Scotland is a whisky lover’s mecca, with distilleries dotting the country and tempting travellers with tastings and tours. Aberdeen’s surrounding Aberdeenshire is no exception. Here, we highlight a fivesome of favourites worth stopping by between Scottish castle-hopping for a wee dram.
Each of these distilleries is within an easy drive of Aberdeen city centre, which makes this historic Scottish metropolis a great base from which to start your adventures. Map out your itinerary from the comfort of Copthorne Hotel Aberdeen in the city’s quiet west end – then off you go.
About 90 minutes away by car, Knockdhu distillery in Knock is the farthest away from Aberdeen, so you might want to start there, then wend your way back to drop in on some of the others. Knockdhu welcomes visitors, but by appointment only, so be sure to call in advance of your trip. When you do visit Knockdhu, which dates back to 1894, you’ll find a quaint, traditional malt-whisky distillery that makes its whisky from the area’s rich natural resources, including water from the nearby Knock Hill springs. Here, you’ll find Knockdhu’s single-malt whisky range – 12-to 35-year-old anCnoc whiskies – as well as some special limited editions.
Credit: GlenDronach Distillery
In Forgue, about an hour’s drive from Aberdeen, don’t miss GlenDronach, a vibrant distillery that’s made sherried single-malt whiskies since 1826. GlenDronach is very tourist-friendly, with a fantastic visitor’s centre – where you can even bottle your own GlenDronach from the manager’s cask – that offers regular tours. Just show up for The GlenDronach Discovery Tour (£5 GBP, or about $7 USD) or The GlenDronach Tasting Tour (£15), which are both available on the hour from 10am to 3pm. For something more in depth, book in advance The Connoisseurs’ Experience (£35). From May through September, the distillery is open seven days a week from 10am to 4:30pm and from October through April, it’s open Mondays through Fridays from 10am to 4:30pm.
Glen Garioch has a distinct claim to fame: It’s Scotland’s easternmost Scotch whisky distillery. Just 45 minutes from Aberdeen in Oldmeldrum, it boasts a lot of history too, distilling handcrafted natural, non-chill-filtered single-malt whiskies for more than two centuries. A visit to Glen Garioch is a feast for the senses, from watching the distillers at work and smelling the whisky’s ingredients to tasting the finished spirits. The distillery is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10am to 4:30pm, and from July to September, Sunday hours are from noon to 4:30pm. Tour-wise, choose from the £7.50 Founders Tour, the £15 Wee Tasting Tour, the £40 Whisky & Cheese Tasting and the £40 VIP Tour. Private tastings are also available, but be sure to book them in advance.
Located in Kennethmont, Ardmore distillery is just over an hour’s drive from Aberdeen. Like Knockdhu, visits are by appointment only, so you’ll want to book in advance if you want to see this traditional single-malt maker. Here, distillers have been producing peated, smoky whisky since its founding in 1899, including Teacher’s Highland Single Malt Whisky and Ardmore Single Malt. Ardmore whisky is also the primary ingredient in Teacher's Highland Cream, a world-renowned blended whisky.
Credit: Whyte & MacKay
Last but not least, make your way to pretty and peaceful Fettercairn distillery, about 45 minutes outside Aberdeen at the base of the beautiful Grampian foothills. Again, Fettercairn draws on this fertile region’s fresh and natural ingredients for its pure malt whisky, including Grampian mountain spring water and local barley. The results include the Whyte & MacKay range, Fettercairn Fior, Fettercairn Fasque and 24-, 30-, and 40-year-old Fettercairn. The distillery is open to the public from Easter to October, Mondays through Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. Tours are free, but again, you must reserve your place by contacting Fettercairn in advance.