Scotch Whisky Distillery Tours – Glenfiddich Tour & Tomatin Distillery

If you read our previous post about the Scotch Whisky Experience, you’d get the gist that whisky is an important part of Scottish life. Just how important is whisky to the country? Here are some astonishing figures about the whisky industry, according to the Scotch Whisky Association:

  • Nearly 1.2 BILLION bottles exported worldwide (that’s a lot of freakin’ whisky!!)
  • Brought in £4.3 billion, representing three-quarters of Scotland’s food and drink exports!
  • Third largest industry in Scotland, overwhelmingly larger than tourism or life sciences
  • Supports 40,000 jobs, many in rural areas with few economic opportunities
  • 20 million caskets are maturing in warehouses in Scotland!
Caskets waiting to be filled with Whisky!

So yeah, scotch whisky is a big deal! Where the heck does all of that whisky come from??

Be sure to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh for a comprehensive introduction of everything whisky!

All of the scotch whisky are produced in 115 distilleries categorized in 5 regions of Scotland: Campbeltown, Lowland, Islay, Highland, and Speyside. The location of the distillery within these regions will lend the taste and characteristics of whisky being made based on the resources available; for example, the Islay whisky is known to be smokey with hints of sea air and seaweed taste, while Speyside whisky tends to be more fruity and nutty. It all sounds pretty complex, which is really the beauty and art of this craft in that there are endless possibilities of what can be created.

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

If you’ve already done the Scotch Whisky Experience or you’re a whisky enthusiast, then you should consider doing distillery tours at one or as many distilleries as possible throughout the country. Many distilleries will provide a full tour of their facilities, show what their whisky-making process is, and provide a tasting of several of their whiskies (just be sure to check which ones provide a tour). You can also do tours that will take you to multiple distilleries over a span of a couple days, or you can map your own route to hit as many distilleries as possible. We didn’t get to visit as many distilleries as we wanted since many are closed during the winter time or were out of the way with the time we had, but we did get to visit two very distinguished distilleries that are recognized worldwide: Glenfiddich Distillery and Tomatin Distillery.

Glenfiddich Distillery

Glenfiddich was built in 1887 by William Grant and his 9 children and is currently run by Grant’s descendants, which makes it one of the few independently owned distilleries in Scotland. Glenfiddich, which is Gaelic for Valley of the Deer (hence, a deer on every bottle), is a Speyside distillery located in Dufftown that produces single malt Scotch whisky. Over the years, the distillery has been featured in several pop culture references and accrued numerous awards for its whiskies.

The distillery offers a free 1-hour complimentary tour and runs pretty frequently, so there’s no need to book in advance. We took the Explorer Tour, which at £10 per person, it is the cheapest of the paid tours, but it includes a full tour through the distillery and warehouse and a tasting of four of their whiskies. This tour does take about an hour and a half to complete and only persons age 18+ are allowed (on any of the tours).

Each whisky distillery has their own particular style and taste but goes through the same general whisky-making process: Malting, Mashing, Fermentation, Distillation, and Maturation. The Glenfiddich tour goes through each facility that covers these processes and explains in detail how it works. The Glenfiddich website shows a bit of their process, but a live tour really allows you to appreciate the craftsmanship of their work. You can tell from the tour guide that everyone is very passionate in what they create. My favorite part of the tour is being able to smell the different pleasant aromas along the way. I also loved going through their Warehouse 8 where stacks of barrels of whisky are being stored during the maturation process (photos not allowed unfortunately!).

At the end of the tour, we got four of their whiskies to try: Glenfiddich 12-year, 15-year, 18-year and Glenfiddich Malt Master Edition. Although in appearance they all look similar, each one had unique aromas, taste and characteristics. I don’t quite remember which one had what flavors, but some were more smokey while others had more fruit aromas and taste; what was common among them was they had varying hints of spice.

You are also given the opportunity to bottle your own Glenfiddich 15-year in the shop at a separate cost. It comes with a box and personal labeling, making it a really cool memento to have, and the shop has plenty of whisky-related items to fulfill any enthusiast. All-in-all, Glenfiddich Distillery provides a wonderful experience of what goes into this proud craft.

Tomatin Distillery

Tomatin is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery that was founded in 1897 by the Tomatin Spey District Distillery Ltd. and is currently owned by the Takara Shuzo Corporation. The distillery is in the Highland region and is 25 minutes southeast of Inverness and has won numerous awards in international competitions.

Tomatin does not offer free tours but its basic tour starts at £8 for about an hour and fifteen minutes and the “Taste of Tomatin Tour” at £20 gives you a tasting to 6 of their whiskies. It’s recommended to book in advance as spots tend to fill up. You can also get a personalized bottle of Tomatin at the distillery as well. For more about the distillery and their tours, you can check out the Tomatin website.

Unfortunately, we did not know about having to book the tour and there were no open spots when we arrived, so we didn’t get to do any of the tours at Tomatin. However, they did let us watch a short film about the distillery and gave us a free tasting of a couple of their whiskies. The staff was very friendly to us and the shop has plenty of whisky items to enjoy, which my brother took advantage of.

Making whisky is a proud tradition of Scotland, so if you want to embrace the Scottish culture and pride, then check out one or many of the distilleries in Scotland and see what goes into this passionate craft. If this is something you would be interested in, give us a pin and let us know what your favorite whisky or beverage tours that you’ve done!



Loch Ness – Urquhart Castle and Finding the Monster, Nessie

Loch Ness is one of the most well-known places in all of Scotland. Located in the Highlands, the loch is the second largest lake in the country, spanning almost 23 miles long and reaching depths of up to 755 feet, and surrounded by beautiful landscapes of hills and trees. It is also the site of maybe the most notable attraction around the loch, the Urquhart Castle, which has beautiful views that overlook Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

However, many will know that’s not what made the loch so famous. Loch Ness is infamous for the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, which was affectionately named Nessie. Though records show claims of monster sightings dating back to the 6th century, the monster grabbed international attention in 1934 when a photograph, known as the “Surgeon’s photograph,” showed the creature’s head and long neck protruding out of the lake.

There have been many theories to what the creature could be, the popular suggestion was that it could be something like a plesiosaur, a dinosaur with a long neck and flippers for swimming. After years of searching and research, however, Nessie has yet to be discovered.

Before we delve further into the monster, lets first take a look at the Urquhart Castle. For us, we drove about two hours from the Oyster Shed the day before to the town of Lewiston, just a few minutes away from the castle, and crashed for the night there. It’s also located 30-35 minutes southwest of the city of Inverness, the capital city of the Highland area.

Note: Along the way, we did pass by the Eilean Donan Castle (photos below), a very picturesque castle during the day but we only could take a look at night with lights illuminating it.

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands

The next morning, we went to check out the Urquhart Castle. We were pretty much the first ones there, as we arrived little earlier than the 9:30 AM opening time and admission for adults was 9 euros. Eventually, a few other people checked out the castle, though no more than 10 people were there at any given time that we were there, which made the visit very serene and peaceful. The castle is actually the third most visited castle in Scotland, but the crowds really die down during the winter time. The receptionist told us during the winter, they sometimes only see as few as 100 visitors a day.

The castle dates back to the 5th century and is one of the largest castles in all of Scotland. It had a very active history spanning the 13th and 16th centuries, which includes enduring several invasions and takeovers between England and Scotland. By the late 16th century, the castle had been blown up so that it could no longer be a military stronghold and then pillaged for materials to the point where the castle is mostly in ruins.

Despite the damaged state of the castle, you can still take the stairs to the top of the Grant Tower, which gives ones of the best views of Loch Ness and the castle grounds. It is still impressive to see the grandness of the entire grounds, but it also makes for some stunning photography with the landscape and sunrise.

As we walked around the castle grounds, we struck up a conversation with the security guard about the Loch Ness Monster. He told us that although the lake has been thoroughly searched and scientific research has 99.875% ruled out the monster from existing, most locals are still hopeful that it’ll one day show up, or until it is 100% conclusive that it can’t be found. At the very least, they want to keep the folklore alive for hopeful tourists and those with an imagination.

We were indeed one of those hopeful ones, regardless of how unlikely it was. After exploring through the castle, we decided to go down to the lakeside if we could get any glimpse of activity on the water surface. When we got there, the lake was very calm, very quaint, but seemed pretty void of any lifeform, especially when temperatures were around below freezing.

We hung around the edge for a couple minutes just to enjoy the peacefulness and take a few photos. It didn’t seem like anything would show up so we started to head to our car. But all of a sudden, we heard a splash of activity on the lake’s surface and turned to see what it was. INCREDIBLY, a creature emerged on the surface in the distance!! I told my brother to quickly grab a shot before it went under and was able to capture the creature on camera! We screamed to other people to look over the lake but by the time anyone else got there, it went back into the depth. But at least we got a photo of the creature. HERE IS THE DEFINITIVE, 1000% COMPLETELY REAL PROOF THAT THERE IS A LOCH NESS MONSTER:

The Loch Ness Monster is Real!!

So, there you have it: the legend of the Loch Ness Monster is real! No disputing it whatsoever! (Unless asked for further inspection…which I doubt it…because it’s real…for sure!!)

But if you have no interest in the monster, you can still check out the Urquhart Castle, which is a fantastic place to visit and immerse yourself in Scottish history. Give it a pin if you are inspired to check out Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and even Scotland’s other collection of castles.