Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery is one of a handful of whisky distilleries in Scotland that can be reached from Edinburgh in just a couple of hours. When the Scotch Whisky Experience team took a trip to the distillery earlier this year, we asked visitor assistant Louise to tell us what to expect on an Aberfeldy whisky tour…
If you’re travelling from Edinburgh, be ready for the ride. Roughly two hours from the Capital, Dewars’ Visitor Centre and Aberfeldy Distillery is nestled just off the A827, and the drive alone through the hills and valleys is beautiful. Drivers, don’t worry, you’re not forgotten – you can have a takeaway gift as a thank you for being responsible and promotion of sensible drinking.
Firstly, the Visitor Centre at Aberfeldy is remarkable – really soak up the beginning of your tour, when you’re in the Heritage Museum. They have a fascinating history that is so passionately told via the staff video, it’s easy to forget there’s still a whole distillery part of the distillery tour to go! Here, take a look through Tommy Dewar’s office and test your sense of smell, and there may or may not be an opportunity to try on some lab coats and play the part of a Master Blender…
If you haven’t done a distillery tour before, the chances are you’re not alone in your tour group. Big, functioning distilleries can be intimidating with their huge machinery and science-y terms, but your tour guide will take you through everything in an educational and entertaining way.
You’ll be taken through each step of the whisky production process – malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. In the first few rooms, you’ll see barley in its various forms, including malted and ground barley. Check out their Porteous mills and take a peek at the fermentation process in action in their washbacks!
Something unique about Aberfeldy at this point was their scale model of the distillery and surrounding area, tiny little distillery workers included.
Perhaps the best advice we were given during our trip was ‘if it looks hot to touch, don’t touch it’, and this was most important in my favourite room, the stillroom. With two wash-stills and two spirit stills in operation, this room is toasty but a true insight into the spirit’s distillation. Just don’t touch the stills.
Finally, and maybe the most charming part of whisky creation is the maturation warehouse. Ask about the floors, ask about the walls, ask about temperature, ask about the barrels – ask all your questions and you’ll be greeted with genuine delight in answers.
But, if you have no more questions to ask, just stand and take it all in – the years’ worth of whisky just lying in front of you is a sight to behold. A sweet touch at Aberfeldy is their variety of names on the casks. First, there’s the casks with the names of the distilleries put in to the Dewar’s brand, and there’s a section of the warehouse where some visitors have hand-signed the casks. What caught me most was the names printed with dates underneath – members of staff are honoured with named casks, and members of staff with 25+ years-service are listed in plaques.
The Visitor Centre
Make sure you spend some time in the Visitor Centre! With an incredibly well-stocked gift shop of bottles, books and branded goods, Aberfeldy did not disappoint. Before you end up buying everything available, take a rest-stop in the café – unbelievably high-quality food with Highland views to match, a cosy fireplace and a bar for drams and cocktails, it’s hard to tear yourself away to get back on the bus.
Expect plenty new knowledge to gain, expect passionate and enthusiastic staff, expect a quality lunch and a gift shop so good it’s ready to bankrupt you. Expect machinery heat and pot stills and decades’ worth or maturing barrels, expect all the smells a functioning distillery can give you and expect the typical, picturesque Highland backdrop – but most importantly, expect a dram good time.
Find out more about visiting Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery here, including up to date information on tour types, timings and prices
Find out more about exploring the Highlands of Scotland here
Find out more about exploring the distilleries of Scotland (including how to get to distilleries using public transport) here