If you’re exploring the distilleries of Scotland, it’s always useful to have a list of distilleries that are selling something that little bit more unique – a piece of Scotch whisky history; a chance to make your mark on the development of a new distillery; or perhaps just something to add to your cabinet that’s rare, exceptional and most importantly, a delicious memento from your visit.
But where to start looking for the perfect Scotch whisky to add to your collection, your investments, or your cabinet?
Here at the Scotch Whisky Experience, we work with more than 90% of the Scotch whisky industry, so we asked the distilleries of Scotland to tell us about their exclusive releases that are available to the public.
Please note that the information below may be subject to change as editions change or new bottles are released. If you want to know more, it’s always best to contact the distillery directly – we’ve provided links below so you can get in touch.
If you’re looking to own a bit of whisky history in the making, take a look around at the newer distilleries that have been opening across the country in recent years. Because whisky can’t officially be called ‘Scotch’ until it has matured in oak for at least three years, newer distilleries are being a wee bit creative with their offering, giving new fans a chance to own a cask in advance of bottling.
This beautiful island distillery – worth the trip for the views and accommodation alone – is now selling casks of its new spirit in anticipation of its first ever release of single malt Scotch. Choose between a 30 litre cask (approximately 40 bottles) or a full-size 190 litre cask (approximately 250 bottle), and decide after three years whether you would like to extend the maturation for up to 10 years (for full size casks), or for the smaller casks, just how many of them you’d like to keep to yourself!
Raasay Distillery are also now offering their inaugural single malt on pre-order, for delivery in time for Christmas 2020.
This Lowland single malt has already been making waves on the Scotch whisky scene, its twin spirit still design having been conceived by renowned whisky consultant, the late Dr Jim Swan. The distillery makes both peated and unpeated spirit on its Dumfries and Galloway site, which has a colourful history going back hundreds of years.
Members of the Annandale Distillery Cask Club can purchase their own cask (a variety of styles are available) of peated or unpeated spirit, which is matured for at least 10 years under bond in Annandale’s warehouse. Cask owners can visit the distillery throughout the maturation period, and can even have a hand in bottling their own whisky once it’s ready.
Bottle your own
Of course, if you’re not in the market for 200 bottles of Scotch, or you just don’t fancy waiting, many Scotch whisky distilleries offer the chance to bottle your own Scotch, opening a single cask which can be filled onsite. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and a bottle that you’ve filled yourself at the distillery makes a fantastic souvenir.
This beautiful Highland distillery keeps at least two casks available for visitors to the distillery: currently (May 2019), these are a 2001 ex-bourbon cask in its light-filled retail space, and a 1999 ex-sherry cask in its onsite warehouse. Only onsite visitors have access to these casks to purchase and fill their own bottle, and the selection varies according to availability.
Another tucked-away Highland distillery just 90 minutes from Edinburgh is The Glenturret: recently under new ownership, its current cask available for visitors to bottle their own is called Tòiseach Ùr (translating appropriately to ‘new beginnings’ from Scots Gaelic). The whisky is a single cask edition at cask strength, and having spent 13 years in American oak, has flavours of cedarwood with plenty of fruity sweetness and citrus on the nose and palate. As above, these fill-your-own bottlings are only available to distillery visitors.
This innovative Speyside distillery known for its innovative whisk finishes, recently unveiled its newly redesigned Bottle Your Own area at its home in Elgin. Visitors can choose from up to three casks to bottle their own whisky as a distillery exclusive, however if you’re a serious fan a mail-order option is also available: just email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01343 550900 to make an enquiry.
Glen Moray distillery also release single cask distillery exclusives around once a year: they currently (May 2019) have two expressions, a 1998 PX finish and a 2010 Peated PX finish.
Another option if you’re saving on suitcase space, is to opt for a distillery-exclusive bottling of Scotch: these are often whiskies with an interesting or unusual profile, small enough in edition numbers to keep as a single-site release. It’s a whisky to savour if you get your hands on one, because you’ll be unlikely to find something quite like it again.
For the recent Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, family-owned distillery Glenfarclas bottled a single, first-fill, 16 year-old sherry butt Scotch whisky, yielding 647 bottles at 58% abv. For fans of this well-loved distillery, the Spirit of Speyside 2019 release is a classic heavily-sherried expression, proving very popular during the festival. At the time of writing, there were still a couple of hundred bottles left, sold directly from the Visitor Centre.
If you missed out on this one, word is that Glenfarclas have another “Sherry-monster” Distillery Exclusive in the pipeline. Keep an eye on the distillery’s website and newsletter for details…
Cardhu Distillery also showcase their whisky via an exclusive bottle: their current bottling has been triple matured in first-fill Kentucky bourbon, first-fill Hogshead bourbon, and first-fill Californian red wine barrels, resulting in a smooth, fruity whisky.
Another independently-owned Speyside distillery with a dedicated following, Benromach sells two different single cask bottlings from its visitor centre in Forres. The casks change regularly (they yield around 240-350 bottles each time) and are available in two versions: Classic Benromach exclusive and a Heritage exclusive. Classic Benromach exclusive casks are always from 1998 to the present; Heritage exclusive features whisky from casks before 1983.
To mark its 150th anniversary, Cragganmore Distillery in Ballindalloch has released a special limited edition bottle alongside its current distillery exclusive. The anniversary bottle is matured in double charred American Oak giving a rich and fruity taste with a gentle smokiness, bottled at 48.8%. Cragganmore’s main Distillery Exclusive Bottle is double matured, first in charred American oak then into first-fill American oak, giving it notes of toffee and caramel with sweet honey on the finish.
Speyside distillery Glen Grant is another to sell a limited edition distillery-exclusive whisky: their current bottling is one of just 300. An 11 year old whisky, this Glen Grant has been maturing for 10 years in American oak, with a one year finish in a Port Cask. Bottled at cask strength (57.2%), you can only purchase this whisky from the distillery’s onsite visitor centre.
The key regional whisky festivals of Scotland, all of which fall during Whisky Month in May each year, are often known for the rare, exclusive bottles released by many of the participating distilleries in honour of the festival. In some cases, you’ll be lucky enough to discover a festival bottle on sale when you visit a distillery at other times of the year, and while you shouldn’t count on it, it’s worth grabbing one while you can: the releases are specially selected by the distillery team, and are hard to find once they’re sold out.
Find out more about the whisky festivals of Scotland here.
What distillery exclusives have you purchased in the past? Let us know your tasting notes in the comments or on social media!
Please note that the information above is correct at the time of publishing. For more detailed information on the casks available from Scotch whisky distilleries, it is always best to contact the distillery directly in advance of your visit.