2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10s

6 December 2019

In 2019 I have visited 53 distilleries across five countries. The quality of tours has been somewhat mixed, but I thought as we come to the end of the year, I’d highlight those which scored a perfect 10.

I’ve done a mix of tours over the year, from the standard 40 minute mass-tourist tour to the in-depth tour for the real enthusiast. My ratings are based on the type of tour and how well it meets it’s market.

This does mean that an in-depth tour which doesn’t compare to the best of it’s competitors in that market won’t be included, even though it might be a better tour than one aimed to the mass market, whereas the mass-market one will be included if it exceeds expectations for its market.

Over the coming days, I’ll be doing a post per distillery which met my criteria this year for a perfect 10 rating.

2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10s
2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10 in Wales

First single malt distillery in the heart of Edinburgh for almost 100 years opening for tours

18 July 2019

For the first time since 1925, there’s a single malt distillery in the centre of Edinburgh; Holyrood Distillery and visitor experience sits in a 180-year old building next to Holyrood Park and within easy walking distance of Edinburgh’s main attractions.

The distillery has just announced they are open for tours in their new visitor centre.

Holyrood Distillery Whisky Tour

There are four experiences available:

  1. Holyrood Distillery Tour which is approximately 60 minutes long, and is a fully guided and immersive experience of the entire distillery. You will be introduced to a world of flavour, testing how well you taste, getting hands-on with botanicals, learning about both malt whisky and gin production, and enjoying spirit samples along the way.
  2. Holyrood Gin Experience which is approximately 60 minutes long, and is led by an expert guide. You will be introduced to the process behind gin distillation, to the world of flavour-packed botanicals, and to the particular approach of Holyrood in the production of their own gins and gin liqeuers.
  3. Holyrood Whisky Experience – The Holyrood Whisky Experience is approximately 60 minutes long, and is led by an expert guide. The experience takes place in the whisky distillery and maturation room, where you will be introduced to the world of single malt whisky, but particularly to the process, ingredients and equipment used in Holyrood’s approach to single malt whisky production. You will also enjoy opportunities to sample from their specially selected whisky range.
  4. Jack Mayo’s Whisky Masterclass – This two-hour masterclass has been developed, and is led by, the Head Distiller Jack Mayo. Jack will guide you through the whisky distillery, including the behind-the-scenes production area, and will introduce you to Holyrood’s approach to production and distillation. After the tour, Jack will lead you through an exclusive tasting experience of Holyrood’s specially selected whisky range, and newmake spirit.

I’m going to see about booking a tour very soon; I’m just waiting to see if a couple of friends want to join me on a distillery day split between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Leith Distillery stillhouse open for gin tours

3 July 2019

The Leith Distillery has today announced that they are open for tours of their stillhouse

There are four tours available in August and I imagine they’ll sell out fast; I’m going to hold off for the moment as the current tour is of the gin distillation.

Leith Distillery Gin

I’ve been following the story of Leith Distillery as they plan to be producing Scotch whisky and this is the main type of distillery I like to isit (along with rum and brandy).

Scotch Whisky tourism has best year ever

26 June 2019

The Scotch Whisky Association last week reported that Scotch whisky tourism had reached an all-time high of 2 million visitors in 2018.

The Balvenie Distillery

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) conducted it’s annual survey which revealed visits were up 6.1% year on year and 56% more than in 2010; spending at visitor centres was up by 12.2% to £68.3m with an additional £7.4m compared with 2017 and 154% more than in 2010. This is put down to the continued industry investment in world-class tourist centres.

Over 20 different nationalities visited distilleries last year, with Germany and the USA providing the largest number of Scotch Whisky tourists with increased visits from France, Spain, and the Netherlands were also reported, as well as India and China.

I’ve been visiting distilleries since 2012 and it is noticeable that there are both more distilleries with visitor centres and that the general standard of distillery tours has improved. I’ve been doing my part with continued visits too; I toured 22 Scotch Whisky distilleries last year.

The full story from the Scotch Whisky Association can be read here.

New Scotch cask rules aim to add ‘flexibility’

17 June 2019

Scotchwhisky.com has an exclusive today from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The rules for change which barrels can be used to mature or ‘finish’ Scotch Whisky.

Whisky Barrels

The new rules are now law with the changed section now reading:

‘The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of:

  • wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits
  • beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation
  • spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation

and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beers/ales or spirits.
Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch Whisky.’

Although the changes mean that a wider range of casks can now be used for distilling Scotch Whisky, the rules are still quite strict and do still maintain that only oak casks can be used (unlike in Ireland where the rules merely state wooden).

Full details of the changes and their impact can be read at the source at Scotchwhisky.com.