Speyside Distilleries Tours by the Whisky Enthusiast Graham Grieve
Published Date: 30th June 2020
For the whisky enthusiast, a pilgrimage to Dufftown, the epicentre of the Speyside region is a must. Being a Speyside fan myself, I went to spend two days enjoying the history and art form of distilling in "The Malt Whisky Capital of the World." I enjoyed exploring Dufftown and put together my guide of the distilleries in Dufftown and Speyside.
Of the six active distilleries in walking distance of each other in Dufftown, only Glenfiddich and Balvenie run distillery tours, so naturally, I had to try both.
While I dreamed of taking the 4-hour pioneers tour at Glenfiddich, the £100 per person ticket price was a bit steep, so I opted for the Spirit of Innovation tour at a more reasonable 30£. The tour focused on the more experimental releases that Glenfiddich is working on and, over the course of two hours, allowed us to try five different single malts.
As someone that has been to a fair few distillery tours, the initial walk through the whisky-making process wasn't a shock. However, it was exciting to hear more about how they're innovating with whisky and the new flavours and distilling that they're trying.
The Balvenie Castle is a brief walk from Glenfiddich, so I went to explore before heading back to my Airbnb. There's a self-guided tour to take around the grounds and exceptional views from the top.
The next day, I headed to Balvenie to check out their distillery with a tour that was slightly longer at 3 hours. Here, I opted for the chance to bottle my own Balvenie as a keepsake, enjoying the opportunity to fill directly from the cask myself.
The groups are quite small with just about eight people joining so you have a chance to ask the guide any questions that you have. To their credit, they were very patient with mine and always answered with the same enthusiasm. One standout point for me is that fact that you can see the onsite cooperage, which is an unusual treat for whisky tours.
A brief afternoon stop at the Glassworks for some cake and tea offered a welcome break and a chance to check out some of their local-made glass products.
A visit to the whisky museum provided insights into the lives of the whisky smugglers as well as some of the distilling history of Dufftown. While the museum is not huge, the real highlight is the dedicated volunteer team who love to have a wee natter with any of the visitors who stop by.
All in all, there's enough whisky history to fill a few days, and if the walking around distilleries all day hasn't tired you out, there's plenty of bars available to enjoy the nightlife. I'm hoping to come back for the "Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival", visit the Speyside Cooperage, and take a trip on the Whisky Line. It was a packed two days, but there's certainly more to see.
Read more at Distilleries in Dufftown and Speyside.