It’s World Whisky Day (worldwhiskyday.com) on Saturday, slap bang in the middle of Whisky Month (visitscotland.com), which is topped and tailed by the Speyside Whisky Festival and the 30th annual Islay Festival (islayfestival.com), a music and malt island shindig from 23-31 May. As you’d expect there are more than a few whisky-themed events taking place across Scotland at the moment – some involving a dram or two.
What’s more, Whisky Galore, the musical based on the true story of the SS Politician running aground – along with its precious cargo – off the isle of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides during the Second World War (later turned into a best-selling book by Compton Mackenzie), is also touring Scotland during Whisky Month. It will finish its run on Islay on 31 May (tickets.comar.co.uk).
The oldest working distillery in Scotland, dating back to 1775 – and the most popular – has just had a £250,000 revamp. The Famous Grouse Experience (01764 656565; thefamousgrouse.com; tours from £10) at The Glenturret Distillery in Perthshire has spruced up its visitor centre, tasting experience and café. It’s bound to go down a treat when even more visitors surge in for a snifter when the Ryder Cup at nearby Gleneagles kicks off in September.
There’s a new tasting bar and a series of nosing pods where visitors can put their senses to the test, sniffing out the aromas and ingredients that make this blended whisky so distinctive.
Follow a whisky trail
The west of Scotland is peppered with distilleries. Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com) offers a six-day guided sea kayaking trip along Scotland’s Whisky Coast, from the isle of Gigha to Oban, paddling by day past picturesque coves and sheltered lochs. By night, curled up in cosy Highland hotels, you can warm up with a dram, sampling whiskies from the 11 local distilleries in an informal tasting session.
Also included in the holiday is a tour of Oban distillery. It costs from £925 per person based on two sharing, including five nights’ B&B, packed lunches, whisky tasting and distillery tour.
Macs Adventure (0141 530 1186; macsadventure.com) offers self-guided walking and cycling holidays including the Speyside Whisky Trail. This six-night walking trip weaves through the Spey valley, meandering along the river, through woodland and taking in a handful of distilleries that make up Speyside’s Malt Whisky Trail (maltwhiskytrail.com) including Cardhu, Cragganmore, Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet. The trip costs £375 per person, including B&B, maps and baggage transfers.
Don’t drink and drive...
Don’t drink and drive...
Stumble up to bed. Check into the Mash Tun (01340 881771; mashtun-aberlour.com; B&B from £100), a whisky bar with rooms in Aberlour in Speyside, the heart of whisky country. Or bed down in a distillery. Glenmorangie House in the wilds of Ross-shire is an opulent option for whisky buffs (01862 871 671; theglenmorangiehouse.com) from £140 per person B&B.
In Edinburgh, The Balmoral’s (0131 556 2414; thebalmoralhotel.com) swanky whisky bar, Scotch – done out in warm amber tones, tweed and tartan – has more than 400 single malts to sample – and some very comfy rooms in which to sleep it off. Doubles start at £225, room only.
At Glengoyne distillery (01360 550254; glengoyne.com) just outside Glasgow you can create your own whisky. The Master Blender session gives you an insight into the alchemy of whisky blending. With a choice of five single malts and two blends, you design your own variety, which will then be bottled (100ml, so handy if you’re flying) for you to take home. £40 per person.