Speyside Distillery Tours - Planning Tips
Visiting and touring whisky distilleries is a great way to connect with the social history of Moray Speyside, its whisky and its people. If you have never visited a distillery (or even if you have), here are a few tips and some advice about getting the most from your tour experience and help you plan your whisky tours and tastings.
Expect a warm welcome
Distilleries are very hospitable places and are very welcoming to new and seasoned distillery visitors alike. You don’t even have to like whisky!
Distillery Tours & Tastings
Distillery tours usually end with a whisky tasting. Most distilleries in Moray Speyside offer whisky tasting experiences without a tour.
Mix it up!
If you have a number of distilleries to visit, look at what distilleries do best in terms of tastings and tours. While you may enjoy three standard tours, you can often enhance your experience by doing a specialist tasting or tour. For example look out for tour options including warehouse tastings, distillery manager tours, whisky blending and meet the maker masterclasses.
Most tour guides welcome questions. It helps create more interest for them and for guests. On shorter tours there may be less time but tour guides will adapt as required.
Photography on tours
Many distilleries either don’t allow photography or restrict it in certain areas for example the still room and warehouse. Your tour guide will usually advise you before your tour starts.
Book in advance
Plan you distillery tours and tastings in advance. Distilleries welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and it’s generally a good idea to book well in advance, especially for more exclusive tours. Some distilleries may only have 2 tours a day with a very limited number of visitors people each.
It’s possible at times, that there are Covid-19 regulations to follow. Check each distilleries policy before you go. There might be temperature checks, registering of your contact details, mask wearing etc. It can also affect what’s on offer, for example there might be no tours, no access to production areas or tastings might be outside .
Leave time between tours
It’s very important to regard tour times as approximate. Leave plenty of time between each visit to get from one distillery to another and arrange transport in advance. Try and arrive early and allow time at the end to visit the shop and take photographs outside.
Work out your travel plans in advance. Many distilleries are in rural location and may only have a few taxis operating in the local area. If you are driving, do not taste any whisky. There is a zero tolerance approach to drink driving in Scotland with very low limits and stiff penalties. Most distilleries allow you to take sample(s) away for tasting later.
Don’t feel obliged to buy whisky but if you do …
Don’t feel the need to buy whisky on your way round. The distillery shops on Speyside are happy to sell you whisky but they are also aware that travellers are often restricted in the amount that can be taken home. Also it might be worth focusing on distillery exclusives as they shouldn’t be available in duty free or your home country.
Don’t forget lunch
Most distilleries don’t have cafes or restaurants. Plan in advance for food stops or take a packed lunch. Many food stores sell good value meal deals in Scotland generally sandwiches, soft drink and snack.
Traditionally, distilleries stop production for a period of time each year. This allows for maintenance and deep cleaning. There’s no hard and fast rule and tours often run as normal. The normal sounds and smells won’t be heard, but you often get closer to the distillery workings.
What’s the best Speyside Distillery to visit?
With so many distilleries to visit how do you work out the best distillery to visit? Or should that be the best one for you to visit? Many towns and villages have at least one distillery that does whisky tours or tastings. It makes sense to find accommodation in one of those places. What’s your favourite single malt? Check if it does tours or tastings. If you like Johnnie Walker, the spiritual home is Cardhu. The spiritual home of Chivas is Strathisla one on the most photogenic distilleries in Scotland.