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Booze banter: favourite distilleries for World Whisky Day

There’s something uniquely captivating about the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a whisky distillery. These are some of SB‘s favourite visits as we approach World Whisky Day (18 May).

World Whisky Day
A number of whisky distilleries have left lasting impressions on the editorial team

Visiting a whisky distillery is a 360 sensory experience. Some production sites are housed in centuries-old, beautiful – perhaps listed – buildings. Others might be more modern, or industrial-looking.

Then the aromas hit; whether bready, yeasty scents from fermentation, or fruity, ethanol-laced notes from distillation, each site has its own unique offering. The still rooms can be loud, metal railings the only material between you and the floor below. And, to top it off, the best tours come complete with a tasting experience to savour at the end.

The Spirits Business editorial team has travelled far and wide, and has been fortunate enough to visit distilleries set on the shores of Islay and Northern Ireland to the Nordics and the Americas.

Scroll down to discover which whisky distilleries have left lasting impressions on the team.

Lochlea Distillery, Scotland


When I visited my very first whisky distillery in January this year, I was told that I couldn’t base all distilleries off Lochlea. True, it’s much smaller than say, Laphroaig, where production director John Campbell used to work – but its ambitions are massive.

Based in Ayrshire, Scotland, Lochlea is fairly unique in that it grows its own barley and distills and ages its whisky all on one site, and it’s moving towards becoming a wholly single-site operation.

While it might not have a visitor centre for the time being, the small but growing team welcomed us with open arms, were thrilled to show us what they were working on and happily answered all of my silly questions. Plus, there’s a great dog.

Lauren, digital editor (maternity cover)

Aberfeldy, Scotland


The Bacardi-owned Aberfeldy distillery in Perthshire is a great distillery destination for those looking to ‘catch multiple whiskies with one stone’. Also known as the home of Dewar’s, the distillery displays whiskies from four distilleries under the same ownership that contribute to the blend: Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Aultmore and Royal Brackla – not to mention the Dewar’s blends themselves.

From the on-site warehouses to the stillhouse and cosy café to a lovely short stroll to the distillery’s water source, Pitilie Burn, the 126-year-old Aberfeldy is worth a visit or two.

Miona Madsen, content writer

Widow Jane Distillery, Brooklyn

Widow Jane in Red Hook, Brooklyn was the first distillery I ever visited and it remains a special place for me as I’ve watched the products evolve over time, getting to know their team of whiskey makers in the process. I love visiting distilleries while on vacation, seeing how spirits are made in a different corner of the world, but there’s something to being familiar with your local producers as well. Dropping in randomly, seeing what’s new, celebrating major milestones together.

As I have changed so have they, but I can’t quite shake that first encounter for the way that it kicked off a long journey of exploration and discovery. I’ve since returned numerous times, at various points bringing friends, on one occasion drilling into a whiskey barrel myself to retrieve a sample.

Ted Simmons, US correspondent

Distillerie du St Laurent, Québec

Distillerie du st laurent World Whisky DayDrive for about two-and-a-half to three hours outside of the main city of Québec City and the air becomes that little bit saltier as you reach the coast near Rimouski. It was a moody, murky day when our coach pulled into Distillerie du St Laurent last September, a mix of rain and sea spray lashing the shore. Come rain or shine, however, the interior of Distillerie du St Laurent is wholesomely welcoming; there’s a coffee shop, a covered terrace bar, a second terrace area, and an inner court with a beer garden-style space. Grab a cocktail or a coffee, and take in the view.

The distillery currently produces two Canadian whiskies: St Laurent Whisky 3 Grains, and St Laurent Rye. St Laurent Whisky 3 Grains is made from a mash bill comprising 75% corn, 15% rye and 10% malted barley. Meanwhile, the rye consists of 80% rye and 20% malted barley. I remember the latter expression being particularly interesting, with warm, distinct rye spice but brilliantly balanced – this, I was told, is due to the colder climate of the region being ideal for growing rye. It was my first – and to date only – Canadian whisky distillery experience, and it has left me eager to explore more.

Melita Kiely, editor

The Glenlivet, Scotland


The Glenlivet in Ballindalloch was the first distillery I visited, less than two months after beginning this job. Not a bad start, eh? The facility itself is in tip-top shape and the tour took us around all the technical bits (the huge copper stills and mash tuns), an immersive walkthrough area for the history lesson, and finished up in a spectacular tasting room for the main event. You really do come out of it with a much greater appreciation and understanding for what The Glenlivet does.

We were also fortunate enough to be led down into the distillery’s old cellars – The Glenlivet is the oldest legal distillery in the Scottish Highlands, founded in 1824 – where we were allowed to sample some whisky from the barrels themselves. It’s what one, like myself, always pictured the classic whisky in Scotland experience to be like, rolling Speyside hills in the background n’ all.

Rupert Hohwieler, staff writer

Kyrö Distillery, Finland

Kyro Distillery

A trip to a small village in Finland in 2019 was my first experience of seeing a whisky made from a ‘world whisky’ producer, and it did not disappoint.

Finnish producer Kyrö Distillery, located in the village of Isokyrö, specialises in spirits made with locally grown rye and moved into whisky in 2017.

I had a taste of its debut expression, Kyrö Malt, which is aged in new American white oak casks and at the time was only available in limited quantities. Since then, the distiller has expanded whisky production with the opening of a second whisky facility and now boasts a core whisky range.

At the heart of the distillery is an innovative team who dreamed up the venture while sharing a dram of rye whisky in a sauna. While I wasn’t as brave as the rest of my companions (who headed for a late-night dip in the nearby lake), I enjoyed a refreshing RTD in the distillery’s hot tub. It was indeed a memorable trip.

Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor

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