Discover how one of Scotland's most famous exports is made on a tour of a traditional whisky distillery in the Cairngorms National Park. Learn about the age-old techniques used, the influence of the surrounding landscape on the whisky's taste and tone, and just why Scottish whiskies can have such different characteristics.
Dalwhinnie Distillery is the highest in Scotland at 355 m (1,164 ft) above sea level, often cut off by the weather in midwinter and set in a remote mountain region. The distillery was established in 1898 and its most famous product is its 15-year-old single malt which has a wonderfully full-bodied, warm and smooth character. This makes it a good choice for both a first tasting or an experienced palate.
The distillery sits in Dalwhinnie village, around 45 minutes from Aviemore, on the western edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It’s one of the coldest inhabited places in the United Kingdom and the distillery was established here in part because it was a traditional meeting place for drovers and traders — partly because the cold temperatures reduce the amount of whisky that evaporates during the maturation process, and partly due to the proximity of clear spring water and peat bogs.
There's a real sense of history at the Dalwhinnie Distillery with its traditional whitewashed buildings, pagoda roofs and the increasingly rare wooden condensing worm tubs which are a distinctive landmark in the village. Inside, an archive of photos is on display and there's a family atmosphere with many staff members the second or third generation of their families to have worked here.
Your small group tour of the distillery lasts around 45 minutes to an hour. During this time you'll get to explore the production area with an expert guide and learn about how Dalwhinnie whiskies are made and how and why they differ to their competitors.
The processes involved in making single malt whisky are explained. You'll be able to taste four of the distillery’s single malts, each of which is paired with a different artisan chocolate, made by The Highland Chocolatier company which is based a little further south, outside Pitlochry.
The Dalwhinnie 15-year-old whisky combines the flavours of sweet malted barley, heather honey, citrus fruits, vanilla and just a hint of peat smoke. The Distillers Edition is a richer whisky with a clean, complex character with hints of toasted nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon and cloves, while Winters’ Gold uses only the spirit produced between October and March, and has a comforting, rich, fruity, taste.