There are lots of good things brewing in the Highlands, with the Park playing host to six distilleries in the Cairngorms, four of which boast sophisticated visitor centres…
The Speyside area is world famous for whisky and the six distilleries in the Cairngorms all offer something different, from iconic design, to Royal connections to personalised, hands-on tours. Royal Lochnagar, Dalwhinnie, Cairngorm Brewery and Glenlivet have visitor centres, all full of knowledgeable, passionate staff. Others can be visited by appointment. But it’s not just whisky for which the Highlands is well known – increasingly the area is gaining a global reputation for its gin production, too!
Speyside and whisky are a world famous combination, which is why whisky loving globetrotters always ensure the Cairngorms is on their destination list.
But this is not a recent reputation; allegedly during a state visit in 1822, George IV went out of his way to ensure he got served a whisky from Glenlivet! And, of course, today Glenlivet Distillery is one of the many acclaimed distilleries in the Cairngorms National Park.
The Cairngorms also has a rich history of whisky smuggling, and tales of smugglers and their antics abound!
This is because laws were introduced in the 1700s, lobbied for by the big distilleries, that forced the smaller operators underground. You can be assured, if you book into a tour, you can hear many a lively whisky tale and there are many caves and bothies associated with whisky smuggling which you can visit.
Gin has been growing in popularity in recent years, with traditional whisky distilleries in the Cairngorms such as Balmenach now also producing the hand-crafted, premium gin Caorunn.
- Which is the best distillery or brewery to visit?
There is a wide range of diverse distilleries and breweries in the Cairngorms National Park so it depends which is your favourite to drink. It’s not just whisky, either; there’s been a huge growth in Scottish gins recently and you’ll find distilleries like Balmenach (the home of Caorunn gin) and Persie also do gin tours and tastings now too. Aviemore also has its own brewery, Cairngorm Brewery which produces traditional beers such as Wild Cat and Stag.
It also depends on what kind of distillery you want to visit. For example, if you’re interested in Royal history, then Royal Lochnagar would be a good choice. But if you wanted a smaller, more intimate tour experience then Speyside Distillery would be a good option.
- Can you get tastings and tours at the distilleries?
Yes, tastings and tours are a fabulous way to while away a couple of hours in the Cairngorms.
Especially in light of Covid-19 restrictions, it is advisable to book in advance and ensure you are aware of the procedures, such as the requirement to wear a face mask.
- What about if you’re the designated driver?
If you book a tasting and you’re the designated driver, most distilleries offer a driver package of samples to take home and try at your leisure, when you’re no longer behind the wheel!
- Is there one area where you can find multiple distilleries?
Breweries and distilleries are dotted all over the Cairngorms National Park so it’s likely there will be one in easy reach of wherever you are!