Whisky Magazine Issue 18
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Duncan and Wendy Graham have travelled to every corner of Scotland in researching their book Visiting Distilleries. We asked them to pick the ten best visitor centres
Every year more than a million people visit Scotland's malt whisky distilleries. They include pilgrims worshipping at the shrine of their favourite tipple, coach parties, backpackers, bikers and refugees from wet Tuesday afternoons.
The range of experiences on offer is every bit as diverse, which led us to the conclusion that a bit of help for those contemplating one or more distillery visits might not go amiss. In the summer of 2000 we visited the 40 Scottish malt whisky distilleries offering a visitor experience as well as Speyside Cooperage, Old Bushmills in Antrim and the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre together with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh to see what was on offer. Our research resulted in the book Visiting Distilleries, recently published by The Angels' Share.
The essential ingredients for a good visiting experience are the friendliness of the staff, the quality of the tour, the visual and olfactory delights on offer and the overall ambience – that indefinable feeling which marks the day as one to remember.
The quality of distillery tours varies considerably. The best are those where groups are not too large, everyone can see and hear, questions are answered knowledgeably, and a coherent picture of the process from malting to maturing emerges. The experience needs to be as ‘hands on' as possible with visitors able to feel, smell and taste malted barley and grist, savour the aromas of the mashtun and washback, and sniff the spirit from the dipst...