Elegant houses at Glenfiddich Distillery

SPEYSIDE Whisky Distillery Tours + Map: 16 to Visit and Why

If you’re heading to Scotland, you have to check out at least a few Speyside whisky distillery tours. With 50 distilleries in Speyside and 16 open to the public, there are plenty of options. Speyside has more whisky distilleries than ALL other areas of Scotland combined. This will help you decide which tours are best for you. 

Here’s an overview of what makes each Speyside whisky distillery special, plus 8 itinerary ideas. While I’m sure you have a few favorites in mind, these ideas might inspire a few more stops.

Interested in visiting other distilleries? Check out ISLAY Whisky Distillery Tours: A Guide to Visit All 9.

So what makes Speyside whisky so special? The River Sprey, of course! Apparently the River Sprey has the lowest level of dissolved minerals than any other in Scotland. Which, of course, makes it the purest, most magical water source for truly special whiskies! All of the world-famous Speyside distilleries share the magical River Sprey as its source, whether directly from the river or its tributaries or springs.

Speyside whiskies tend to be light and fruity. You can usually taste notes of apple, dried fruit, vanilla and nutmeg. But with 50 distilleries and multiple expressions, you’ll find plenty of variety to try.

If you’re the designated driver, most of these distilleries provide tasting kits for drivers to enjoy later or won’t charge for your tour.

Guide to Speyside Whisky Distillery Tours

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CONTENTS:

MAP: Speyside Whisky Distilleries Open to the Public

Let’s start with a map of where Speyside Scotland is and where you can find its world-famous scotch whisky distilleries. Included in the map are the 16 Speyside whisky distilleries open to the public.

To use the map below: Use the buttons at the top to OVERVIEW of Speyside Whisky Distillery Tours map details, to share it (i.e. with yourself to modify it for your own trip) or view a larger version.

OVERVIEW of Speyside Whisky Distillery Tours

Speyside whisky distillery tours, Copper stills of Strathisla Distillery

Copper stills of historic Strathisla

Of the 50 scotch whisky distilleries in Speyside, 16 are open to the public. At minimum, each distillery open to the public has a gift shop, tasting bar and basic tour. 

Here is an overview of what makes each Speyside whisky distillery special, as well as its unique tours (listed alphabetically):

1. Aberlour Distillery (High St, Aberlour; 1879)

Aberlour means “mouth of the chattering burn” and its whiskies are sourced from natural springs near the Rivers Spey and Lour. The distillery was founded by a local farmer, who used some of its profits to build the town hall and cottage hospital. 

Known for their rich velvety notes, Aberlour whiskies are characterized by cinnamon, nutmeg, milk chocolate, butter and dried fruit. Aberlour Distillery is considered as having the best in-depth tastings in its luxurious Fleming Rooms, which includes whiskies that are currently unavailable. There are two new tours for 2020: Art of Double Cask Maturation and Speyside Collection Tasting. 

2. Ballindalloch Distillery (Lagmore, Ballindalloch; 2014)

Ballindalloch Distillery is on the Ballindalloch Estate, home to Ballindalloch Castle, gardens and a championship golf course. The family’s history of distilling dates back to the 1820s.

Part of the charm of Ballindalloch Distillery is that it uses its own farm-grown barley. Ballindalloch Distillery offers an all-day, hands-on learning experience with a maximum of two people.

3. Balvenie Distillery (Dufftown; 1892)

Balvenie means “Beathan’s Farm” and its whiskies are sourced from Robbie Dubh spring. This is the only distillery in Scotland that grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings, AND employs both a coppersmith and team of coopers. At the 2006 International Spirits Challenge, Balvenie Distillery won six gold medals – the biggest gold medal loot for any brand in any one year since the competition began.

Known for rich, smooth and honeyed whiskies, Balvenie whiskies have notes of toffee, hazelnut, nutmeg and sultana. Visitors praise Balvenie’s excellent intimate tours.

4. BenRiach Distillery (near Elgin; 1898)

BenRiach means “speckled mountain” and its whiskies are sourced from the Burnside springs deep below the distillery. In 2004, BenRiach Distillery became independently owned. The new owners turned this near-forgotten distillery into an innovative distillery with exciting malts. It’s one of two Speyside distilleries to use malted barley from its own onsite floor maltings. 

BenRiach Distillery distills three malt whisky styles: unpeated, peated and triple distilled. The distillery is closed to the public from November to March.

5. Benromach Distillery (Invererne Rd, Forres; 1898)

Benromach means “shaggy mountain” of Romach Hill and its whiskies are sourced from Chapelton Springs. This distillery is Speyside’s smallest and one of very few independents. It was purchased in 1993 by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail. 

Benromach Distillery has the world’s first fully certified-organic single malt. It’s also one of few Speyside distilleries to produce peated expressions. And in 2014, Benromach Distillery won the World Whisky Awards’ Best Speyside Single Malt for 12 years and under. 

Benromach whiskies are characterized by toffee, grass, vanilla and hay. Its tours include the reputed best peated whisky tour in Speyside and an exclusive manager’s tour. 

6. Cardhu Distillery (Knockando, Aberlour; 1811)

Cardhu means “black rock.” This is a small but famous distillery, with a history of illicit distilling before getting licensed in 1824. Cardhu Distillery was founded and run by a whisky smuggler’s wife, and is famous for being the base whisky of Johnnie Walker blends. It’s most loved in France, which accounts for 75% of its sales.

Cardhu Distillery produces soft and sweet whiskies, with notes of apple, honey and toffee. It’s considered as having the best cocktail tour. (Note: Regular maintenance is in October/November, with limited tours.)

7. Cragganmore Distillery (Ballindalloch; 1869)

Cragganmore means “great rock” (its building stones came from the local “Craggan Mor” hill) and its whiskies are sourced from Salmon River. This distillery has won many awards and uses unusual stills that are relatively short and flat on top. 

Cragganmore whisky’s complex style carries notes of fruit cake, apple and toffee. The distillery is praised for the Taste of Speyside comparison tour. Another great tour is its single malts paired with local food samples.

8. Dalwhinnie Distillery (Dalwhinnie; 1897)

Dalwhinnie means “plain of meeting,” which refers to its location between two mountains where ancient cattle drovers’ routes intersect. Its whiskies are sourced from the Allt-an-t’sluic spring. This spring feeds the River Spey and is the highest water source of any distillery. 

Dalwhinnie Distillery is nestled in the remote, deep southeast corner of Speyside in the Grampian Mountains. It was literally the highest distillery in Scotland between 2002 and 2008, until Braeval Distillery reopened in the mountains above Glenlivet. Despite its remote location, Dalwhinnie still sees 25,000 visitors per year. 

Dalwhinnie whiskies have delicate notes of peat with honey, nutmeg, dried fruit and sweet malt. Distillery tours treat you to tastings that are paired with handmade chocolates.

9. Glen Grant Distillery (Rothes; 1840)

This is the only distillery named after its founding owners, and it’s sourced from the Glen Grant spring. Glen Grant Distillery produces the best-selling single malt whisky in Italy, and is one of a few Speyside whisky distilleries that ages more than 50 years in sherry casks. It’s one of the first licensed distilleries, the first to bottle its own whiskies, and the first powered by electricity. 

Glen Grant Distillery is surrounded by an elegant Victorian garden, which gives visitors something a little different to enjoy on their distillery tour. There’s also an onsite cafe and a little cave to explore. 

10. Glen Moray Distillery (Bruceland Rd, Elgin; 1897)

Glen Moray means “Glen Sea settlement” and its whiskies are sourced from the River Lossie. Located in a hollow below the water table, Glen Moray Distillery has an ideal maturation environment. It was initially opened as a brewery in 1831, and transitioned to whisky in 1897. Glen Moray Distillery has only been managed by five people in its lifetime.

Known for rich and spicy whiskies, Glen Moray whisky carries notes of butterscotch, grass, hay and cinnamon. Glen Moray Distillery is considered as having the best value tasting with its knowledgeable craftsmen. Another great option is the in-depth insight tour with the manager.

11. GlenAllachie Distillery (Glenallachie, Aberlour; 1967)

GlenAllachie means “valley of the rocks” and its whiskies are sourced in the Ben Rinnes mountains. Acquired from the Chivas Brothers in 2017, GlenAllachie Distillery is now an independent and 100% Scottish owned and managed.

Recent releases of single malts and creative blends have excited Scotch enthusiasts. At the 2019 Scottish Whisky Awards, GlenAllachie Distillery won six awards, including five in blind tastings and the Scottish Whisky Distillery of the Year. All of its whiskies are natural color and unchillfiltered.

As of May 2019, GlenAllachie Distillery is open to the public! The distillery offers both a 1-hour basic and 2-hour connoisseur tour. Visitors rave about their experiences … including those who’ve done a lot of distillery tours.

12. Glenfarclas Distillery (Ballindalloch; 1836)

Glenfarclas means “valley of the green grassland” and its whiskies are sourced from springs on the heather-covered Ben Rinnes. It’s an independent distillery, owned and managed by one family since 1865. Glenfarclas Distillery has won many awards, including Distiller of the Year 2006 by Whisky Magazine.

Known for its traditional full-bodied and well-sherried style, Glenfarclas whisky notes include Christmas cake, nutmeg, tobacco, clove, matchbox (odd, right?) and raisins. They’re only released with its natural colour. Glenfarclas Distillery is praised for having the best independently owned distillery tour. Another great option is its five-decade tasting, with samples from the 1960s to 2000s.

13. Glenfiddich Distillery (Dufftown; 1887)

Glenfiddich means “valley of the deer” where its founder grew up, and its whiskies are sourced from The Robbie Dhu springs. This is Scotland’s best-selling single malts AND it’s an independent distillery, with five generations of family ownership. Its first distillate ran Christmas Day 1887 and continued to produce scotch whisky during prohibition. 

Glenfiddich is the only Highland single malt that’s distilled, matured and bottled at its own distillery, with only one source of spring water used throughout the process. Its whiskies carry notes of pear, sultana and apple alongside grass and hay.

Glenfiddich Distillery is known for having the best experimental tour, called the Spirit of Innovation Tour. You can also spend half a day on its in-depth Pioneers Tour, where you bottle your own whisky straight from the cask. (We took an in-depth tour at Glenfiddich Distillery and really enjoyed it.) 

14. Glenlivet Distillery (Ballindalloch; 1822)

Glenlivet means “valley of the smooth flowing one” and its whiskies are sourced from nearby springs, including Josie’s Well. Famously requested by King George IV on a state visit in 1822, Glenlivet Distillery was the first to be licensed. It’s operated almost continuously ever since and is the top selling whisky in the United States.

Glenlivet malts carry notes of biscuits, toffee, mango and oak. Its distillery has one of the most modern visitor centers, with a cafe, small but sophisticated museum and self-guided smuggler’s hiking trails. Visitors praise Glenlivet’s in-depth tastings, including the legacy experience with aged and rare whiskies. 

15. Macallan Distillery (Easter Elchies, Craigellachie; 1824)

Macallan likely means “fertile ground of St. Fillan,” an Irish monk who travelled widely in Scotland. Its whiskies are sourced from Ringorm spring. Macallan is a popular whisky, closely following Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, and has built a reputation for quality. Its rare expressions can cost thousands of pounds. 

The Macallan Distillery’s stills are the smallest in Speyside, with a unique size and shape that maximizes the spirit’s contact with the copper. This concentrates the rich, fruity, full-bodied flavours. Notes include nutmeg, dried fruit and fruit cake. 

Visit Macallan Distillery’s beautiful new visitor center that opened in 2018, complete with a spacious bar overlooking the surrounding hills. Its restaurant sources ingredients locally and sustainably. Macallan Distillery is known for having the best modern tour.

16. Strathisla Distillery (Seafield Ave, Keith; 1786): 

Strathisla means “the valley of the River Isla” and is the base whisky for Chivas Regal. Originally named “Milltown,” Strathisla Distillery is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the Highlands (including 37 years before it was legalized in 1823). It’s home to both the Strathisla single-malt and the famous Chivas Regal premium blended whiskies. 

Strathisla Distillery is quite a lovely historic distillery, with lush wooded surroundings, a cobblestone courtyard and sophisticated tasting room. We were fortunate to befriend an employee who treated us to a behind-the-scenes tour of their extensive historical collection (SO cool!). Try Strathisla Distillery’s mixing tour, where you get a chance to mix and keep your own blend.

8 ITINERARY IDEAS for Speyside Whisky Distillery Tours

Speyside whisky distillery tours, Glenlivet Distillery visitor center

Glenlivet’s sophisticated visitor center

Together, these three distilleries make up A THIRD of the entire single-malt market:

  1. Glenfiddich Distillery 
  2. Glenlivet Distillery 
  3. Macallan Distillery 

All of these popular Speyside whisky distilleries have a pleasant visitor center, cafe and variety of tours. Macallan Distillery has the newest visitor center, with a full restaurant and bar with a view. Interestingly, Glenfiddich Distillery is the most humble and intimate visitor experience of the three.

TOP 3 OLDEST Speyside Whisky Distilleries You Can Visit

  1. Strathisla Distillery (1786): The oldest continuously operating whisky distillery in the Highlands, including 37 years before it was legalized in 1823.
  2. Cardhu Distillery (1811): A history of illicit distilling before being licensed in 1824, founded and run by the wife of a reformed whisky smuggler.
  3. Glenlivet Distillery (1822): The Glenlivet was famously requested by King George IV on a state visit in 1822. It was the first licensed distillery after the Excise Tax in 1823 and has operated almost continuously ever since.

TOP 3 MOST UNIQUE Speyside Whisky Distillery Tours 

  1. Ballindalloch Distillery’s The Art of Whisky Making (8am-4pm; £175): An all-day, hands-on experience. As one of very few distilleries with a fully-manual process, you’ll learn the traditional methods and attitudes of the craft. Includes lunch. Maximum two people per day. 
  2. Strathisla Distillery’s The Chivas Blending Experience (2.25hrs; £60): This experience combines a tour of this historic and legendary distillery with a tasting and mixing lesson. Mix and keep your own special blend. Offered daily.
  3. Aberlour Distillery’s The Speyside Collection Tasting (1hr; £40): Known for its in-depth tasting tours in luxuriously appointed rooms, this tasting features whiskies from Aberlour and its sister distilleries. Emphasis is on the rare and exclusive, with single cask editions, cask strength and pleasant surprises. Maximum 8 people. Saturdays at 1pm or by appointment.

5 INDEPENDENT Speyside Whisky Distilleries You Can Visit

  1. BenRiach Distillery: A small independently owned distillery, known for being experimental and innovative.
  2. Benromach Distillery: A small and experimental distillery with peated expressions, owned by a family with Benromach roots.
  3. GlenAllachie Distillery: Purchased in 2017 by three locals and opened to the public in 2019. Named Scottish Whisky Distillery of the Year 2019.
  4. Glenfarclas Distillery: Owned and managed by one family since 1865. Known for having the best independently owned distillery tour.
  5. Glenfiddich Distillery: The best selling single malt in the world and independently owned, with five generations of family ownership. 

VISIT BY TASTE: Speyside Whiskies with Distinct Styles

Speyside whisky distillery tours, scotch from Glenfiddich Distillery tour

Beautiful drams of Glenfiddich awaiting me!

If you prefer a certain style of Speyside whiskies, you might want to visit the distilleries with the best examples of that style: 

  • Light and Floral (ripe green apples and pears with floral aromas and a bit of sweetness): Glenlivet Distillery and Glenfiddich Distillery’s 12-year-old.
  • Fruity and Spicy (softer, overripe and baked fruit, with wood spice, vanilla and heavier honey-like sweetness): Cardhu Distillery and Cragganmore Distillery.
  • Rich and Rounded (dried fruits and nuts, typically with pronounced sherry notes): Abelour Distillery, Balvenie Distillery, BenRiach Distillery’s Pedro Ximenex, Glenfiddich Distillery and Macallan Distillery.
  • Full Bodied and Smoky (drier, earthy, more floral peat compared to Islay’s whiskies): BenRiach Distillery’s Curiositas and Benromach Distillery.

(Credit for these profiles: thewhiskeywash.com)

VISIT BY LOCATION: Speyside Whisky Distilleries in the North, Center & South 

A simple way to narrow down which Speyside whisky distillery tours you take is by convenience. Here are the general locations of Speyside whisky distilleries:

  • North (near Elgin): Benromach Distillery, BenRiach Distillery and Glen Moray Distillery.
  • Center (Rothes to Aberlour): Glen Grant Distillery, Macallan Distilleryand Aberlour Distillery.
  • Center-East (Dufftown): Balvenie Distillery and Glenfiddich Distillery.
  • Center-West (Archiestown to Glenlivet): Cardhu Distillery, Glenfarclas Distillery, Ballindalloch Distillery, Cragganmore Distillery and Glenlivet Distillery.
  • Deep Southwest: Dalwhinnie Distillery.

Here’s a link to jump back up to the map of Speyside whisky distilleries.

VISIT MALT WHISKY TRAIL SITES: 7 World-Famous Speyside Whisky Distilleries

The partnership between these seven world-famous Speyside whisky distilleries is known as the Malt Whisky Trail. You can use this as a guide to plan your own Speyside whisky distillery tours:

  • Day 1: Glenlivet Distillery and Cardhu Distillery.
  • Day 2: Glenfiddich Distillery, Glen Grant Distillery and Strathisla Distillery.
  • Day 3: Glen Moray Distillery and Benromach Distillery.

The Malt Whisky Trail also includes the Speyside Cooperage (Dufftown Road, Craigellachie; 1947) and historic Dallas Dhu Distillery (Mannachie Rd, Forres; 1899-1983). Dallas Dhu Distillery is reflects distilleries built around 1900.

VISIT DURING SPEYSIDE WHISKY FESTIVAL: 16 MORE Distilleries Open Up

If you can plan your trip to Scotland around the annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, do! ONLY during this week-long festival will you get the chance to take in these Speyside whisky distillery tours:

  • Aultmore Distillery (Keith)
  • Craigellachie Distillery (Aberlour)
  • Dailuaine Distillery (Aberlour)
  • Dalmunach Distillery (Aberlour)
  • Glenlossie Distillery (Elgin)
  • Glenburgie Distillery (Forres)
  • Inchgower Distillery (Buckie, northeast of Elgin)
  • Linkwood Distillery (Elgin)
  • Miltonduff Distillery (Miltonduff, near Elgin)
  • Mortlach Distillery (Dufftown)
  • Roseisle Distillery (Roseisle, near Elgin; the largest in Speyside)
  • Speyside Distillery (Kingussie, near Dalwhinnie)
  • Tamdhu Distillery (Aberlour)
  • Tamnavulin Distillery (Ballindalloch)
  • Tomintoul Distillery (Ballindalloch)
  • Tormore Distillery (near Ballindalloch)

In 2020, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival runs from Wednesday, April 29 to Monday, May 4.

Summary and Resources

So, of all these Speyside whisky distillery tours, which are most intriguing to you? With 16 distilleries open to the public, you have lots of fantastic options. I hope you found a few that weren’t already on your list.

Here are some helpful resources when planning your Speyside whisky distillery tours and visit to Speyside Scotland:

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