Though distilleries in places as far flung as Japan and Tasmania have started to turn out some elite single malt whisky, Scotland will always be its ancestral home. Here are ten distilleries that helped put Scotch on the map.
The whiskey regions of Scotland include Lowland, Speyside, Highland (which also includes most of the islands), Campbeltown and Islay.
1. Glenlivet (Speyside) – One of the most iconic whisky brands in the world, Glenlivet, founded in 1824, was the first distillery formed in the parish of Glenlivet and has grown into one of the most popular whiskey brands in the world. In Gaelic, Glenlivet means “valley of the smooth-flowing one” and the distillery produces over six million bottles per year.
2. Royal Brackla (Highland) – Opened in 1912, Royal Brackla was the first distillery to receive the Royal Warrant, making them the official whisky supplier to the Royal Family. The distillery was closed off to the public for over one hundred years, but recently opened its doors for to tours. American Scotch lovers will be happy to know that its single malts will finally be available in the US for the first time in the spring of 2015.
3. Aberfeldy (Highland) – Founded in 1896, Aberfeldy is the heart of the Dewar’s brand. The reason that Scotch even exists today is because of John Dewar. In the early 1800s, people drank primarily Cognac and Irish whiskey. Single Malt Scotch wasn’t considered a high class drink. “Its character was still too harsh to most and producing a product with a consistent flavor profile proved to be difficult, ultimately making marketing a challenge,” says Dewar’s National Brand Ambassador Gabe Cardarella. Dewar pioneered the art of blending whisky, making the libation more palatable.
4. Glenmorangie (Highland) – Glenmorangie has made a name for itself with their inventive, creative whiskies such as the sherry cask aged Lasanta and Sauternes cask aged Nector D’Or. When visiting the distillery, make reservations to stay in one of the cottages adjacent to the Glenmorangie house. It is surrounded by majestic fields of barley and most spectacular coastal views.
5. Macallan (Speyside) – Few distilleries have a more recognizable name than Macallan. The fine oak collections consist of 8 to 30 year-old whiskies aged in both sherry and American Bourbon barrels. Whiskies from this distillery are some of the most sought after spirits in the world. A few years ago, a bottle of 64-year-old Macallan sold for $460,000 at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York.
6. Ardbeg (Islay) –Ardbeg, built in 1815 creates whiskies with a smokey flavor. Like most Islay whiskies, the smokiness is due to the use of peat fires to dry the malted barley. Recently the distillery began working with scientists to understand the effects of gravity (or lack of) on aging. A vial of Ardbeg orbited the Earth’s atmosphere for almost 3 years and the results are still being determined.
7. Glenfiddich (Speyside) –One of the largest whisky distilleries in Scotland, Glenfiddich touts itself as the world’s best selling single malt whisky. Opened in 1886 in Dufftown, Scotland, Glenfiddich is most known for its aged single malts. These range from 12 year-old to 50 year-old. They also offer many limited edition bottlings including the Malt Master Edition, Madeira Casked and Bourbon Casked.
8. Laphroaig (Islay) –Laphroaig, founded in 1815 and arguably one of the most mispronounced distilleries (it's La-Froyg), is one the first to be managed by a woman. Bessie Williamson took over in 1954 and traveled from city to city spreading the word about Islay whiskies. She continued to manage distillery until her retirement in 1972.
9. Highland Park (Highland Islands) – The most northern distillery in Scotland, Highland Park is located in Kirkwall, Orkney. Founded in 1798, the distillery is one of few that malts its own barley.
10. Talisker (Highland Islands) – Talisker is the only distillery located on the Isle of Skye. The distillery, situated seemingly in the middle of nowhere, has won myriad awards over the years including “Best Single Malt in the World” at the 2007 World Whisky Awards.