Water and whisky are the two top Scottish drinks. Some people enjoy one or the other straight, whilst others mix them. A bottle of pure water has become a constant companion for many of us over the past years so that we can avoid dehydration in order to stay fit and healthy. Other drinking delights perhaps give more enjoyment and are far tastier. The food larder in Scotland already offers a wide range of Scottish produce, but the local beverage industry is not far behind when you think of whisky and gin as well as craft ales and lagers.
Internationally known brands in the beer, wine and soft drinks industry are not part of these recommendations; there is also no mention of cheap schnaps, hard liquour or booze. Instead, we will concentrate on some of the top Scottish brands from small family businesses which produce the award-winning brands such as Rock Rose Gin as well as the still and sparkling pure waters of Highland Spring from the Ochil Hills in Perthshire. Then there is a close look at the new Johnnie Walker Visitor Experience and a unique ale which is served in only the one pub in the whole of Scotland. Finally, there are options for whisky-tastings and food pairings with Glenmorangie Single Malt. But before you start travelling, let us have a closer look at my top five delights and superb tastes from the best of Scottish drinks.
Dunnet Bay Distillers (Premium Scottish Spirits)
The history of Dunnet Bay Distillers is also the personal success story of Martin and Claire Murray. They originally moved to the far north of Scotland to lead a more relaxed way of life, to raise a family and to enjoy the unique landscapes found in Caithness. After having pursued their passion to produce their own gin, they found that it coincided with gin-drinking becoming en vogue. Ever since then their production levels have increased year by year, but still each bottle (made of stone) is filled, hand-waxed and batch numbered before it leaves their premises.
The secret to the unique taste of Rock Rose Gin is based on the combination of local and traditional botanicals which are carefully selected by Martin and Claire to create the characteristic flavour. As producers of premium Scottish spirits they have collected several renowned awards such as a golden accolade at the Scottish Gin Awards and the CoolBrands Award, making Rock Rose Gin one of the top brands in Britain. A strong ethos can be found in their view on sustainability, with theirs being the first gin to be available in fully recyclable refill pouches. If visitors to their distillery are more into vodka, they are very welcome to try their Holy Grass Vodka also.
Highland Spring (Still & Sparkling)
Frequent visitors to Scotland will surely have seen the elegant green or clear glass bottles of Highland Spring on their dinner tables. If you want to not only shop local, but also enjoy local produce when you dine, here you can find the right choices of both still and sparkling waters. They are naturally low in minerals and salts and nothing is added or removed. The water is untouched by human hand and is bottled directly from a protected underground source.
Highland Spring water is absolutely pure and fresh because of its long journey through the rocks of the Scottish Highlands. It originates from deep in the Ochil Hills in Perthshire. Layers of sandstone and basalt act as natural filters in these 400-million-year-old hills where the rain falls on heather-clad ground. There is also a new eco bottle which is not only made from 100% recycled plastic, but is also 100% recyclable when you are done with it. But remember that you can refill it yourself, as the tap water in Scotland also tastes good.
Johnnie Walker & Four Corner Distilleries
No visit to Scotland is complete without visiting a whisky distillery. But the choice is overwhelming, with more than 130 working distilleries; and every single malt tastes different, say the experts. In order to set themselves apart, Diageo and their world-famous blended whisky brand, Johnnie Walker, have taken the visitor experience to the next level. Right on Princes Street in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, you can now discover the world of Scotch. This visitor centre includes a range of tours, a rooftop terrace with views of Edinburgh Castle, a restaurant, a bar, various tasting rooms and a fully equipped retail outlet on the ground floor.
Most visitors to Scotland want to discover more than the capital and go on a tour of the Highlands, and the Four Corner Distilleries of Diageo lead the touring way for whisky aficionados. They can start at Glenkinchie Distillery (Lowland Home of Johnnie Walker) just outside Edinburgh and continue to the well-known Speyside Whisky Trail, where the Speyside Home of Johnnie Walker can be found at the Cardhu Distillery. If the taste of Highland whisky is your favourite, you should also visit Clynelish Distillery at Brora north of Inverness. But the absolute highlight of this Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland is likely to be Caol Ila Distillery on the island of Islay in the Hebrides.
Jigger Ale & Jigger Inn
Everybody knows of St Andrews and its world-famous golf course − at least the golfers do! But it is also home to one of the oldest universities in the UK with a campus where William and Kate met. While keen golfers are desperate to play the Old Course at least once in their lifetime, non-golfers can enjoy a leisurely stroll on West Sands Beach or get active with some water-sports like kayaking or catamaran sailing.
The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa is unique with its location overlooking the 17th hole of this iconic golf course. Likewise, the views from their Road Hole Restaurant & Bar on the 4th floor are exceptional and almost impossible to beat in St Andrews, while the Kohler Waters Spa, the only one outside the USA, is thoroughly enjoyed by golfers and non-golfers alike. However, the true hidden gem is the Jigger Inn right next to the hotel where you will find an authentic Scottish pub atmosphere with open fires, lots of golf memorabilia and its own Jigger Ale, available nowhere else in the UK.
Glenmorangie Whisky and Glenmorangie House
Glenmorangie is a very well-known whisky brand which is enjoyed all over the world. It was back in 1843 when they started to craft their unique single malt in the small town of Tain in the Highlands, about 35 miles north of Inverness. Some might wonder why a giraffe is their spirit animal, but this majestic creature is the same height as their towering stills which give Glenmorangie its unique taste. Over the years the distillers of Tain have created a wide range of rare bottlings, prestige expressions and limited editions.
However, what makes Glenmorangie unique in the world of Scottish single malt whisky is the fact that they can offer their own 5-star luxury accommodation at Glenmorangie House less than 20 minutes away from the distillery. The guests are as welcome there, as if it were their own home. With just six rooms in the main house and three additional cottage rooms for more privacy, the atmosphere is intimate and homely. Because of the House’s close relationship with the distillery, guests have the opportunity for in-depth whisky tastings before dinner in a relaxed ambience with other guests whom they later join around a large dining table for a bespoke four-course meal.
Some of these unique Scottish drinking delights can be nicely combined in an ultra-luxurious holiday. In order to get the most out of such a tour, it is best to hire a driver-guide or chauffeur so that you can enjoy the drink without worrying about the driving.
Some of these beverages can of course be enjoyed in many restaurants in Scotland (Highland Spring), but in order to try Jigger Ale, you need to go to the Jigger Inn in St Andrews and even better, stay next door in the Old Course Hotel, even if you are not a keen golfer. And we all know that some drinks taste best, when you try them at the distillery where the alcohol is produced (Rock Rose Gin & Holy Grass Vodka at Dunnet Bay Distillers).
Glenmorangie is a destination on its own, because it offers both a distillery experience and accommodation at Glenmorangie House nearby. It can be easily reached from Inverness, capital of the Highlands, just 50 minutes away by train, and the airport, to the east of Inverness, is not much further. If travellers want to tour Scotland, they can start in Edinburgh with the brand-new Johnnie Walker visitor experience on Princes Street and then enjoy a perfect round trip to the four corners of Johnnie Walker (JW) in a chauffeur-driven limousine – with all four distilleries contributing essential aromas to this blended whisky:
Glenkinchie Distillery – Lowland Home of JW
– just 40 minutes south east of Edinburgh
– recommended hotels: Greywalls Hotel in East Lothian / Cringletie House near Peebles
Cardhu Distillery – Speyside Home of JW
– in the centre of the world-famous Speyside Whisky Trail
– recommended hotel: Rocpool Reserve, Inverness / Fonab Castle, Pitlochry
Clynelish Distillery – Highland Home of JW
– 80 minutes north of Inverness
– recommended hotel: Rocpool Reserve, Inverness / Glenmorangie House near Tain
Caol Ila Distillery – Islay Home of JW (launching in 2022!)
– on the island of Islay in the Southern Hebrides
– recommended hotel: The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links, Islay
Dorothy Welsh is the CEO of Luxury Scotland. Luxury Scotland offers true Scottish hospitality, culinary delights and unique experiences.
Source: A Luxury Travel Blog