In Search of the Best Scotch
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.
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The best lochs in Scotland
The geographical beauty of Scotland is known worldwide. Its identity, landscapes, moors, mists or castles, make this land a unique place with its own great personality. But if there is something Scotland is well known for is for the loch, a symbol for the country, where traditions, tales, myths and legends merge the waters with the character and personality of the Scots. The characteristic topography and landscape of this country cannot be understood without them.
Why don’t we take a swim in some of the most beautiful lochs in Scotland?
Loch Rannoch: Located in Perth and Kinross, this loch is over 14 km long. The River Tummel begins at the eastern end and the Tay Forest Park lies along the southern shore. The lake and its surroundings offer good places for fishing and walking. The small village of Kinloch Rannoch is on the eastern end of the loch, and near the western end a crannog, an ancient artificial island, can be found.
Loch Lomond: The largest in Scotland with its 37km long and 8km wide. There are a big number of islands inside the loch, many of which are artificially created in ancient times to be inhabited.
Loch Ness: This is the lake of Scotland, the best known and most visited. The legends and tales told about its waters have become worldwide famous. It is about 39 km long, it forms part of the Caledonian Canal and has one of the most visited and photographed ruins of Scotland, Urquhart Castle. If you have good luck, maybe you’ll see Nessie.
Loch Tummel: One of the most famous viewpoints in Scotland is the Queens View, on the north of Edinburgh. The views over Lake Tummel and surrounding mountains are spectacular. Also, very close, in the town of Pitlochry, every October you can find the sound and light show known as the Enchanted Forest, which attracts thousands of visitors.
Loch Duich: The Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most famous and photographed castles in Scotland, located between lakes Alsh and Duich, makes this large lake one of the most visited in the country.
Loch Coruisk: The trip to this lake is one of the most beautiful of Scotland. Located between the "Munros" of Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Dearg and Bla Bheinn, to access it you have to take a boat from Eigol and just get carried away by the landscapes that go through a half-hour drive along the bay until you reach the dock. Curiously, depending on the season, you can see colonies of seals sunbathing or swimming in the lake.
Image from Jacob Martin
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