Offering up some ideas for do-it-yourself whisky holidays and distillery tours in Scotland, arguably the true home of the original Amber Nectar and Water of Life.
The Malt Whisky Trail
If you don't want to take a ready-made tour package you can easily put your own Scottish trip together by using the Malt Whisky Trail website. This, easy to use, site gives details of opening times, costs, maps and locations for well over half of Scotland's malt whisky distilleries. From the smallest working distillery in Speyside, to an historic cooperage still making oak casks by traditional methods, and then on to World famous distilleries such as Glenfiddich, Cardhu and Glenlivet.
There's also a very useful section on how to taste, covering all angles including the senses, the nosing room (where the tasting is done), glasses (and why a whisky tumbler is no good for tastings), the ideal temperature and, of course, the big question – do you dilute?
The Speyside of the Malt Whisky Trail refers to an area around the river Spey in North East Scotland, which has the highest concentration of Scottish single malt distilleries, including both the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries. Speyside is partly in Moray» and partly in Highland» region (click for accommodation links).
Better still if you can book into a whisky focused hotel such as the Craigellachie Hotel of Speyside, which is in the heart of the area and who's bar offers an amazing 900 plus different whiskies! Check here for more Grampian & Speyside accommodation» – find everything from 5-star luxury hotels to comfortable guest houses, local B&B's or self-catering cottages.
Speyside Whisky Festival
Festivals are another way of enjoying the 'Water of Life', and we're proposing the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival as one of the top events. Offering a host of activities over the 5-day Spring festival, including tours round many local distilleries (including many not normally open). Also opportunities to explore the great outdoors on whisky and wildlife walks, events at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, and Landrover tours discovering Speyside smugglers. Plus single malt sampling, steam trains and ceilidh bands; it's a great way for the whole family to enjoy a whisky themed holiday!
Some words on spellings
In Scotland the 'water of life' is spelt 'whisky', while in the US it's usually 'whiskey', with the extra 'e'. This seems rather odd as it goes against the tendency of the New World to remove excess letters! But it turns out that the extra 'e' is in fact 'Old World', it being the spelling used by the Irish who claim the invention of the brew.
Here at Travel-Quest we're sticking with the 'whisky' spelling when we're talking about tours in the UK, but we may use the extra 'e' when we're referring to US or Irish tours! We might even use 'Scotch' or 'Scotch Whisky' too – but only when talking about a drink that originates in Scotland!
Other Scottish whisky festivals
Also worth a mention is the Fife Whisky Festival, which showcases the finest whiskies from the Kingdom of Fife and beyond. The Inverness Whisky & Gin Festival overlooking the Moray Firth, a festival that acknowledges the way that gin has increased in popularity over the last few years. The Stirling Whisky Festival, at the Stirling Highland Hotel features top distillers, whisky master-classes and opportunities to try special and rare malts. Then there is Edinburgh, with a couple of contenders: the spring Edinburgh Whisky Stramash and then in June the Edinburgh Whisky Festival.
Finally, for something rather different, there is Dramathon, a whisky inspired running marathon (also a half marathon and a 10k) along the Speyside Way, going from the Glenfarclas Distillery to the Glenfiddich Distillery and taking in several other distilleries along the way. Runners are invited to pick up the miniatures that match their route at the finish – what inspiration!