Speyside Distilleries

Speyside is the heart of Malt Whisky country and the home of approximatley half of all the Scottish whisky distilleries in Scotland. The area is located east of Inverness along the Spey valley, and reaches from the Moray coastline and up into the majestic Cairngorm Mountains. 


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The village and distillery of Aberlour are in the heart of Speyside. The distillery was founded by John and James Grant and probably pre-dates its first official recognition, in 1826. It was rebuilt in 1879 by James Fleming about a mile from the original site. It was taken over in 1892 by R. Thorne and Sons who considerably enlarged it and in 1898 it was rebuilt again then expanded in 1966 at its purchase by Campbell, now owned by Pernod Ricard.

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Allt-a-Bhainne (  pronounced Ollt-err-VANE ) distillery was built in 1975 and was the fourth distillery to be built by Chivas Brothers (Seagram). It is on the northern slopes of Ben Rinnes and was built and equipped to a modern design.

Auchroisk / Singleton

The distillery was the fourth distillery to be established by Justerini & Brooks. It came on stream in 1974 with eight stills but twelve years passed before the first whisky was released as a bottled single malt. Water comes from a natural spring called Dorie's Well. Auchroisk means "Ford of the red stream" in Gaelic. 


This distillery, 4 Km/2.5 miles north of Keith, close to both the Isla and the Spey, was built in 1896 by Alexander Edward of Forres ( owner of Benrinnes ) who remained sole owner till 1899. It was sold to John Dewar and Co in 1923 and reconstructed in 1971. The name means 'Big Burn' and derives from a nearby stream though the distillery derives its water from the peat-rich water of the Foggie Moss. 


A historically interesting distillery in distant, mountain countryside between the upper reaches of the Spey and the Avon. Balmenach is amid a series of valleys called the Haughs of Cromdale. This area was well-known for the illicit production of whisky before it became a legitimate operation in 1824, according to Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, in his 1951 book "Scotch". 


The distillery next door to Glenfiddich, in Dufftown. Both distilleries are owned by the same company, and always have been. Balvenie castle, designed by the Adam brothers in the 18th century, became the principal building of the Balvenie distillery when that was established in 1892. Balvenie is in fact the old name for Dufftown itself and the town is surrounded by seven malt distilleries. Balvenie still treat a little of their barley in their own floor maltings. 

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Next door to Longmorn, and under the same ownership. Both distilleries were built in the 1890s but Benriach closed down in 1900 and remained silent till it was reopened and rebuilt in 1965. In 1975 output was increased from 660,000 gallons/annum to 750,000 gallons/annum. 


Ben Rinnes (840m/2759ft) is the dominant peak among the mountains overlooking the heart of Speyside. It gives its name, albeit rendered as one word, to a distillery at 213m/700ft on its northern shoulder. Benrinnes, which was founded in 1826 by one Peter Mackenzie. It was bought by David Edward of Craigellachie in 1864, sold to John Dewar & Sons in 1922, SMD in 1930 and was largely rebuilt in 1955-56. It employs an unusual system of partial triple distillation and takes its water from the Scurran and Rowantree burns. Its water comes from springs "on the summit of the Mountain" and runs over granite. [ms] puts the height of the distillery at 1030ft but [mj] and Benrinnes's own label give the lower height. 


The original founders of Benromach were Duncam McCallum of Campbeltown and F.W.Brickman of Leith. The distillery had a chequered history, closing for several years in the 1930s. It was sold to SMD in 1953, modernised in 1954 but then ceased production in 1983 and has since been partly dismantled. Benromach is at Forres, near the mouth of the Findhorn. The distillery was built in 1898 and despite later refurbishment, seems to have been regarded as too old and small to keep alive. Water comes from the Chapelton Springs. 

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This distillery, not far from Dufftown was built in 1973 during Seagram's expansion in Scotland. There are three stills, each with the distinctive bulge in the neck known as a "Milton Ball". The entire output is used for blending. The architecture of the complex was kept close to traditional distillery design whilst employing the most advanced modern production technology - the entire plant can be operated by one man. Water comes from the Preenie and Kate's Well. 


Partner to the renowned Glen Grant of which it was once an annexe. The two distilleries under the same ownership are across the street from one another in the whisky town of Rothes. This little town on the Spey has five distilleries. Caperdonich, founded in 1898 was rebuilt in 1965 and extended in 1967. From the start it has been Number Two to Glen Grant. It is named after the 'Secret Well' from which it draws its water. 


Cardhu has in the past been variously known as Cardow and Cardoor from the gaelic 'black rock'. The spellings all refer to the same hamlet, in the heart of Speyside, on the stretch of the river known as Knockando. The same stretch houses the unrelated Knockando and Tamdhudistilleries. It is also a favoured spot for salmon fishermen. The Cardhu distillery traces its history to its establishment in 1824 by the local farmer John Cumming, and on the present site to 1884. There was illicit distilling on the site prior to 1824 and it is said that John Cumming relied on the aromas of Helen Cumming's home baking to conceal the presence of the still from the excisemen. It was extended in 1887 and 1897 and rebuilt in 1961. The company joined with Johnnie Walker in 1893. Water comes from the Mannoch Hill through two miles of pipe.

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The distillery, which is very small, is on the east of the river Lossie, between the towns of Elgin and Rothes. It was built in 1896 and has been temporarily closed since 1985. 


Cheek-by-jowl with Glenfiddich and Balvenie in Dufftown but not a member of their family. The distillery was founded in 1894, rebuilt in 1910, and extended in 1964. It was sold to Grants and has been temporarily closed since 1985. 


cragganmore distillery

The distillery is quite small. Once part owned by the Ballindalloch Estate it is high on the Spey, where the river meets the Avon and Livet. Cragganmore was founded in 1869, rebuilt in 1902, and extended in 1964. 

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The Craigellachie distillery stands to the south-east of the Spey in the village of the same name. To the north-west is Macallan. The distillery was founded in 1891 and rebuilt in a modern style in 1965, doubling up the stills from one pair to two. It has eight wooden washbacks and delivers 47,000 litres AV of spirit per week. 


Between the mountain Ben Rinnes and the river Spey, at the hamlet of Carron, not far from Aberlour the Dailuaine ("Dal-oo-ayn") distillery produces a robust, tasty, after-dinner malt. The distillery was founded in 1852 and has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1960. It is one of several distilleries along the Spey valley that once had their own railway halts, for workers and visitors - and as a means of shipping in barley or malt and despatching whisky. Although the railway line has now been removed the route has been preserved for walkers as the "Speyside Way" from Tomintoul to the sea. Dailuaine had its own steam locomotive, which is now preserved on the Strathspey Railway at Aviemore. 


Of Dufftown's seven malt distilleries only one appropriates Dufftown as its name and in past manifestations confusingly tagged on the word Glenlivet. In fact Dufftown is some distance from the glen of the Livet, and has no need anyway for such devices. Speyside distilleries used to believe that a murmured reference to Glenlivet added a cachet but these allusions are gradually vanishing. The Dufftown distillery and its next-door neighbour Pittyvaich were both owned by Bells until that company was acquired by what is now United Distillers. Dufftown's stone-built premises were originally a meal mill, in 1896 but they have since sprouted a pagoda, and were twice expanded in the 1970s. 

Glen Elgin

Where the river Lossie approaches the malt whisky town of Elgin there are no fewer than eight distilleries within a few miles. Glen Elgin is not the nearest to the town whose name it bears but it close enough. The distillery was founded in 1898-1900, rebuilt and extended in 1964. The malt is an important component of the White Horse blended whisky. 

Glen Grant

Glen Grant was founded in 1840 and some of the original buildings remain. The distillery is set round a small courtyard with turreted and gabled offices in the "Scottish Baronial" style, probably dating from the 1880s. It is a quirky place, traditional in style despite expansions in the 1970s. Some of the stills are coal-fired.

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Glen Keith

Seagram has two distilleries next door to one another in the town of Keith, on the river Isla. One simply takes the name of the district StrathislaThe other is Glen Keith which was established on the site of a corn mill in 1957, during boom years for the industry. It was the first new malt distillery to have been founded in Scotland since a previous boom in late Victorian times. Glen Keith had the first gas-fired still in Scotland and pioneered the use of computers in the industry. In its full name the distillery adds the designation 'Glenlivet', like many of its contemporaries. As they own the original Glenlivet not to mention Glen Grant - and Strathisla for that matter - Seagrams have thus far not bottled Glen Keith as a single malt. 

Glen Moray

It is purely coincidence that malt whiskies with similar names, Glens Morangie and Moray are made by the two distilleries of the Macdonald & Muir company. Glen Morangie may be better known but its more southerly sibling is gaining its own reputation. The principal version of Glen Moray has in recent years been subtitled '93, to mark the year of Macdonald & Muir's foundation a century ago, though the whisky in the bottles is a mere 12 years old.

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Glen Rothes

The venerable wine and spirit merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd of St. James's, London (where they trace their origins to the 1690s ) have in their blended Scotch whisky Cutty Sark long used a proportion of Glen Rothes. Now, they are marketing Glen Rothes as a bottled single malt by arrangement with the distillery's proprieters. Berry Brothers & Rudd also independantly bottle a number of other malts but with a discretion that borders on invisibility.

Glen Rothes has long been prized by blenders and will surely be more widely appreciated as a single malt now that the distllery's owners have entered into this marketing arrangement. It had previously been on sale only when independant bottlings were made.

Glen Spey

Glen Spey belongs to the same family as the more familiar Knockando and The Singleton of Auchroisk, and the lesser-known Strathmill. All are owned by Justerini & Brooks, the "J & B" of blended whisky renown.

The Glen Spey distillery was founded in 1884 and acquired at a very early stage, in 1887 by Gilbey's. The distillery was completely rebuilt in 1970. Its whisky contributes to blends like Spey Royal and the vatted malt Stathspey but has in recent years also been marketed on a limited scale as a single malt. 


Glenallachie is in the heart of Speyside, near Aberlour. A dam that looks like a village pond and a small waterfall soften the exterior of what is otherwise a functional modern distillery. It was built in 1967 primarily to contribute malt to the Mackinlay blends, at that time owned by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. In 1985 the distillery and the Mackinlay business was acquired by Invergordon. The distillery was temporarily closed in the late 1980s but acquired and reopened by Campbell at the end of the decade. It is pronounced "Glen-alec-y". 


At the watershed of the Findhorn between Forres and Elgin, this distillery produces malts that contribute to the Ballantine blends. Despite its somewhat distant location the distillery uses the appellation Glenburgie-Glenlivet. A distillery was founded on the site at Alves in 1829, subsequently fell into disuse, was revived in 1878 and extended in 1958. At this time the two original stills were augmented by a pair of shorter, cylindrical-necked Lomond stills but these were removed in 1981. 


Glendullan is one of several malts associated with the Old Parr blends which originated from Macdonald Greenlees. The distillery was founded in 1897 and expanded in 1972. 


Glenfarclas means "Valley of the green grass". The distillery is about a mile from the Spey and set on a cattle farm [near] Ben Rinnes from which the distillery's water flows. Barley is grown nearby. The distillery grew out of the farm [but did not really take off till it was bought by a neighbour, John Grant in 1865]. The site, variously known as Glenfarclas, or as Recherlich is not far from the village of Marypark in the Ballindalloch area.

The distillery is large and successful [and] is the business of a wholly private, family-owned company J & G Grant. John and George Grant are not connected (except perhaps distantly) to any of the other whisky-making Grants and regard theirs as the most truly independant of all Scottish distilleries.

The distillery was founded in 1836 and has been in the family since 1865. Its still-house is modern and its stills the biggest on Speyside. They are heated by gas flame. A substantial proportion of the whisky is aged in first-use sherry cask, some in re-fill sherry casks and some in plain wood. 

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Producer: William Grant and Sons

The glen of the river Fiddich gives its name to the biggest-selling single malt whisky in the world. The Glenfiddich distillery is on the small river whose name it bears, in Dufftown. Nearby the Fiddich and river Dullan meet before joining the Spey The name Fiddich indicates that the river runs in the valley of the deer and indeed a stag is the company's emblem. The distillery takes its own water from the Robbie Dubh spring.

Glenfiddich spent some time waiting to be discovered. The distillery was founded in 1886/7 by William Grant from second-hand equipment bought at a bargain price from Cardhu and produced its first whisky on Christmas Day 1887. It is still in the original family.

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Producer: Seagram

The only whisky allowed to call itself "The Glenlivet" is historically the most famous Speyside malt. The appelation "The Glenlivet" is restricted even further in that it appears on only the "official" bottlings from the owning company of the distillery, Seagram. These are branded as The Glenlivet with the legend "Distilled by George & J.G. Smith" in small type at the bottom of the label, referring to the company set up by a father and son that originally founded the distillery.

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The distillery, in the valley of the Lossie, south of Elgin, was built in 1876, reconstructed 20 years later and extended in 1962. Its memorabilia includes a horse-drawn fire-engine: whisky is so combustible that every distillery has had a fire at some time


Closer to the Spey than to the river Isla, somewhere between the two, this distillery was founded in 1898, extensively remodelled in the 1920s and rebuilt in 1965. It temporarily closed in the mid 1980s but was then acquired and reopened by Allied Distillers at the end of the decade. In the past it was one of the distilleries linked with the Buchanan blends. Its malt has been bottled as a single by various independants, most recently Gordon & MacPhail. 

Imperial - Re named Dalmunach Distillery

Dalmunach distillery speyside scotland

The distillery is in Carron, just across the river from Dailuaine with which it was historically linked. Imperial was founded in 1897 and extended in 1965. It closed briefly in the 1980s then was reopened by Allied. Re named Dalmunach distillery when the new distillery was opened on the refurbished site 2014.


The distillery is near the mouth of the river Spey and by the fishing village of Buckie. The enterprise has its origins in 1825 but the Inchgower distillery was built in 1871 and expanded in 1966. It was at one stage briefly owned by the town council. 


Kininvie distillery Dufftown only has a still house and no mash house. The worts are produced and fermented at the Balvenie mash house about 200 metres up the hill and piped down to the still house at Kininvie. The Kininvie distillery is operational 24 hours a day seven days a week, and is the most modern distillery


Knockando is the flagship distillery of I.D.V./Justerini & Brooks and produces a malt whisky. The whisky is marketed as a single malt under its season of distillation; the year of bottling is also indicated on the label. The notion is that the whisky is bottled when it is mature, rather than at a specific age. It was built in 1898 by J. Thompson Esq


Linkwood is on the Lossie, close to Elgin. It was founded in the 1820s and rebuilt in 1872, 1962 and 1971. That last extension effectively made it into two distilleries, "old" and "new". Despite its growth, it has a traditionalist outlook. Whisky-writer Philp Morrice recalls that at one stage the management forbade even the removal of spiders' webs in case a change in the environment should affect the whisky. 


The name Longmorn comes from "Lhanmorgund" meaning "place of the holy man". Not widely available as a single. Longmorn's malt whisky is prized by blenders at least as highly as those of its sister distilleries Glen Grant and The Glenlivet Longmorn is a relative youngster, having been conceived in 1894 and born in 1895. It was founded by John Duff (who had previously built the Glenlossie distillery) 


macallan whisky distilleries speyside scotland bespoke whisky tours

Producer: Macallan

"The Rolls-Royce of single malts" is a label often bestowed upon this persistent winner of competitions. From its unusually small stills to its insistance upon sherry ageing (always in dry oloroso casks, shipped unbroken from Spain, Macallan is a purposefully traditionalist distillery. There has probably been whisky made on the Macallan site, on a small hill overlooking the Spey near Craigellachie , since the late 1700s.

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Next door to the Glenlossie distillery, in the valley of the Lossie, south of Elgin. The distillery, built in 1971 was closed briefly in the 1980s but is now producing again. mj asserts that Mannochmore has never been available as a single malt but the SMWS lists it has having been bottled by them. 


Pluscarden Priory, said to have been the first site of the Miltonduff distillery still exists and its ruins have been restored. Although there is no present-day connection with the distillery, the name of the Priory is invoked on the box that houses the Milton Duff bottle. The distillery, established in 1824 was extensively modernised in the 1930s and again in the 1970s.


The distilling water comes from springs in the Conval Hills, and seems to bring a powerful taste with it (the malt is said to be only lightly peated). The cooling water is from the river Dullan. There is said to have been an illicit distillery on the site and the legal one traces its history to 1823.


One of the newest distilleries, built by Bells in 1975 as a partner to next-door neighbour Dufftown. In the late 1980s, enthusiasts for single malts began to wonder whether the product would become available to them. The independant bottler James MacArthur released a 12-year old and the same bottler has added a 14-year old. A bottling from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society followed. In 1991 there was finally an official bottling. 


There are many claimants to being the most beautifully situated distillery in Scotland and Speyburn is surely one of them. This handsome Victorian distillery, set in a deep, sweeping valley makes a spectacular sight on the road between Rothes and Elgin. It was built in 1897 and despite modernisations over the years has not undergone dramatic change.

Strathisla / Milltown

The oldest distillery in the north of Scotland. In the 13th century Dominican monks used a spring nearby to provide water for the brewing of beer. The same water with a touch of calcium hardness and scarcely any peat character has been used in the distillation of whisky since at least 1786.

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This distillery is tucked away behind trees in a dip on the river Isla near Keith. It was originally built as a meal mill in 1823, converted into a distillery in 1891 and acquired by Gilbey's the gin distilers in 1895. 


The principal Speyside product among the bottled single malts in the Highland Distilleries range. The distillery is in the heart of Speyside, between Knockando and Cardhu. It was founded in 1896 and largely rebuilt in the 1970s. Water comes from the Tamdhu burn which flows through woodland into the Spey.


Right on the little river Livet, on the steep side of the glen. The exact location of the distillery, the hamlet of Tomnavoulin, favours a different spelling from the distillery but such discrepancies are hardly unusual in Scotland. The name means "mill on the hill" and part of the premises was formerly used for the carding of wool. 


Tomintoul (pronounced "Tom-in-T'owl") is a village which is the base camp for climbers and walkers in the area round the rivers Avon and Livet. Nearby, Cromdale and the Ladder Hills foreshadow the Cairngorm Mountains. This is the high, remote Livet countryside that once abounded in illicit distilleries. Tomintoul itself had a good few.

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tormore distillery

Architecturally the most elegant of all malt distilleries. As the hills around the Livet and Avon recede, after miles with barely a building, Tormore presents a sight that is hard to believe.. With its ornamental curling lake and fountains, decorative dormer windows, belfry and musical clock, the topiary, and the huge hill of dense firs forming a backdrop, Tormore might be a spa, offering a mountain water cure. Instead it brings forth the water of life, uisge beatha. It is a high, cold location, shaded from the sun.

With thanks to © Michael Jackson


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