Argyll is famed world-wide for its single malt whiskies, and there are phenomenal gins, ales and wines made here too. So, whether you’re looking for a festive dram, a gin and tonic before your Christmas dinner or a wine to toast the New Year, you’ll find the festive drink to suit you in Argyll!
Many of the breweries and distilleries provide fabulous visitor experiences, where you can find out more about the craft and production processes and sample the different drinks. Make a weekend of it, visit some of Argyll’s distilleries and breweries and do your festive drink shopping. Here are some suggestions on where to discover the spirits of Argyll.
Islay and Jura
Islay is best known for its whisky, with many world-class distilleries dotting its shores. All of them offer tours and visitor experiences. Bowmore, one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, is a great place to see traditional whisky-making from the malting of the barley to the peat-fired kilns. See Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg - the 'southern distilleries' by following the Three Distilleries Pathway. You can also cross the narrow stretch water to visit neighbouring Jura, which is home to the historic Isle of Jura Distillery. Tours here run throughout the year, but it’s best to book ahead. The basic ‘Distillery Tour’ is ideal for those who want a good overview.
Head to Islay Ales at Bridgend on Islay to sample the local beers. Kilchoman Dark or Kilchoman Pale both use malted barley direct from Kilchoman Distillery to give the beer a smoky, peaty taste. The Brewery and Visitors’ Centre is open for tours and tastings Monday to Saturday from 10.30am until 4.00pm during the winter. It’s worth calling ahead to check that they will be able to do a tour for you.
And now for the gin. Bruichladdich’s The Botanist is the original Argyll gin. It’s made at the Bruichladdich whisky distillery near Port Charlotte on the island of Islay. Across on Jura, Lussa Gin is made by hand in small batches by three local women in Ardlussa at the north end of the island. Distillery tours are available by appointment only. Just call 01496 820323 to book a tour.
And finally, the wine! The team at Islay Wines have created five unique fruit wines, made and bottled on Islay. Bramble Mor is packed with the flavour of ripe brambles. You can drop in and sample the wines before buying.
The tiny Hebridean island of Colonsay has inspired two gins and it’s the smallest island in the world to have its own brewery. The Colonsay Brewery’s IPA, 80/- and Pig’s Paradise Blonde are each brewed on the island. The folks behind Colonsay Ales have also created Wild Island Gin. The second gin, Colonsay Gin, is a delicious tipple made by husband and wife team Finlay and Eileen Geekie, also known as Wild Thyme Spirits. They run a Gin Lover’s Retreat.
Cowal & Kintyre
Start your journey at Fyne Ales Brewery, Shop & Bar at the head of Loch Fyne on the Cowal peninsula. It won ‘Beer Destination of the Year’ at the Scottish Beer Awards 2017. Take a tour of the brewery, pull up a bar stool, sample some Fyne Ales and tuck into some delicious home-cooked food. There’s a well-stocked shop where you can buy the full range of bottled ales and mini casks.
Head to Kintyre for your gin and whisky. Kintyre Gin is made at Torrisdale Castle Estate in Kintyre. There’s a lovely visitor centre and shop where you can sample the different gins. Further south in Kintyre is Campbeltown. It was once home to 34 whisky distilleries, but today just Springbank, Glen Scotia and Mitchell's Glengyle. Each of them produces a unique whisky characterised by smokiness with a touch of salt. They all offer fascinating distillery tours.
Oban and Mull
Oban is a great place to spend a few days. It’s a bustling port town with some great restaurants, cafés and bars. It also has the fabulous Oban Distillery. Sitting at the heart of the town overlooking Oban Bay, it’s both one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and one of the smallest with just two pot stills. Take a guided tour to discover the ancient craft of whisky production, then head to the tasting bar to try some drams.
For beer, make your way to the Oban Bay Brewery, which is tucked away at the back of the Cuan Mor Restaurant & Bar in the town centre. The beers include Kiltlifter IPA, Skelpt Lug Dark Ale, Ginger Jakey Amber Ale, Skinny Blonde Ale and Fair Puggled Stout.
Hop on the ferry to Mull to visit Tobermory Distillery. Established in 1798, Tobermory is a one of Scotland’s most historic distilleries and is unique in that it produces two distinctly different malt whiskies: the lightly peated Tobermory and the more robustly peated Ledaig. The Visitor Centre is open every day from 10am until 4pm. Call ahead on 0168 830 2647.
Mull also has its own gin. Whitetail Gin is inspired by the majestic white-tailed sea eagle. This juniper-led gin uses botanicals native to Mull, including heather, winter savoury and pine needles from the Tiroran Estate and sea-kelp collected from the shores of Loch Scridain.
Find out more about food and drink in Argyll.