Speyside, the most densely populated whisky production region in Scotland and one that no matter how often you visit, there is always so much more to see. Which is exactly why GreatDrams went along to review the Scottish Routes whisky tour of the Speyside region, and we were definitely not disappointed.
Why? Well… Hitting so many distilleries in such a small amount of time was a big part of it but what else?
No marathon trip would be complete without a statistical summary of our time on our whisky tour of the Speyside
- 955 kilometres
- 39 drams enjoyed at distilleries, mostly single cask expressions
- 11 (and a half) distilleries
- 6 tasting flights
- 6 people
- 4 days
- 3 whisky regions (more on that later)
- 1 Duncan, our fun, bubbly and knowledgeable tour guide
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Now, I began drafting this as a blow by blow run down of what happened on the tour but if you’re anything like me you’d rather have some elements revealed as you go along vs. knowing the absolute detail of everything that is about to happen ahead of taking part.
So I’m going to summarise, in three elements, the whisky tour of the Speyside I feel you should know about, there will be additional articles going live over the coming months that will go into more detail about the distilleries we visited.
My top three are… In no order whatsoever:
- The distilleries
- The guide (Duncan) and the journey
- The non-whisky stuff
Here we go!
1. The distilleries
Obviously this was always going to be a huge draw for us and upon returning from the trip we tallied we have visited 22 distilleries in the last 14 months… Not bad! I think my distillery count is now at about 36, in large part thanks to this tour.
If you’re looking for the glitz and glamour of touring The Macallan, The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich etc. then this tour might disappoint but in reality it shouldn’t as you get to visit a minimum of seven frankly brilliant distilleries that are off the beaten track and exhibit some of the best distillery experiences I have encountered, at places I would not have otherwise been able to see without a lot more effort.
The minimum on the itinerary is seven, and these are subject to change due to maintenance and availability but on our whisky tour of the Speyside we managed to pack in and have a dram at eleven distilleries and a half (Glenfarclas we are not counting as they were shutting up shop so we were not able to get in for a dram) including:
- Royal Lochnagar
- The Macallan
- Blair Athol
- Glen Moray
2. The guide (Duncan) and the journey
He was great fun, knowledgeable, inquisitive and interested to learn more facts himself. He was an all round great guy full of historical context, stories, jokes, a couple of songs and the odd impression.
As he would freely admit, and did in fact, history gives a lot of leeway for interpretation and exaggeration but all of that went towards creating an entertaining and never-ending stream of context to accompany our trip through the Lowlands, Speyside and Highlands.
The scenery was just incredible. Loch after mountain after barley fields after wild Black Grouse after distant, story-laden horizons, it was spectacular.
We stopped a few times for photos and to stretch our legs along the way, the weather was mostly great with the odd patch of rain along the way but nothing major and nothing that would get our spirits down! See the photos below for how powerful those views were.
3. The non-whisky stuff
We stayed in Granton-on-Spey, a sleepy town where not much happens and where there is not that much to do. Over the three nights we stayed there we ate in three places and it has to be said that the first two, The Craig Bar and The Seafield Lodge were not that great. Our final night delivered a great meal at the The Garth Hotel which made up in part for the previous nights’ failings.
When booking accommodation we always spend a lot of time researching – the great thing with Scottish routes is that this was all taken care of for us. All we had to do was turn up. Our B&B was perfectly accommodating, brilliant breakfast but didn’t get the message that we aren’t really morning people! We probably wouldn’t have picked to stay here as we are very independent and don’t like being houseguests when away but if you want to feel part of the family this place would be perfect.
Kirsty and I are a sociable couple and weren’t always ready for the whisky fun to be over, it would have been great to have had the option to explore some more of the Scottish culture in the evening a gig, or an evening trip to a distillery.
Overall the trip over delivered for me in terms of what I wanted to get from it – visits to distilleries I had not yet been to, to meet interesting people and to enjoy time away from the city in the incredible highlands of Scotland, the accommodation served its purpose, was disappointed by the provisions in the town (which is not Scottish Routes’ fault) and can definitely recommend the whisky tour of the Speyside (that is more accurately described as a whisky tour of the Lowlands, Speyside and Highlands). I kinda wish there was a bit more rain though (although Kirsty did not agree with this).
Check out their 4 Day Islay Whisky Tour From: £599.00 for 2016 and their 4 Day Speyside Whisky & Craft Beer Tour From: £565.00 for 2016 and don’t forget to use discount code GREATDRAMS at checkout to receive 10% off your booking.