In Search of the Best Scotch
01 June, 2016
Scotland offers many reasons for visiting – beautiful scenery, like in the Highlands, and beautiful lakes, like Lochs Lomond, Tummel, Duich and Ness, the latter with monster included. Not to mention such cultural events as the Edinburgh Festival, during which the city is filled with theatre, music and dance, and the chance to discover its writers, notably Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Irvine Welsh. And – you guessed it – the land’s magnificent whisky. Celtic in origin, this distillation is the epitome of Scottish identity traits – bagpipes and kilts notwithstanding. Scotch is also one of the country’s greatest moneyspinners and stands out as a major attraction for visitors to this land. Newcomers will have the opportunity to make their whisky debut in style, while connoisseurs have the unique occasion to become experts while treating themselves to the huge gamut of tastes and aromas.
Known as uisge beatha (water of life) in Gaelic, whisky is made from the distillation of fermented malt, generally barley, although other grains such as wheat, rye and corn can also be used. The distillation is aged in an oak cask for at least three years. Scotch is classified into the following types – single malt, vatted malt (or pure malt), blended and single grain, single malt being the most highly valued.
A good way of coming to grips with everything related to this popular Scottish beverage is by heading for Edinburgh to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience, a centre located in the Old Town, adjacent to Edinburgh Castle, where you can learn all the ins and outs of scotch. Once you have mastered the basics, you are ready to venture into one of the myriad distilleries scattered about the country. To help get your bearings, you should know that Scotland is divided into five whisky-producing regions. And, as in the case of wine, each region has its own characteristics.
In the region of the Lowlands, in the south of the country, the whisky they produce is mild, light and unsmoky, making it ideal for blends. As it lacks the malt character of the other regions, it is less popular and is produced by a fewer number of distilleries.
Speyside, named after the river Spey which traverses it, is the leading whisky-producing region and the venue for most organised distillery tours. The world’s most popular malts are produced here. One of the must-visit distilleries is Cardhu, located near Archiestown and founded by the whisky smuggler John Cumming in 1824. Glenfiddich, situated in Dufftown, is the only distillery where the distillation, ageing and bottling processes take place on the same premises. At Craigellachie we find the Macallan distillery, which also dates from 1824. Here, the whisky was originally aged in Spanish sherry casks. It set the record for having produced one of the most expensive bottles of liquor ever sold when it fetched $54,000 at an auction. Lastly, the Glenlivet distillery near Ballindalloch is considered to produce one of the finest malts in the region.
The largest region in terms of size and whisky output is the Highlands, situated in the north of Scotland. One of our favourite distilleries here is Oban, located in picturesque Oban Bay, opposite the seafront, which has been producing its excellent malt since 1794. Still in this area, we come to the sub-region known as The Islands which is worth visiting for two gems – the Jura distillery, sited on the island of the same name – an eminently family concern, which has been producing excellent malt whisky since 1810 – and Talisker, located on the priceless island of Skye.
Campbeltown, a region which once boasted up to thirty distilleries, now has only three distilleries in operation.
Lastly, we come to the region of Islay, located on Scotland’s west coast, which is known above all for its smoky whiskies. We recommend a visit to Bowmore, which has one of the first distilleries to be set up on the island, and where the malt is still produced using traditional methods, and Port Ellen, home to the Lagavulin distillery, built in 1816.
Now that you know some of the best whisky distilleries in Scotland, book your Vueling to Edinburgh and get to experience them first-hand.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
01 June, 2016