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February 11, 2022updated Feb 16, 2022

The Most Exclusive Scotch Whisky Experiences

Immerse yourself in Scotland’s rich whisky-making history with these tastings and tours.

By Irenie Forshaw

Mention Scotland and a few things may spring to mind: Castles, kilts, and, perhaps most famous of all, whisky. The amber-hued liquor dates back to at least the 15th century when written tax records show King James IV ordered a monk to distill over 1,000 bottles of “aqua vitae” (Latin for “water of life”).

Centuries later, whisky remains Scotland’s biggest export with more than 120 active distilleries dotted across five whisky-producing regions. When visiting the UK, no trip north of the border is complete without tasting this iconic spirit. But with so much choice, finding the best Scotch whisky experiences can feel overwhelming.

When it comes to producing the spirit, there’s a strict set of rules. All Scotch whiskies must be made from malted barley (with the option to add other cereal grains) and aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Of course, many of the most expensive bottles have been matured for much longer and flavor varies greatly depending on where they are produced.

To help you sample the very best drams Scotland has to offer, Elite Traveler has rounded up the most exclusive Scotch whisky experiences. From the storm-swept Orkney Islands to the breathtaking Highlands these tours and tastings provide a chance to fully immerse yourself in the country’s rich and fascinating whisky-making history.

[See also: The Oldest Whisky Ever Released]

Eras of Brora

Brora Distillery Best whisky experiences

The Eras of Brora experience is perfect for those eager to sample the iconic distillery’s finest drams / ©Brora

Where better to begin our list of the best Scotch whisky experiences than the ruggedly beautiful Scottish Highlands? Here, on the remote northeast coast of Sutherland lies Brora. The legendary distillery operated between 1819 and 1983 before closing its gates. Since then, its elusive whiskies have been fetching huge sums at auction, with a bottle of 1972 40 Year Old single Scotch whisky selling for $69,848 in 2019.

To the delight of whisky lovers, 38 years after its closure, Brora reopened its doors last year. The distillery has undergone an intensive renovation and looks set for an exciting future.

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The Eras of Brora experience is perfect for those eager to sample the iconic distillery’s finest drams. During the enthralling 4-5-hour day ($820 per person), guests will watch Brora’s craftspeople laying down casks for maturation, enjoy a gourmet three-course lunch, and attend a private tasting of the ultra-rare Brora Triptych.

The Macallan & Bentley

The Macallan Speyside tour in a Bentley Batayga

When it comes to whisky experiences, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as exclusive as this tour of Speyside in a Bentley Bentayga / ©The Macallan

Next, we head to Speyside, nestled between the Highlands in the west and Aberdeenshire in the east. As the biggest whisky-producing region in Scotland, the area is home to over 50 distilleries including one of the oldest – The Macallan.

Founded by a barley farmer and school teacher back in 1824, the storied distillery matures its precious liquids in quality oak casks carefully watched over by the master of wood. In 2019, The Macallan scooped the coveted title of the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold at auction when its Fine and Rare 60 Year Old sold for an eye-watering $1.9m at Sotheby’s in London.

When it comes to whisky experiences, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything as exclusive as the distillery’s tour of Speyside. During the day-long excursion ($6,780 for a group of four), you will be chauffeur driven across the stunning region in a Bentley Bentayga Hybrid sampling a selection of The Macallan’s rarest single malt whiskies along the way. The unforgettable tour includes a one-night local hotel stay, a private tailored distillery tour and a fine dining experience at Elchies Brasserie with a selection of wines and whiskies chosen by The Macallan Estate sommelier.

The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet 30 to 40 Year Old Whiskies

The Glenlivet’s Cellar Tasting offers a chance to sample some of the iconic distillery’s oldest and rarest whiskies / The Glenlivet

Speyside is also home to The Glenlivet – one of the most famous malts on the planet. Situated above the River Livet with sweeping views of Cardhu and the slopes of Ben Rinnes, the remote distillery was originally an illicit whisky site before its founder, George Smith, obtained his license in 1824. Since then, The Glenlivet has become a staple of countless drinks cabinets thanks to its signature smooth and fruity style.

Consider joining the Cellar Tasting ($475 per person) for a chance to sample some of the iconic distillery’s oldest and rarest 30 to 40 Year Old whiskies. And if you’re eager to discover more about the whisky-making process itself, The Archives experience gives guests the chance to take an exclusive tour of the distillery’s traditional bonded warehouse to learn about cask selection and the crucial role oak plays in adding complex layers of flavor during maturation.

[See also: Gordon & MacPhail Reveals 80 Year Old Decanter]

Highland Park

Highland Park Orkney Islands

Located on the storm-swept Orkney islands Highland Park is Scotland’s northernmost distillery / ©Soren Solkaer

You’ll need to pack your waterproof jacket for the next exclusive whisky experience on our list. Located on the storm-swept Orkney islands (where winds often reach over 100mph in winter), Highland Park is Scotland’s northernmost distillery.

For over two centuries, the expert craftspeople have been smoking barley over heather-rich peat from the nearby Hobbister Moor giving their whiskies a distinctively smoky yet sweet flavor profile.

The three-hour Orcadian Vintages experience ($440 per person) gives guests an exciting opportunity to visit warehouse 12, which isn’t usually open to the public. Here, you’ll sample a dram straight from the cask of a rare 17 Year Old whisky that can’t be bought. After this, you’ll head to the cozy Eunson room where you’ll be guided through a tutored tasting of four limited-edition vintages – 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1976 – in front of the roaring open fire.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street

Johnnie Walker Princes Street best whisky experiences

Set across eight floors, the recently opened visitor destination cost more than $251m to complete / ©Johnnie Walker

If you don’t have time to travel to the more remote distilleries, it’s worth dropping by at Johnnie Walker Princes Street in the heart of Edinburgh city center’s West End. Set across eight floors, the recently opened visitor destination cost more than $251m to complete – the largest ever single investment in Scotch whisky tourism. Eco-conscious travelers will be pleased to hear the new building scooped the Green Tourism Gold Award (the UK’s top sustainability certification for visitor attractions).

While you’re here, head up to the rooftop bar to enjoy a cocktail with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and book a tasting in the underground cellar to sample the best-selling Scotch whisky brand’s drams straight from the cask.

[See also: The Most Exclusive Whiskies in the World]

The Glenturret Lalique Restaurant & Bar

Our roundup of the most exclusive Scotch whisky experiences would not be complete without mentioning The Glenturret. Situated on the banks of the River Turret in the heart of the breathtaking Perthshire countryside, the distillery has been producing spirits at this secluded location since 1753. During your visit be sure to take the Whisky Makers Tour for a chance to create your own unique bottle to take home, crafted under the watchful eye of the expert blenders.

The star of the show, however, is the luxurious restaurant (which has just been awarded a Michelin star), located at the heart of the distillery overlooking the old still houses. With space for just 26 guests, the intimate eatery is adorned with cascading five-tier chandeliers by esteemed French glassmaker, Lalique. The eclectic tasting menu takes inspiration from the surrounding Scottish landscape with plenty of locally sourced produce. Highlights include the moreish malted barley sourdough and traditional tattie scone served with winter truffle and caviar.

As for the bar, the drinks list is a whisky connoisseur’s dream featuring over 230 rare single malt expressions from each of Scotland’s whisky-producing regions. If a single dram isn’t enough and you want to sample a few of the rarest bottles, you can choose from a range of six whisky tasting flights to help you figure out your favorites.

[See also: The Best Scotch Whisky Brands in the World]

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