“The making of single malt whisky is a sort of alchemy; the making of truly great single malt whisky is a form of magic.”
It’s hard to think of Germany and not envision frothy steinkrugs overflowing with amber-hued beer. France elicits images of delicate bubbles, floating up a flute of champagne. Russia makes you shiver as you remember the razor-sharp sensations of drinking good, cold vodka.
And then there’s Scotland. Long-haired cows roam the mountains like mopey hippies. Icy lakes give way to barren mountains and, eventually, the crashing violence of the northern Atlantic. From this land of jagged beauty comes one of the great drinks — Scotch whisky.
The complexity and depth of a decent single-malt whisky [whisky when it’s made in Scotland, whiskey everywhere else] is hard to overstate. It can be peaty or smoky or smooth; it can be spicy or oaky or nutty. In honor of National Scotch Day, let’s look at seven iconic distilleries, each well worth your time and the effort of getting to.
On the A9, between Stirling and Perth, there’s a village in the Scottish Lowlands that likes to call itself the “Gateway to the Highlands.” It seems almost like an affectation, because the town of Blackford is so tiny that the Tullibardine distillery is its unarguable epicenter.
Originally one of Scotland’s oldest breweries, Tullibardine has been around since the 1400s. Even if you don’t drink, the grounds alone are worth a visit for their medieval history. In 1949, they started distilling whisky, sourcing their water from a nearby natural spring, and their product is now renowned worldwide.
Across a narrow sea you’ll come across the windswept and ragged isle of Islay. Almost dead center on the southern coast of the island you’ll find some white buildings adorned with dark roofs. This is Lagavulin.