Written by: Phoebe Harper
In recent years, ‘whisky tourism’ has flourished as an industry, with countless distilleries across the globe offering immersive tours and tastings. Whether amateur or connoisseur, there may be nothing better than the pursuit of sampling your favourite tipple straight from the source and observing the process from mash to single malt. This comes at a time when we are being encouraged more than ever to question why it is that we travel and what we seek from our experiences - the perfect tipple seems a good place to start.
And so, with the whisky-swigging Shelby’s set to grace our screens as filming commences for the much-anticipated Peaky Blinders finale, we shine a light on some of the finest distilleries across the globe. Worthy of a pilgrimage in themselves, or as the perfect addition to an itinerary, we have selected five of our favourites notable for their unique location, quirky character and, most importantly, the quality of their produce. Slàinte!
1. Penderyn Distillery
The ideal option for committed ‘staycationers’, this award-winning producer of single malts can be found nestled in the southern foothills of the Brecon Beacons. Penderyn is attributed with reviving the lost art of distilling in Wales, ever since their first drop landed from the unique single copper-pot still designed by one Dr. David Faraday, a descendant of the renowned scientist. Alongside this inventive piece of machinery that gives the distillery’s output its edge, the Penderyn single malt is also notoriously strong, at 92 percent alcohol before the ageing process commences which lends it a distinctive fruity taste.
Offering hour-long tours that will resume in the near future, the distillery also hosts ‘Whisky and Chocolate’ tastings, a tastebud-tantalising experience that combines Penderyn’s quality single malts with local handmade chocolates.
Where: Penderyn, Brecon Beacons, South Wales, CF44 0SX
2. Kyrö Distillery Company
Moving on to Northern climes, the Kyrö Distillery can be found in the central Finnish region of Ostrobothnia - yet another reason to visit the land of saunas and the Northern Lights. Surrounded by breath-taking countryside, this distillery prides itself on producing spirits made from 100 percent Finnish wholegrain rye – notorious as the hardest grain to distil.
Admirable for both its tenacity and vision, Kyrö began as the dream of four friends whilst enjoying a dram and a sauna session. The result was the first of its kind in Finland, as the only distillery in the country to produce rye whisky. Kyrö also specialise in a range of gins, produced in their abandoned dairy-turned-distillery. Tastings and authentic local dinners are all on offer for any welcome visitor, as is the use of their on-site sauna.
The distillery can be visited virtually when Kyro launch their brand new virtual tour at the end of this month. After a visit to the distillery, you are ideally placed to enjoy a quintessentially Finnish experience, with numerous hiking routes, glacial lakes and idyllic fishing villages all within a short distance.
Where: Isokyrö, Ostrobothnia, Finland
3. Suntory Hakushu Distillery
Known as ‘the distillery in the forest’, the Suntory Hakushu Distillery is worth a trip for the serene location alone; envision a pagoda roof poking above the treetops of the forests surrounding snow-capped Mount Kaikoma. The second distillery of Japan’s famous Suntory Group, which was originally founded in their iconic Yamazaki Distillery, Hakushu is the ideal embodiment of the whisky brand’s philosophy; ‘in harmony with people and nature.’ Suntory is the defining name in Japanese whisky and has grown to worldwide renown after humble beginnings in 1899.
Nestled amongst the lush foliage of the Hakushu Bird Sanctuary, the distillery offers viewings of the whisky production process. The entire Suntory portfolio is simply waiting to be tasted in the Hakushu Bar, with local pairing dishes available in the stylish ‘White Terrace’ mountain forest restaurant. As one of the highest distilleries in the world, discover why location and climate are so essential in the production of whisky. Visits must be booked in advance.
Where: 2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Of course, no real discussion of whisky would be complete without mentioning the real mothership – Scotland. Located on the so-called Scotch whisky making capital of the island of Islay, Laphroaig (which translates as ‘broad hollow by the bay’) has followed the same revered process of making whisky for the past 200 years. The same family have been running the distillery since 1815, and proudly continue to uphold the practices and vital ingredients that make their iconic whisky. This includes peat cut by hand, the crucially cool waters of the Kilbride Stream and barley that has been malted on site.
Currently, the distillery can be toured virtually, but when business resumes as normal, we suggest one of their many tours. For the most comprehensive, try the ‘Water to Whisky’ tour, lasting four to five hours. You will experience every aspect of the whisky making process, from cutting the peat to stopping for a dram or two in their iconic warehouse. It may be an arduous journey to reach this remote location, but you will be spoilt by the beauty and nature of this breathtaking island.
Where: Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, PA42 7DU
5. Westland Distillery
A Seattle-based micro-brewery, Westland found its feet as an independently owned enterprise with the ambitious pursuit of creating America’s finest single malts. This is no small feat, especially when competing with the titans of the whisky industry that can be found in the southern states of Kentucky and Tennessee. That being said, Westland has become a worthy contender against the Tennessee King, with Master Distiller Matt Hoffman named as American Master Distiller of the Year back in 2018.
Following both traditional whisky-making methods, such as using Sherry wine casks in the maturation process, whilst also pursuing more innovative avenues, Westland makes its mark on the whisky frontiers in true Wild West fashion. With a produce that flourishes under the Pacific Northwest climate in one of the best barley growing regions worldwide, the brewery is currently only open for virtual tours but when circumstances permit, we suggest attending their week-long ‘Peat Week’ celebrations.
Where: First Avenue, South Seattle, Washington 98134