentrated alcohol and to remove by-products. The whisky is then stored for several years (typically 10) in oak casks which, in many cases, have previously been used for transporting sherry. Occasionally also caramelised sugar is added. During the storage the oak casks allow the whisky to 'breath' and it steadily adopts subtle flavours from the cask as well as the desired colouring. Subsequently the whisky is diluted to the desired strength.

The barley, water (and peat extracts), casks and production vary between distilleries so each distillery produces its own special malt whisky. An expert whisky taster can tell from which distillery a malt whisky comes. Even the novice can identify some malts from the Isle of Islay by their distinctive smoky taste. But there are differences between malts produced by the same distillery. Casks that are found to have 'something special' are often stored for longer periods and bottled as specials. Such whiskies may cost many times more than the standard malt.


Malt Whisky or Blended Whisky?

Malt Whiskies can be regarded as the equivalent of chateau bottled wine. But the cheaper, and therefore the most widely drunk, form of whisky is the blend. The basis of most blends is the cheaper 'grain whisky'. To this base numerous malt whiskies are added to give a whisky that has a subtle taste and aroma. But this taste must also be distinctive so that, like a malt, a blend has its own special qualities The cost of a blend is highly dependent on the quality of its constituents. Some expensive blends contain only malt whisky being a blend of the products of several distilleries. However, most distilleries will also bottle and their own unblended product as a 'single' malt.

Whisky or Whiskey?

The spelling whisky is associated with Scotland, the more common spelling 'whiskey' holds elsewhere. Scotch Whisky has no 'e' in its name. Whiskey from any other country has an 'e'.


 The Malt Whisky Trail

The famous Malt Whisky Trail is a trail that links several famous distilleries in the Spey River valley. The distilleries are Strathisla (Chivas Regal), Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, The Glenlivet, Cardhu, Glen Grant, Dallas Dhu and Benromach. To this the traveller may add the Speyside Cooperage at Craigellachie and Baxters Food factory at Fochabers.




From Crieff to Montrose..,

Glas Maol at the head of Glenshee. The three counties through which this route passes (Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and Angus) meet at the summit



From Crieff to Montrose

(Via the Perthshire Tourist Route and Royal Deeside Tourist Route)

Close the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park the town of Crieff lies on the Perthshire Tourist Route. Close by lies the oldest distillery in Scotland, Glenturret. Driving north to Killin and then east along beautiful Loch Tay brings one to Aberfeldy. A few miles north, on the southern age of the delightful Highland town of Pitlochry, is the Blair Atholl distillery. Pitlochry makes a grand stopping place before the short drive north to Blair Atholl and the fine Blair Castle. Returning to Pitlochry and heading east to Kirkmichael the road passes close to Edradour, Scotland's smallest distillery. Beyond Kirkmichael the A93 leads north through Glenshee and on to Braemar and Royal Deeside. Eight miles east of Braemar alongside the River Dee lies the royal castle of Balmoral, still a residence for the Royal Family. Adjacent to the estate is the fascinating small distillery of Royal Lochnagar, named after the grand mountain towering above both the castle and distillery. (More information on Braemar and Royal Deeside is given on other pages in this web-site.) At the eastern end of Royal Deeside a small road leads southwards through the hills past the stunning Cairn O' Mount view-point to Fettercairn. Continuing through to the coast at Montrose, an area long associated with smuggling, one finds the Hillside distillery.



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  Pages on Braemar : Nearby Attractions

Braemar Attractions

Sights near Braemar

Castles near Braemar

A malt whisky trail

Church of St Margaret

Morrone Birkwood


Pages constructed by Mike Franklin, Braemar, 27th January2002

Web : Callater Lodge Hotel


Photographs by Sandra Geddes, Mike Franklin, Steve Heyes and others.