Just a sip of Scotch Whisky can evoke an entire sensory experience: visions of craggy moors and rolling hills interrupted only by an endless sky, the smell of peat bogs and handcrafted barrels, the warmth of the Scotch contrasted with a cool, crisp, windswept landscape. Indeed, many Scotch lovers will admit to beginning a lifelong romance with the spirit from their very first taste. What is it about this unique distillate that sets it apart and stirs such passion in many who partake? This once-in-a-lifetime tour allows you to explore the mystique firsthand. It is carefully designed to enhance your understanding of Scotch by allowing you to experience it directly from its source and to discover the unique history and people behind it. Guided by noted Scotch Whisky expert Ronnie Berri – an official Whisky ambassador for Scotland – you journey to the four main whisky-producing regions of Scotland and discover how the rich resources of each – the air, the water, and the earth – lend their unique characteristics.
This remarkable journey begins in Edinburgh, the cultural and political capital of Scotland, famously dubbed the Athens of the North both for its stunning beauty and its rich intellectual heritage. It is here that you prepare for distillery visits and whisky tastings later in the tour with a course at the Scotch Whisky School. The course introduces you to the exacting process of producing fine Scotch and helps you begin sharpening your palate to recognize nuances in taste, bouquet, and texture found in each variety. Upon successful completion of the program, you earn a certificate of Scotch Whisky Knowledge and Appreciation and depart with the confidence that your time here has prepared you to more fully appreciate the unique expressions of whisky you will encounter along our route.
Departing Edinburgh and traveling north to The Highlands, we spend two days exploring the celebrated Speyside region – home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries, including world-renowned brands such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and The Macallan. During an afternoon visit to Glenfiddich you experience the celebrated Pioneers Tour which includes tastings of single-malts up to 30 years old and you are also treated to a bottle of the Malt Masters Selection – a prized malt, not available for sale, and only afforded to a select few. An evening visit to The Macallan distillery allows you to spy Easter Elchies Estate, which many Scotch-lovers will instantly recognize as the house pictured on the label of every bottle of The Macallan.
Leaving Speyside, we travel to the city of Inverness, stopping for a bit of sightseeing here followed by a delightful Scholarly Sojourns’ signature picnic upon the banks of breathtaking Loch Ness. We also enjoy a memorable, mid-afternoon Scotch tasting against the backdrop of this iconic lake and the Scottish Highlands. An excursion to the charming sea-side town of Oban – gateway to the fabled Hebrides Islands – and the famous distillery that shares its name, presents our first opportunity to experience the notes of peat and smoke we will soon encounter in whisky from the isles.
Departing Oban by ferry, we journey across the Sea of the Hebrides to the enchanting island of Islay, home to eight of the most celebrated Scotch Whisky distilleries. This remote isle, dotted with Celtic ruins, remarkable natural scenery, and abundant wildlife, is the mecca for Scotch lovers around the globe. Here we walk upon the hallowed ground that produces the distinct “peaty” flavor by which aficionados immediately identify the whisky from this region. We spend two wonderful nights on the island, known as the Queen of the Hebrides, and visits to Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulen distilleries include a demonstration of the peat cutting and drying process, providing insight on the roots of the distinct, Islay flavor.
Bidding farewell to Islay, but richer for the time we have passed here, we return to the mainland. We stop on the northern outskirts of the City of Glasgow to visit the Auchetoshan distillery, a Lowland favorite known for its delicate flavor, before continuing on to picturesque Loch Lomond where we we pass a night in the shadow of Ben Lomond – the southern-most of Scotland’s Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet).
Your tour culminates with a visit to Glengoyne distillery where a Master Blender class provides you with an in-depth examination of the art of blending Scotch Whisky. This insider opportunity crowns your experience and gains you entry to the centuries-old fellowship of Scotch Whisky distillers as you create your own unique blend. Your recipe is carefully recorded in the distillery’s master book for posterity and you depart with your own bottle to enjoy at home while fondly reminiscing about this never-to-be-forgotten journey where you once sipped the “water of life” directly from its source.