As a drinks lover, you’ve probably considered making a trip to Scotland to discover the secrets of Scotch Whisky production, or just to see the land where this venerable drink comes from. There are dozens of Scotch Whisky distilleries you can visit throughout Scotland.
Visiting a few distilleries in Scotland doesn’t have to involve a lot of driving, if you weren’t bargaining on taking an extended road trip. In fact, you can find a number of great distilleries near Edinburgh, within an hour’s drive.
The designation of these distilleries is Lowlands. Lowlands whiskies are known to be slightly sweet and malty, mellower than their Highland counterparts, and not peaty like their Islay. They are easy to drink and smooth, making them a perfect starting point for people who aren’t necessarily whisky drinkers, but want to learn a bit about it.
One other unique fact you should know about Lowlands whisky is that there really aren’t many distilleries left in the lowlands. In fact, many of the ones that you can visit today are newly opened (since 2015). These distilleries are trying to re-establish the lowlands as a top whisky-producing area. They’re putting their heart and soul into their whisky, and you can see that when you tour their facilities.
So, let’s get down to it. Here are four Scotch Whisky experiences you can find within an hours’ drive of Edinburgh.
RELATED: If you’re going to Ireland as well, check out these top whiskey distillery tours in Dublin.
Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience
One of the top destinations in Scotland for visitors is Edinburgh. It’s a fascinating, historical city that captures the hearts and minds of visitors from the second they hit the cobblestone streets in the Old Town. That’s what makes the Scotch Whisky Experience so convenient and relevant for tourists. If you’re wanting to learn more about the process of making whisky, you’ll surely find a visit here interesting and educational, if a little silly. After all, you do ride a little cart through an interactive learning display on your way to the tasting room.
The experience ends with a taste of Scotch from one of the areas of your choosing. You will be led through a demonstration of the flavors and smells you can expect from each producing region in Scotland, then you choose your Whisky. I personally really like the Lowlands whisky. After the tasting, you can check out the huge museum/library of whisky from around the world, or have an additional tasting at the bar.
The founder of Kingsbarns Distillery had a dream to open a distillery as he was caddying at the Kingsbarns Golf Club nearby. He was often asked by golfers where they could go whisky tasting in the area, and since there really weren’t any nearby distilleries, he felt it might be time to open one. He partnered with the Wemyss family from the area, who were already producing whisky.
The visitors center and distillery, located just 6 miles south of St. Andrews, were built on a historic farmstead that has been converted and built up into a state of the art facility where tours and tastings take place, and whisky is currently being produced and aged. They opened in 2015, so their first production is currently maturing and readying itself for a 2018 bottling. In the meantime, you can taste the Wemyss family whisky that is being sold on site.
There is also a gin distillery located on the property. Darnley’s Distillery opened in summer 2017. A cottage located behind the Kingsbarns whisky distillery is the new home to the gin still house.
Tours of Kingsbarns are available 7 days a week. The hours vary from 10am to 4pm in the winter and 5pm in the spring and fall and 7pm in the summer. Check their website for more details or to schedule your tour and tasting.
Eden Mill Distillery
There are all kinds of things going on at Eden Mill Distillery. Is it a brewery? Or a distillery? Do they make gin or whisky? The answer is all of the above. They are Scotland’s first single-site brewery and distillery, and they’re currently making beer, gin and whisky.
If you go on a tour at Eden Mill, you’ll be given the option to see the production of your choice. We visited for a gin tour and tasting, and were able to see the distillery, production rooms, and the tasting room. The tour started with a fantastic gin cocktail and a video, and ended with a tasting of three of their gins. In case you’re wondering, three is hardly the entire lineup.
Read more about the independent gin makers, like Eden Mill, that you can find in central Scotland these days.
The whisky Eden Mill makes has not yet been bottled. As you know, it takes at least 3 years to make a whisky that can be bottled and sold. Their first batch was put into the cask in 2015, and will be ready in a blink of an eye – if you want to try their whisky, check in with them before you arrive to see if they’ve got it bottled yet.
They have a classic range of beers, including a porter and stout, a red ale, blonde ale, golden ale, and even a whisky barrel aged beer. You can pick some up at the distillery to take home and try.
Visit their website for hours and tours. As I mentioned, they offer three different tours, so you’ll either have to decide which you want to do, or stick around all day and do them all. No, that’s silly! If you have a designated driver along, they’ll even package up the samples for them to enjoy at home.
Dewar’s World of Whisky
I’m cheating a little here, because Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery is actually located in the Highlands and it’s just a smidge further than an hour from Edinburgh. But there’s no need to be exact when you’re whisky tasting!
The distillery is a fun place to visit. They have a great interactive museum, where you can walk around learning about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Scotch Whisky on an iPad. There’s even a smell wheel where you can test your knowledge of the aromas associated with whisky.
Take a look at the distillery visit in our quick video:
Aberfeldy produces a single-malt whisky that has been around since 1898, when the founder, John Dewar, opened the distillery in his hometown. Dewar’s distillery also makes blended whisky. You can try them on a tour and tasting of the facility. There are several options for tour types, including a regular tour, a connoisseurs tour, a cask tasting tour and blender’s tour. Which ever you choose also includes some time in the interactive museum and a tasting.
The distillery also has a small cafe and bar, so you can stay as long as you like. To learn about the different tour types and book your tickets, visit their website.
As you can see, there are now quite a few Scotch Whisky distilleries near Edinburgh that you can visit, so be sure to add them to your itinerary. Not only will you learn a lot about whisky, but get to try some too.
What are your favorite Scotch Whisky distillers?
If you drink whiskey at home, we highly recommend these whiskey decanter sets, so you can serve it in style!
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