If walking is your pastime and the taste of Whisky your love, then this walk is going to get your mouth watering with excitement. The world renowned Speyside Whisky Trail, which goes through the heart of Scotland’s whisky country, is a must for the connoisseur. The walk which takes on average 6-7 days passes 6 working distilleries plus the local Speyside cooperage, where you can witness the barrels being made on a guided tour, this is an ancient technique still used today using different woods for different types of alcohol beverages.
Benromach is probably the smallest active working distillery in the Speyside area, built in the late 20 century near the village of Forres, the distillery is probably one of the more less known but the Whisky is matured in selected casks which give this a taste of excellence, so well worth taking a time from your walk for a visit.
Glenfiddich comes from the water source which makes this Whisky, the biggest selling malt Whisky in the world, the River Fiddich. This rather delicate but small distillery was founded near the end of the 20 century and is still run by the same family which started the distillery over 140 years ago. The company also bottle their own Whisky which is very rare in the whisky making business these days.
Cardhu have not been long in making single malt Whisky’s as they have been concentrating on blended Whisky until recently where they have just brought out a 1998 rare malt edition.
Glenlivet is based near the river Spey and takes its spring source from the River Livet, hence the Whisky’s name. The Livet River is perfect for whisky making as the cold mountain stream water flows into the river Spey and is ideal for the distilling process. The Glen Livet is loved around the world and is thought upon as being a special Whisky full of history.
Glen Grant is one exception the Speyside Whisky family, the colour, this comes from the different process the Grant family use to make their golden drink, make no qualms this Whisky is one of a kind and tastes exquisite, definatley worth a visit to this distillery where you will not be disappointed.
Strathisla malt Whisky is the oldest distillery in the Speyside area, where the taste of the whisky is rather dry and oaky, coming from the selected oak casks that they use.
If you are going to walk the Speyside walk and take in the countryside which is surrounding, you have to take time out and visit all of the distilleries that are open on this route. Even an amateur dabbler will find out that all Whisky’s have something different about them, coming from the process to how the Whisky is stored in casks. This is a great walk and a must for all the family.
The next part of the Malt Whisky trail takes us to Aberlour, home of the Glen grant malt whisky. This Whisky was founded in 1840 by two grant brothers and the descendants of the family still have a strong bond in the making and standards of the Glen Grant Whisky.
The distillery is well visited and the visitors centre is frequented by 10.000 connoisseurs per year wanting to feel and smell this gorgeous tasting whisky. If you prefer for a private tour then this can also be accommodated by the friendly distillery staff. One thing that you may not forget about your experience here at Aberlour is the walk through their restored garden, brought back to its original glory; the Victorian garden is definatley worth a visit to round off a great visit to a great distillery.
Onwards and upwards towards Banffshire, the home of the Glenlivet Malt Whisky. Although based in Speyside the water is taken from the River Livet in a beautiful glen in the middle of Scotland’s whisky making heart. The Glenlivet has many stories to tell about smugglers hidden in the depths of the Highlands or the visit from King George the IV, who requested especially a illegal dram from the Glen Livet distillery.
There are also signposted paths around the grounds which give you self guided walks in the footsteps of the smugglers, follow their route and get a feel of how they felt smuggling the Whisky out of the grounds and into the outside World. There is a pamphlet about the routes which can be picked up at the visitors centre. The paths range from 6-11 km and are really worth taking part in.
There are a few different tours that can be booked at the visitors centre, and there is something for everyone, if you are just looking for a quick insight into how the whisky is made etc… There is a free tour which lasts for about 45 minutes leaving the distillery every 20 minutes, an excellent choice for the walking visitor.
Benromach, Cardhu and Glenfiddich Distilleries.
If you have ever thought about an interesting walk to do through the heart of Scotland’s Whisky world then the original Scottish Whisky Trail through Speyside is definatley the one for you. With 7 malt whisky distilleries on route, this is one that a whisky lover cannot afford to miss. Each of the distilleries have their own traditions which have been followed over centuries which gives every malt whisky a unique taste, something that is unprecedented anywhere else in the World. To have more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky’s in such a small area is down to the fresh and flowing water of the River Spey, the main artery which flows from north to south feeding each distillery on its way.
Depending on when you visit there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with the “water of life” , best is visiting during weekends in May and September as there are an abundance of Whisky festivals in most villages along the route, there is also Whisky tasting or ceilidhs plus other well represented parties in pubs along the way to give you a real insight into how important Whisky is to the local community.
I have highlighted 3 distilleries that I feel have something special to say about the Malt Whisky makings in Scotland.
To start off with Benromach Distillery, which is situated on the outskirts of Forres, was nearly lost over the last century but has emerged into a single malt whisky which has a specific taste which you shall for ever remember from this totally hand made malt whisky. Whilst visiting the distillery you can view the time served distillers create a wonderful Whisky that your taste buds shall never forget. The distillery has a nice welcoming visitors centre with Whisky tasting possibilities, the guided tours are done by the distillery manager himself, which includes tasting and viewing the museum where you can also hand fill your own bottle of Benromach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Next along the walk is the Cardhu Distillery which was born in the early 19 century by John Cumming who was then arrested on 3 different occasions for distilling whisky without permission from the English government, as the story goes his wife Helen carried on the practice of distilling whilst John was paying the whisky penalty. The whisky stayed in the family for nearly 100 years where it was then sold onto J Walker and sons from Kilmarnock who still run the distilling business today.
They welcome you today for a guided tour finishing with a dram of 12 year old Cardhu malt Whisky, entrance is £5 and lasts for approx 45 mins.
Glenfiddich Malt whisky is probably the best known Whisky maker from the Spey valley, now nearly over 130 years in the making and still in the hands of the same family they still produce an exceptional Malt Whisky that is loved across all the continents of the World. They still use the same water source which is supplied from the Robbie Dhu springs. They have different tours for set up, from the interested visitor which lasts approx 1 hour to the Whisky connoisseur’s half day Pioneer’s tour, where you can bottle your own malt, an excellent choice.
As you can gather the Speyside Whisky’s have rightful ownership to probably the best tasting Whisky’s in the world, probably the crystal clear water of the Spey and surrounding springs plus a generation of distilling skills make this area a must for the Whisky lover.