Post Overview: Best Whisky Distilleries in Speyside, Scotland
Located in a prime location full of crystal-clear rivers and fertile soil, Speyside is the largest producing (and most famous) region in Scotland for whisky.
Don’t just take my word for it – Speyside is home to almost half of the whisky distilleries in Scotland, which is why it’s the most visited area for whisky lovers.
The dry and warm climate in this region creates the ideal conditions for growing barley, producing smooth, sweet, spicy and fruity whiskies. Overall, Speyside whiskies tend to be lighter and sweeter while producing elegant (and complex) finishes.
Worth Knowing: The Speyside region is located within the Scottish Highlands. As such, distilleries within that region can call themselves either Speyside OR Highland whisky, it’s completely up to the distiller.
Tips for visiting the whisky distilleries in Speyside
Don’t sign up for more than 2 tours per day
We made the mistake of signing up for 3 Speyside whisky tours in a single day (two days in a row) and found ourselves rushing around. So, word to the wise: don’t sign up for more than 2 whisky tours in Speyside to better enjoy the overall experience.
Plus, you know the drill — whisky sneaks up on you! Some of the best Speyside whisky tours offer cask-strength drams that’ll have you waddling out if you’re not careful. So don’t rush the experience.
Better yet, if you can swing it, I highly recommend signing up for the more interesting/expensive tours because you get a lot more out of the experience.
Rather than visiting 8-10 Speyside whisky distilleries, why not focus on the 2-3 that pique your interest the most and sign up for the expert tours? It’ll be an experience you won’t soon forget.
Book your Speyside whisky tours in advance
If you’re visiting Speyside for whisky tours, you should try to make reservations well in advance. Case in point, we heard great things about Balvenie and knew the tours sell out fast.
So we made reservations 4 months in advance (yes, 4 months!) and got the last time slot on the day we were planning to visit Speyside.
Restaurants in Speyside
To set you up for success while you tour the best whisky distilleries in Speyside, I thought it’d be handy to roundup of the great restaurants in the area.
- Dowan’s Hotel
- Highlander Inn
Best Whisky Distilleries Speyside
There’s no denying that Glenfiddich is one of the most popular whisky distilleries in Speyside. You can’t throw a stick without hitting one of these bottles at any bar around the world but it’d be foolish to accuse this beloved distillery of resting on their laurels, far from it.
If popularity alone was a determining factor, Glenfiddich would be considered some of the best whisky in Speyside. Die-hard enthusiasts love to turn up their noses at Glenfiddich, which is a pity because the drams are damn good.
Sign up for the distillery tour (1.5 hours, £20 per person) or the Glenfiddich Solera Deconstructed Tour (2.5 hours, £60 per person). If your interest in whisky is beyond “entry level” then I’d recommend the in-depth Solera Deconstructed Tour.
This Speyside whisky tour takes visitors into Warehouse 8 (home to the distillery’s unique Solera process) in the hopes of sharing what makes the 15 year old such a beloved dram world-wide.
From there, you’ll go to the Malt Master’s Blending Room to enjoy four cask-strength 15-year samples (mercy!). But the fun doesn’t stop there because you’ll also get a chance to blend your own small bottle of 15 year scotch using the various casks you sampled to take home.
This Speyside whisky tour is a boozy affair, so having a designated driver is non-negotiable.
Named after the rock face of an adjacent mountain, Cragganmore is some of the best known whisky in Speyside. Founded in 1869 by John Smith, the whisky offers a complex (yet delightful) aroma that seems to please many palates.
Cragganmore quick became known for crafting some of the best whisky in Speyside. Which comes as no surprise, considering Smith had managed many notable distilleries (Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfarclas and Wishaw) before starting his own.
Simplicity is the name of the game at Cragganmore. This Speyside whisky distillery offers one tour option (covering the distillery and 3 drams to taste). Giving visitors an opportunity to become well-acquainted with this classic scotch.
Touristy? Yes. Still worthwhile? Yes.
For those that love Scottish Whisky, Macallan distillery needs no introduction. Producing whisky since 1824, Macallan accounts for the the second-highest sales of single malt scotch of all the whisky distilleries in Scotland.
Macallan amassed a serious reputation with enthusiasts because of their commitment to maturing whisky exclusively in sherry casks. But as with most good things, it didn’t last forever. The distillery has since introduced the Fine Oak series which includes bourbon casks as well.
Fast forward to today and it seems Macallan has become a victim to its own success. With great sales came greater streamlining and production. Today, Macallan offers one of the most commercializing whisky tastings in Scotland. It’s nothing special, per se, but that doesn’t stop folks from visiting the new state of the art tasting room.
Macallan is a household name and you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to partake in a tasting while exploring Speyside. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful distilleries in Scotland and you probably won’t regret popping in. Plus, the central bar is definitely worth a gander.
#7. The Glenlivet
Founded in 1824, Glenlivet Distillery has been operating continuously for nearly 200 years (closing only during World War II). For American scotch enthusiasts, Gelnlivet is the biggest selling single malt whisky in the US of all the best Speyside whisky distilleries on this list.
Their range consists of 14 whiskies so the best way to get acquainted with the various tasting profiles is to sign up for a tour. Glenlivet offers 4 different whisky tastings in Speyside. You can either embark on a tour of the facility, or simply skip to the tasting part.
We opted for the Single Cask tastings and got to sample four exclusive drams (we enjoyed our time immensely). Since we’re now getting more interested in whisky, we plan to sign up for the Archives Tasting next time around to sample some of the rarest drams on offer.
Fun Fact: Barley seeds from Glenlivet Distillery traveled aboard the Space X Rocket in May 2021 to the International Space Station to test extreme conditions of outer space. These seeds will be distilled into a single malt in due time.
A beloved distillery serving some of the best whisky in Scotland, Benromach has been around since 1898. This family-owned Speyside distillery is intent on making traditional single malt whisky using first-fill casks almost exclusively.
Everything is done by hand, straying from machine use and keeping everything small scale. Even the casks are hand-filled, weighed by hand and stenciled –rather than calculated by computers.
The extra effort seems to make a difference. These Speyside whiskies have a characteristic smoky character that locals can’t seem to get enough of.
Sign up for the tour, considered one of the best whisky tastings in Speyside, to learn more about the production process from start to finish. The warehouse tour is run by friendly tour guides that offer unparalleled access to the mills, mash tun, washbacks and copper stills.
#5. Glen Grant
Dating back to 1840, the Glen Grant whisky distillery in Speyside produces top-notch single malt whisky. Thankfully, visitors are privy to trying these drams for themselves in the newly-renovated tasting room.
Glen Grant keeps their Speyside whisky tour experience as simple as possible by offering only one option. The Distillery Tour (£10 per person) lasts 40 minutes and includes a distillery tour capped with 2 drams. The biggest draw is getting access to the beautiful Victorian Garden, which you shouldn’t miss.
Excellence in every bottle. The Glen Grant range features a collection of highly awarded single malt Scotch whiskies and exclusive, limited edition offerings, each distilled on-site from barley to bottle.
Named after the river that runs adjacent to the distillery, Strathisla dates back to 1786 and is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Speyside.
In fact, it’s the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland, but it started life as a brewery before making whisky in 1786 (being one of the first Speyside whisky distilleries to go legal).
But fret not, these folks are not resting on dusty laurels — turns out they’re still making some of the best whisky in Speyside to this day.
Small stills are said to give this whisky its unique character, which is heavily used in blends (specifically Chivas Regal).
Strathisla isn’t easy to find, so those visiting Speyside for whisky have a unique opportunity to tour the distillery as see how the magic happens. Plus, the fact that it’s considered the prettiest whisky distillery in Speyside doesn’t hurt either.
When it comes to some of the most interesting whisky tours in Speyside, Aberlour can’t be missed. This popular Scotland whisky distillery has been producing scotch since 1879. Using local ingredients alongside soft water sourced from Ben Rinnes (the nearby mountain).
This whisky is matured for a minimum of 12 years in Oloroso sherry butts and American Oak barrels, which results in a rewarding and rich range of single malts. Being fans of these drams, we opted for the Single Casks Explored tour and weren’t disappointed.
The tour focuses on the art of maturation and offers drams from four casks. The pours were generous, the host entertaining and the whisky top-notch. Nor hard to see why so many folks consider this one of the best whisky tastings in Speyside.
While searching for the best whisky distilleries in Speyside, we were quite impressed with Glenfarclas. One of the few independently family-owned whisky distilleries in Scotland, Glengarclas is new to us, but it seems we’ve been living under a rock this whole time.
The distillery has been making some of the best whisky in Scotland for 150+ years and doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon.
Thankfully, this beloved distillery in Scotland is keen on providing tours that will inspire those new the world of whisky (welcome!) and avid enthusiasts alike.
These Speyside whisky tours have come across as intimate, sharing the distillery’s and family’s rich persona history. The core range includes 10, 15, 21, 25, 30 and 40 year single malts — each one full-bodied and heavily sherried.
The tasting room is equally impressive, built with wood paneling salvaged from a sunken ship found off the nearby coast.
The in-depth Connoisseurs Tour is a favorite, offering a tour of the distillery and warehouses, guests have the opportunity to sample five unique expressions, including two rare single-cask bottlings.
If price is not an issue (lucky you), I highly recommend the Five Decades Tasting, which is considered one of the best whisky tours in Speyside.
Lasting up to 3 hours, you’ll get a full distillery tour before sampling five impressive drams from the Family Cask Collection.
Each cask is tied to a decade (from the 1960s to the 2000s). For many folks, tasting a 1960s dram is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a fact confirmed by the steep (albeit justified) price tag of £150.00 per person.
These are some of the rarest whiskies around and the breathtaking tasting profiles ensure that those walking in as amateurs will walk out as avid enthusiasts.
Hence the logic behind adding this to our list of the best whisky tours in Scotland.
Founded in 1839, Balvenie Distillery is known for offering the best whisky tours in Speyside, but getting reservations will require nothing short of a miracle.
Giving visitors are chance to tour the facility in small groups led by personable guides, you’ll get to see a cooperage and malting floor in one fell swoop.
These well-known tastings book out months in advance, so if you’re serious about visiting the distillery, you’ll need to book ASAP.
Offering some of the best whisky tastings in Speyside, Balvenie is unique because most of the whisky-making process is done in house. Everything from the malting to the cooperage, which is unheard of nowadays.
Visitors will also get a chance to fill up to three bottles from different casks to take home. As for the tastings? Folks don’t consider this one of the best whisky distilleries in Scotland for nothing!
Offering six generous drams, you’ll be privy to the core collection and a hand-selected warehouse pick from the guide.
Best Whisky Tours Speyside (Post Overview)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the best whisky distilleries in Speyside, Scotland.
- Glen Grant