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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland

Like the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret, this is in fact a whisky based tourist attraction, Dewar's World of Whisky, more that a distillery tour, not that there is anything wrong with that.   The Aberfeldy distillery produces a single malt used in Dewar's blends, so it is a working distillery and you do get to see it and some more features like a video, a replica of Tommy Dewar's study, old Dewar's advertising and marketing material and an interesting aroma wheel.  At $11 they also charge more than most for the additional features.  After tour we sampled both Aberfeldy 12 year old single malt as well as Dewar's 12 year old blend and they also have small café where you can buy lunch, although they had run out when we got there.  I wouldn't say this is a must see for the whisky enthusiast, but quite honestly you are not their target market.  If you have non-whisky enthusiast in your entourage this might be a good compromise to go and visit.

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Macallan, Speyside, Scotland

Macallan, Speyside, Scotland The Macallan is the distillery in Craigellachie where many of the myths espoused by other distilleries come to die.   It is a place of contrast and contradiction and I loved it. 

The distillery visitor's center is small and it is a place for whisky lovers to pay homage, not for the tourists.  No café or other family facilities, people come here to see the whisky being made and to buy from a very wide range of products available including many that cannot be found anywhere else in the UK.  The tour is very informative and goes into great depth into some of the areas of whisky production that others skirt over, particularly barley varietals (Macallan favours the less popular Golden Promise) and wood.  In fact they have an entire wood exhibit.  I don't mean the exhibit was made of wood, but a detailed exhibit on the types of wood used in their range and even goes in the detailed biochemistry of oak to explain the impact on the taste and aromas of their whisky. 

But what strikes you walking around the site is the industrial nature of the site.  This is not your quaint, Victorian, artisan, highland distillery, this is first and foremost a whisky factory with huge modern warehouses looming over you on the hill behind the distillery like the dark satanic mills of the famous hymn Jerusalem.  They use different mash tuns, different styles of wash backs (some steel, some wooden) and they even have two different still houses on the site with some still direct heated while others are steam heated.  All the sorts of variations in process that many other distilleries claim to reject and say would greatly affect the nature of final spirit seem less important to Macallan who produce a single malt, The Macallan 18 year old, sometimes called the Rolls Royce of Whisky (admittedly usually by them), and many consider one of the best single malts in the world.

Interestingly, despite being now reported as the second largest global brand of single malt whisky in sales, behind the Glenfiddich and ahead of Glenlivet, the success and globalization of brand Macallan does not seem to generate the angst and backlash Glenfiddich occasionally does within certain parts of the whisky community.  Discuss.

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