Single-malt Scotch whisky is special. Special in provenance, heritage, production and taste. Made by a unique process of distillation and maturation, only whisky distilled in Scotland can claim the exclusive title of Scotch. And with four whisky regions – including the world-renowned island of Islay – there’s no better destination for Scotch whisky than the Highlands and Islands of Argyll.
Here, you can expect a breadth and depth of whisky experiences like no other. All set in an incredible, ever-changing landscape that will take your breath away.
For a Hebridean island-hopping adventure, we recommend starting off at Oban Distillery and taking the ferry to Mull, where you can visit Tobermory.
Oban Distillery, perched on the picturesque harbour, is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries. It’s nice and close to Oban Whisky & Fine Wines Shop which has a huge range of single malts, including some rare and collectable whiskies. Here you can while away the time engrossed in whisky chat with the passionate owners who are happy to pass on their expertise.
Don’t forget to sample some delicious freshly caught seafood before hopping on one of the regular ferries to Mull for the Tobermory Distillery. This artisan distillery produces both whisky and gin and offers tours, tasting experiences and a shop offering distillery-exclusive lines.
Islay - the Whisky Isle
For many, the ultimate whisky experience is a trip to Islay. This tiny wee island boasts nine working distilleries producing whiskies that truly reflect their environment with a characteristic peaty flavour and a hint of salty air and seaweed. All the distilleries offer tours and each offer something unique. And for the truly devoted, with a little planning, yes, it is possible to do them all in a day!
On Islay, Kilchoman and Ardnahoe are the newest distilleries while Bowmore is thought to be one of the oldest in Scotland, notable for malting its own barley. At Caol Ila, you can see large-scale production while Bruichladdich is refurbished in the old Victorian style. Ardberg produces one of the peatiest flavours while Bunnahabhain produces a milder, unpeated whisky. Lagavulin produces one of Scotland’s most famous whiskies while Laphroaig is the bestselling whisky on Islay.
With these distilleries, it definitely isn’t a case of ‘you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’!
The Times Travel writer, Jane Wright, rates Lagavulin Distillery as the best in Scotland for tradition. She writes "Join the charming Iain McArthur, who, with over 50 years of service, informs and entertains visitors in equal measure on cask tasting sessions. One of the older and more traditional distilleries on Islay, Lagavulin is famed for its distinctive red chimney, unusual pear-shaped stills and gorgeous views over the bay in front. For those who find the strong, smoky flavour a little too robust, there are younger, lighter expressions of Lagavulin available too."
In the same guide, Bunnahabhain is rated as the Scottish distillery with the best views and Jura, the best for the beautiful boat journey to reach it.
The distilleries are spread across the island, with Laphroig, Lagavulin and Arberg clustered next to each other on the south coast connected by the linear three distilleries pathway – you’ll get some wonderful coastal views and it’s ideal for clearing the head between tastings.
Campbeltown - The Whisky Capital of the World
No tour of the region would be complete without a trip to Campbeltown. Once the whisky capital of the world and home to 34 whisky distilleries - now just three remain. And what a three. Springbank Distillery, which draws its water from Crosshill Loch, produces three signature malts. Here you can tour Springbank Distillery (the only distillery in Scotland to complete the whole whisky-making process on site) and the nearby Kilkerran Distillery which opened in 2004 - the first distillery to open in Campbeltown for over 125 years. Glen Scotia Distillery uses small batch processing and retains much of its original design – including the mash sun, stillroom and dunnage warehouse. Enjoy a tour, warehouse tastings and browsing the delightful Victorian-style shop.