According to historic excise legislation, Highland malt whiskies are distilled North of a line stretching between Greenock on the Firth of Clyde in the west and Dundee on the Firth of Tay in the East. Whisky commentators often sub-divide the vast Highland region into a number of smaller areas, within which there may be stylistic similarities. References to Northern, Western, Eastern and Southern Highland areas of production are common.
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Geographically, the Highland region of malt whiskies embraces Scotland's most northerly mainland distillery of Pulteney, in the Caithness port of Wick, and its most westerly in the shape of Oban. Interestingly, although so far apart, these two whiskies share similar characteristics, in that both are comparatively dry, with a whiff of sea salt about them.
Some of the leading - though incredibly diverse - Highland single malts are the complex Clynelish spirit from the East coast of Sutherland, Dalwhinnie, Royal Lochnagar, Glengoyne, Aberfeldy and Edradour.
Situated at the foot of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis distillery was founded in 1825 by 'Long John' McDonald and is one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland. Now owned by the Japanese. Its visitor centre features the mythical giant Hector McDram. Coffee shop and restaurant on site.
Capacity 2 million litres and is open to visitors
One of Scotland's newest distilleries, it was built in 2017 on a hillside overlooking Dingwall in Ross-shire and started full whisky production in January 2018. This community-owned distillery will be open to visitors in due course. Currently you are able to visit 'BaseCamp' in Dingwall High Street to learn about the area's whisky history and buy whisky/gin.
This distillery is situated just outside Brora on the north east coast. It produces a rich, smoky, salty malt due to its seaside location. The current distillery dates from 1967, however the original Clynelish dates from 1896. It was briefly named Brora and closed in 1983. Interestingly the water from the Clynelish Burn from which it gets it water runs over rocks containing gold - and maybe this accounts for its rich amber colour.
Capacity 3.4 million litres and is open to visitors
This distillery is the highest malt distillery in Scotland and is situated close to the A9 Perth to Inverness road just north of the Drumochter pass. It is owned by Diageo and is part of the Classic Malts. The cold climate here (where the mean temperature is 6 degrees Celsius) is ideal for producing whisky thanks to the cool fresh water from the Drumochter burn.
Visible from the main road and from the railway line, Dalwhinnie distillery stands out due to its pure white paintwork which makes it sparkle in the sunlight. Its combined whisky and chocolate tastings are a truly unique experience. Visit Scotland 5 Star Visitor Attraction.
Capacity 1.3 million litres and is open to visitors.
Situated north of Inverness in the town of Muir of Ord, this Distillery has recently been modernised and boasts its own maltings. Historically the barley came from lands owned by the Mackenzies. Now owned by Diageo, 80% of the single malt produced at Glen Ord is used in the blending of the Dewar and Johnnie Walker brands. The best-selling Singleton of Glen Ord is marketed exclusively to Asia, with some bottles available for sale in the Visitor Centre but not in the rest of the UK. Visit Scotland 5 Star Visitor Attraction.
Capacity 11 million litres and is open to visitors.
This distillery is situated approximately 18 miles from John O’Groats in the town of Wick and is the most northerly mainland distillery. It ceased production in 1920 when Wick became one of the 56 Temperance towns. Production re-started in 1945. When launching a new range of Whiskies in 2010 owners Inver House Distillers decided to use names after the herring drifters which used to work out of Wick. More recently, the latest range has been named after three lighthouses in the area. So if you are visiting Orkney or just touring the far north of Scotland, then the Old Pulteney Distillery is well worth a visit.
Capacity 1.8 million litres and is open to visitors.
B&Bs near Old Pulteney distillery - Auld Post Office B&B
This is Skye's only surviving distillery out of the original seven. Founded in 1830, Talisker is not a heavily peated whisky compared to those from its southern neighbour Islay. Take a tour and see the 5 copper pot stills and the traditional worm tubs. Visit Scotland 4 Star Attraction.
Capacity 2.7 million litres and is open to the public
Opened in 2017, this new distillery aims to be producing whisky for sale by 2020. This small island off the coast of Skye had a long distillery of Illicit distilling - until now!
Visitor centre and guided tours.
Just off the A9 16 miles south of Inverness, Tomatin is described as “the softer side of Highland whiskies”. Tomatin’s first official distillery was opened in 1897, though there are indications of production in the area back as far as 1400s – drovers taking their cattle to market would stop here to fill their flasks from illicit stills!
Capacity 5 million litres. Visitor centre open daily.
B&Bs near Tomatin Distillery – Lynver B&B, Inverness , Highfield House, Inverness , Bluebell House, Inverness Eiland View B&B, near Culloden , Pottery House Loch Ness B&B, The Dulaig, Grantown on Spey, Bydand B&B, Grantown on Spey
Situated just outside Thurso on the north east coast, Wolfburn lays claim to being the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. Founded in 1821 by William Smith, the original distillery fell into ruin and the new one was built in 2012. It is now in production and open to visitors for tours and sales.
B&Bs near Wolfburn distillery - Auld Post Office B&B
The famous Speyside Malt Whisky Trail covers two different regions of Scotland, here we have covered only a few distilleries on the Highland side. So make sure you visit our Aberdeen, Grampian and Moray Whisky page to find out about more great distilleries and the B&Bs near them.