Glenfiddich, Aberlour and Balvenie Distillery Tours, the Whisky trail in Speyside

Speyside Whisky trail - distilleries to visit on your tour.

The Aberlour distillery is situated in the heart of Speyside, which is Scotland's primary whisky-making region, and began distilling in 1826. The distillery, idyllically located where the rivers Spey and Lour meet, is enclosed by wonderful Scottish scenery and the peaks of the Ben Rinnes range behind.

Aberlour is particularly influenced by its water source, a pure spring water from the Lour, flowing as it does down from Ben Rinnes, through the local peat and granite of the Lour valley and picking up rare mineral deposits along the way giving a naturally soft water.

Used in all stages of production of Aberlour, this gives the whisky - which comes in a variety of ages, including 10, 12, 15, 16, 18 years, and a quite rare 30 year old 1970 vintage malt - a wonderful, smooth, delicate character.

All whiskies are casked and bottled in individual ways to best bring out the delicate flavours and remarkable tastes of each vintage. While the standard practice employed of ageing the malts in ex-bourbon casks from America is employed, some of the malts are also transferred to casks that have been used for maturing fortified wines such as sherry (this is called 'finishing').

Aberlour Scotches have won gold medals at San Francisco World Spirits Competitions over the years.

If visiting the area, there is a range of activities available to the visitor that varies depending upon the season, with an emphasis, of course, on the great outdoors.

Aberlour Whisky Distillery, Banffshire, AB3 9PJ. Contact: (0)1340 881249

Visit the Balvenie Distillery

The Balvenie Distillery, dating back to 1892, sits next to Balvenie Castle in Dufftown, which is world-renowned for its fabulous Highland games held every July. The centre of the town features a large clock tower, formerly a prison, but now the local tourist information centre.

It is unusual in being one of only a few distilleries that, apart from still being independently owned by William Grant and Sons, (who also own Glenfiddich), has its own working floor maltings.

The Balvenie, using Robbie Dubh water, is a rich and luxuriously smooth whisky, with a distinctive honeyed character. The popular Balvenie Double Wood is a 12 year old single malt which, as its name suggests, is matured in two woods, the first, a traditional oak whisky cask to soften the taste, the second, a 'first fill' European oak sherry cask to bring out what people describe as the nut sweet and cinnamon spice flavour.

On the other hand, the 14-year Golden Cask has a final step maturation in barrels that have previously held golden Caribbean rum, lending itself to a more syrupy taste, while the 21 Year PortWood finalises in casks that have held port for a more fruit, honey and spice taste.

A bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old appeared for a toast in the film The Day After Tomorrow.

The Balvenie Distillery, Balvenie Maltings, Dufftown, Scotland. AB55 4BB Book a tour in advance: (0)1340 820373

Visit the Glenfiddich Distillery

The Glenfiddich (meaning 'Valley of the deer' in Gaelic, hence the deer on the bottle label) distillery, from 1886, is owned by William Grant & Sons (who also own Balvenie) in Dufftown. It is the only Highland or Speyside Scotch that is distilled, matured and bottled at a single distillery, and is one of the brands that is especially well-known throughout the world.

Similar to distilleries such as Glenmorangie and Glen Grant, Glenfiddich uses a single source of natural spring water from the Robbie Dhu springs. Glenfiddich, depending upon the reserve, is matured in either oak rum casks from Cuba (Gran Reserva), America Bourbon whiskey barrels (Ancient Reserve), or Spanish butts from the Jerez sherry producing region of Spain.

The distillery setting in the heart of the Highlands, is quite stunning, with wonderful countryside, forests, castle ruins and the natural bubbling spring nearby.

Glenfiddich is a fragrant malt with a pear frutiness and a fine subtle oak base, and is bottled at 12, 15, 18, 21 and 30 years old. The distillery has also bottled a number of rare whiskies over the years including Glenfiddich 40 Year Old (from casks filled in 1963) and Glenfiddich 50 Year Old. They also produce a specialist Glenfiddich Malt Whisky Liqueur for foreign markets.

Glenfiddich features in the US television series Dexter, and is the favourite drink of Inspector Morse. The whisky has won many, many awards over the years, and the distillery has won Icons of Scotland best distillery visitor centre, Scottish visitor attraction of year and the whisky international attraction of the year in 2007.

The Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Banffshire, AB55 4DH, (0) 1340 820373