As one of the country’s most loved treasures, Scotland’s whisky industry delights millions of visitors each year. But just as finding the perfect dram takes time and insight, so too does finding the best whisky tasting spots.
From exclusive private rooms overlooking Highland distilleries to the hidden whisky bars treasured by those in the know, here’s where to go:
Once known as the ghost distillery of the highlands, Brora has awakened after nearly 40 years. Located on the remote coast of Sutherland, the home of some of the region’s most celebrated – yet elusive – releases has reopened its doors to offer intimate tours. Those who visit will learn of its history, meet its craftspeople and have the chance to taste some of its rare whiskies. With a focus on providing the next level whisky experience, distillery visits begin from £300pp and must be booked in advance.
The Explorers’ Bothy Bar at Johnnie Walker, Princes Street
Amongst the hustle and bustle of the Scottish capital sits the near tranquillity of the Explorers’ Bothy Bar – one of Edinburgh’s most cherished haunts for those seeking rare and exceptional whiskies. Situated on the sixth floor of Johnnie Walker’s Princes Street premises, the bar offers fantastic views across the new town, best enjoyed with one of 150 whiskies – including world exclusive offerings and releases prized by whisky collectors.
With a history stretching back 200 years to the days of illicit distilling, Cardhu Distillery was founded by the famous Helen Cumming – the legendary distiller who would raise a flag to warn neighbours of approaching authorities. The first distillery to be acquired by John Walker & Sons in 1893, Cardhu now charms discerning visitors with its hidden private client area, fashioned from one of the distillery’s former outhouses. With stunning views over the golden fields that surround Cardhu, it offers a memorable way to taste some of Scotland’s finest whiskies.
Bertie’s Whisky Bar, The Fife Arms
A treasured landmark in the Scottish highlands, the famous Fife Arms hotel sits just nine miles from Balmoral Castle. Its whisky bar, Bertie’s (which takes the name frequently used by Queen Victoria’s eldest son), is perhaps better described as a whisky library: an elegant chamber where guests are encouraged to browse at leisure – seeking advice and suggestions from bartenders (or ‘librarians’) as they please. Like all of the best tasting spots, Bertie’s goes out of its way to welcome newcomers – arranging its offerings into basic profiles to suit their preferences – whilst also ensuring that fellow experts are taken care of.
Rothes Glen – The exclusive use home from whisky connoisseurs
Situated in the heart of Speyside, Rothes Glen offers the ultimate Highlands experience: an exclusive-use castle that sleeps up to 30 guests. Designed by the famous whisky architect Charles Chree Doig, the castle seeks to combine elegant architecture and magnificent views with the highest standards of Scottish hospitality. At the top of it all sits the whisky observatory: an exceptional private space to sample the best offerings from the nearby distilleries. In terms of accessibility, Rothes Glen sits equidistant between Inverness and Aberdeen airports and has its own helipad.
The Craigellachie Hotel – The Quaich Bar
First built in the 1800s, the Craigellachie Hotel is one of the best-known spots in Speyside, offering an excellent stay for those visiting the region’s many distilleries and fishing spots. Within the hotel sits the Quaich Bar, home to over 1,000 single-malt whiskies from around the world. Knowledgeable and friendly staff are on hand to guide guests to their perfect dram, or mix up a cocktail for those who prefer something more accessible. The spectacular Speyside views, meanwhile, should prove a universal delight to all who visit.