Are you looking for an unforgettable journey through Scotland’s stunning Highlands? Join us on our Highland Whisky Tour from Edinburgh! This tour will take you on a journey through Scotland’s historic whisky-making region, and you’ll get to visit some of the oldest distilleries and sample some of the finest whiskies in the world.
If you only have one day spare to try these whisky distilleries, you can always check out our blog post here: Highland Whisky Trip From Edinburgh in 2023: The One Day Trip.
Our tour starts at the Tullibardine Distillery and can take 2-3 days depending on how much time you would like to spend on this trip. This post includes four of the eight distilleries that we recommend, alongside some great tips for those looking to experience the stunning scenery and learn about the history and culture of Scotland’s whisky making region.
Plus, you’ll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy a traditional Scottish meal and a dram or two. So if you’re looking for a fun and informative tour of Scotland’s whisky-making region, join us on our Highland Whisky Tour from Edinburgh!
Tullibardine has a history of brewing beer since the 15th century and distilling going back to 1798. But its story is even more chequered than the average distillery, with the current distillery built in 1947 by distillery designer William Delmé-Evans, who concluded the water sourced from the Danny burn, the same source as Highland Spring water, was perfect for distilling whisky. If you like a drop of water in your whisky this is a perfect match with Tullibardine as the bottled water is widely available across the UK.
Between 1947 and 2011 the distillery passed through five owners and closed between 1994 and 2003 (all dates vary slightly depending on source). Currently it is owned by Picard Vins & Spiritueux.
Set in the village of Blackford, just off the A9, the distillery looks rather industrial but once parked up and in the visitor centre it is a lovely experience.
You are well taken care of, and it is one of my favourite distilleries to visit. The shop stocks the full Tullibardine range and also includes distillery exclusive bottles, called the Distillery Editions which have been handpicked by staff members, that are well worth trying. If you are a member of their Custodians club you can sample some really exclusive whiskies in the luxurious Custodians bar, an experience in itself.
Blair Atholl Distillery
Blair Atholl distillery, owned by Diageo, is one of my favourite whiskies. Situated just as you drive into the southern end of Pitlochry, park the car in the distillery car park situated by the warehouses, walk across the Allt Dour burn who’s pure and clear water flows through the distillery grounds arising from the slopes of Ben Vrackie. It is claimed that the quality of this water contributes to Blair Atholl’s mellowness and smooth finish. You then enter the visitor reception/café area and walk through that to the distillery courtyard with the shop on your right.
The distillery was built in 1798 and had a chequered start until it was acquired by Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd in 1833. It was extended in 1973 with a visitor centre added in 1987. A lot of the spirit produced is used in Bell’s blend. As such, official bottlings are limited to a 12 year old Flora and Fauna, and a 23 year from 2017 released under Diageo’s Special Releases. However, the shop stocks a good range of Diageo releases along with a couple of distillery only releases (that can only be bought from the distillery):
- A Non Age Statement (NAS) released in 2019 and a soon to be released second distillery exclusive later in 2023. This current distillery exclusive costs £90 and is a blend of refill, rejuvenated and American Oak ex-bourbon casks at 48% ABV. I can’t remember my tasting notes but it is good enough to warrant a trip to the distillery in itself.
- An 11 year old hand bottled distillery exclusive at 56.2% ABV for £120 which I thought fantastic and can be summed up as Blair Atholl meets a 20 year old Mortlach at cask strength. It is well worth “chewing” it for as long as possible in the mouth. There is a theory that to “taste” a whisky you need to swirl it around your mouth for one second of each year of age.
Pitlochry is a tourist destination in itself with lots for those who do not fancy a distillery tour. From browsing the shops, to visiting the pass of Killiecrankie or Blair Atholl castle, along with numerous outdoor pursuits. The range of accommodation is also good. I was told that the town has no public swimming pool and the locals are encouraged to “wild swim” in Faskally loch.
Something I had no intention of trying given how cold it was on the day of my visit. The distillery is picturesque and the staff both friendly and knowledgeable. On a quiet day, you can spend an hour or more just chatting with them as they talk you through the various whiskies available in the shop.
Set in the picturesque village of Edradour in the Perthshire hills behind Pitlochry, this distillery built in 1825 long described itself as the “smallest distillery in Scotland” although with the boom of craft distilleries this is unlikely to be the case these days.
I was looking forward to revisiting, but both the distillery and shop are currently closed to the public with a message on the website, “Due to the ongoing pandemic and shortage of staff, please note the Distillery Tours and Shop are closed until further notice in order to create a bubble to protect our remaining staff and export business.”. This despite the fact the website appears to have been updated to 2023. I’ve heard gossip that the owners, Signatory Vintage, no longer wish the public to visit. So please check on the website first.
Edradour has always been a bit of a some people like it, some people don’t whisky, although its Ballechin range of heavily peated whisky seems to hit the spot. The range of Signatory bottles available in the distillery shop was very impressive the last time I visited, and I missed not being able to peruse this display.
Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland, as well as having the coldest mean annual temperature of any town/village in Scotland. This it is claimed aids in the development of its gentle but intense flavours of sweet malt, honey, vanilla, and fruit with the 15 year old being part of the Classic Malts range. It is a very approachable and easy drinking dram.
Built in 1897 with various periods of closure up till 1947 this distillery was fully modernised in 1996. At the junction of two old drive roads with access to clear spring water and peat from the surrounding bogs, much of its production goes into Diageo’s Black and White and Buchanan blends and has not been bottled by independents for years.
A visit to this distillery is a must to not only explore the award winning whisky but also experience the five star visitor attraction. Accommodation is available close by, if somewhat restricted in the amount, so prior booking is best if you wish to stay here for the night, otherwise return to Pitlochry. The best tour is the Spirit of the Highlands tour but make sure you do not drive for the rest of the day. It is £120 per person, lasts two hours and includes 6 cask strength whiskies paired to chocolate. The tour does not happen every day, although it always starts at 12.00pm, so you will need to book via the distillery website.
Whilst this isn’t the end of the Highland whisky tour from Edinburgh, you should start to feel like you have a better understanding of the process behind whisky-making and will have a deeper appreciation for the unique flavour of whisky from the Highlands. You will have enjoyed some of the most renowned whisky distilleries in the area, learned about the history and tasted some of the best whisky Scotland has to offer.
But the trip doesn’t end there – keep your eyes peeled for our next post which will be about the last four distilleries that we recommend for the final bit of your whisky tour.