Ginspiration and dram-filled adventures on the west coast
To help you plan for your whisky themed travels, let's take a tour of some of the island-based distilleries on the west coast - from Arran in the south to Lewis in the north. The only thing that comes second to enjoying a perfectly aged single malt is witnessing the fascinating process that leads to its creation. Let's go.
We'll start on the Firth of Clyde on the magical Isle of Arran where two distilleries have revived the ancient tradition of whisky making on the island. Lochranza's Isle of Arran Distillers and Lagg Distillery in Kilmory have turned Arran into a bonefide whisky destination alongside the wealth of other reasons to visit the vaunted 'Scotland in miniature'. Established in the mid 90s, Isle of Arran Distillers set up home in Lochranza thanks to the high quality of the water there. In 2006, the first commercially available Arran Malt 10-year-old was released to great acclaim. Since then, the distillery has gone on to release peated expressions - a project which led to the foundation of the Lagg Distillery in the south of the island, which opened its doors in 2019.
Islay - Queen of the Hebrides - is certainly whisky royalty with no less than nine distilleries on the island including many big names recognisable to even the casual enthusiast, including Bowmore on the shores of Loch Indaal, which is thought to be one of the oldest distilleries in the country. The unmistakeable smoky flavour of Islay whisky can be attributed to the unique process it undergoes, using peat cut from the mosslands to hone the distinctive taste. Many of the distilleries run regular tours (featuring tastings!), with some visitors choosing to co-ordinate visits to a few over the course of a day - the ultimate day trip for a whisky lover. On Islay, whisky production is a way of life - that's why the island has been drawing visitors for pilgrimages to its whisky laden shores for decades.
Check our whisky themed island-hopping itinerary taking in Arran and Islay.
Ten minutes across the water from Islay lies the Island of Jura - home to the Jura Distillery, originally founded in 1810. The island has one road, one pub, one village and... one distillery (as well as one very distinct micro-climate). Jura has some of the tallest stills of any island distillery, which contributes to the purity of their spirit. Come and check out this wild gem for yourself.
The Isle of Tiree Distillery is one of the smallest traditional whisky producers in Scotland - with every part of the process handcrafted. Not available to the market yet, they are in the process of making their own Isle of ire Single Malt Scotch Whisky - a fitting return to whisky distilling from the island that was once known as Tir an Eòrna - 'the land of the Barley'.
Campbeltown, Kintyre is a whisky producing region in its own right - and at one time was the 'whisky capital of the world' with 34 distilleries calling it home. It remains a significant region, with three distilleries still in operation - Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia - who all have a dedicated following around the globe. Campbelltown is a town rich in historical significance and is a must-visit location for any whisky enthusiast - with tours offered by all the resident producers. Perhaps you'll even find yourself joining in with a rendition of the famous local song - 'Campbeltown Loch, I wish you were whisky...'
On Mull, Tobermory Distillery began life in the 1790s. Today, following its reopening almost thirty years ago, nestled in the village itself, it's producing Tobermory and Ledaig Single Malts - the former is unpeated and the latter a peated dram, swapping production every six months. Why not take the ferry from Oban (home to its own distillery), filling up with quality fare from our onboard menu at the Mariners Restaurant en route to a unique island tasting amongst the pastel beauty of Tobermory.
The Ardnamurchan Distillery at Glenbeg was officially opened in 2014 but its history and connections stretch back to Loch Katrine, Clydeside and the largest distilleries in Scotland's whisky making history. A bottler as well as a producer of their own Ardnamurchan Single Malt, the distillery is a green pioneer - using energy from local renewables to power their operation.
Skye is a haven for those looking to escape the pace of city living. Taking time to relax and enjoy a wee dram is surely part of the experience! Located next to Loch Harport, Talisker Distillery is the oldest working distillery on the Island - producing its own single malt scotch whisky which Robert Louis Stevenson referred to as 'The King o'drinks'. The island's Torabhaig Distillery has been fully operational since 2017, situated in a restored 19th century farmstead, producing a 'well-tempered peated whisky'. There's only one way to taste these iconic whiskies for yourself - visit Skye with CalMac.
Raasay is a small Hebridean island, just a short 25-minute ferry ride from Skye, and home to Raasay Hebridean Distillers. Their ethos is to produce, mature, bottle and market every drop of spirit from the island, a spirit that's inspired by the older styles of Hebridean malts. Opening its doors for the first time in 2017, the distillery is custom built for the visitor experience - featuring tours, tastings and even luxury rooms to stay in above the facility for those who've always dreamed of staying the night in a whisky paradise. Alongside the whisky, the distillery also produces a craft botanical gin combining ten carefully chosen local ingredients, including fresh Raasay juniper.
The Isle of Harris Distillery on the Outer Hebrides is well known for its distinctive gin, and with their forthcoming single malt whisky 'The Hearach', they've revived whisky making on the island after a 170-year hiatus. The Outer Hebrides has a prestigious history in producing whisky, with Harris now taking its place amongst some of the nation's top distillers.
The North Uist Distillery Co.- another family run producer of award-winning gin, will soon launch its Nunton Whisky, made using the traditional bere barley, grown on the islands by local crofts. As wild as whisky comes, this blend promises to be a unique commodity amongst the various new enterprises that are populating Scotland's whisky scene - putting North Uist on the map for whisky tourism.
Abhainn Dearg Distillery on the Isle of Lewis was the first whisky distillery on the Outer Hebrides in 200 years. Its focus was to produce a single malt scotch whisky of Outer Hebridean origin, reflecting the people and the region its produced in. It released its first single malt in 2011 and has been growing in stature ever since. Why not join together trips to Harris and North Uist to create your own Outer Hebridean whisky adventure?
Check out our guide on buiding your own island-hopping adventure through the Outer Hebrides.