I was chatting with a member of a whisky club yesterday about planning club trips to Scotland to visit distilleries and I thought I might share my notes in case any of you are interested in planning a trip. If you do decide to do a tour I highly recommend David Glover from Scottish Lion (https://scottishlion.com/about-us/). Our club has done six tours with David and he is a joy to work with. Items to consider when organizing a whisky tour to Scotland 1. Determine how many people might be interested in going This impacts the size of your transport, if you can afford a tour guide, hotel availability in rural Scotland, caps on distillery tour sizes. Suggest a minimum of 8 and a max of 15. Take a list of your club membership and do an estimate based on your current knowledge. In my experience, gut feel has been reasonably accurate enough to commit to the effort of undertaking planning. 2. Build and agenda to create interest Most people will not sign up for a tour without having an idea of what it might look like. Create a vision through drafting an example tour agenda. Start by creating a small organizing committee (say 4-5 people) that knows your audience and will attend the tour. This gives you a good start on building your tour numbers and this group can then create an agenda appealing to your club members. Suggest you start your tour in Glasgow as it offers the most flight options. Asking for a deposit 4-5 months ahead of the tour is a good way to get the fence sitters to make a decision. If you need to build numbers open your tour up to guests. 3. Some considerations when designing an agenda One week of distillery tours is about all the human liver can endure. Suggest that two distilleries is a good number to visit per day, max three. If this is a first visit to Scotland for many of the members, your best bet is to start in Speyside. If you want to visit Orkney or the far northern distilleries, you will not have time to fit in Islay. If you want to do Islay, those who don’t like peated whisky will not want to attend the tour. If you do select Islay, it makes sense to add on Campbeltown and Arran. Once you have selected a general area of Scotland to visit, you can look to add cultural options to your tour and golf, hikes, etc. Consider non-distillery related whisky options. If you are anywhere near Elgin, I highly suggest a visit to Gordon and MacPhail, Scotland’s liquid library. The SMWS in Edinburgh is also a good visit. The Johnney Walker experience or other similar things are more for the new to whisky crowd. We always kick off our events with an opening dinner at the Bon Accord in Glasgow. This is a wonderful family owned bar with deep connections to the whisky industry and a great selection of beers on tap. When selecting which tours to attend, we consider the following: • Tour options – Not all distilleries offer tours and some have quite limited options. • Tours versus tasting – Once you go through 3-4 distillery tours, the operational piece of the tour is very similar, with some variations. Suggest you limit yourself to 3-4 full tours and try to vary them by picking a small distillery, a large distillery, perhaps one that has a maltings, worm tubs or something unique. Fill in the rest of the tour with warehouse nosings. • Some criteria I use when selecting and rating tours include: o Does it include a visit to the warehouse and/or a tasting from a cask or unique products? o Do they have distillery only or unique products available for sale? o Is there a reasonable selection of other products from their shop? o Quality of the tour – floor maltings, cooperage, other unusual features value for money Some of my highest rated tours over the years have included Highland Park, Laphroaig, Springbank, combined Glenfiddich/Balvenie, Alberfeldy, Arran, Deanston, Old Pulteney and Tomatin. My overall favorites over the years have include Gordon and MacPhail (drank whisky from my birth year), Edradour (great example of a small distillery in a picturesque setting), Highland Park (great whisky and the Orkney culture and history), combined Glenfiddich/Balvenie (great whiskies, solera aging, cooperage, great restaurant), Aberfeldy (with Stephanie MacLeod) and Springbank/Cadenheads. Tours have been evolving and improving over the years so be sure to check current availability. Most distillery website are quite good and contain a reasonable level of detail. 4. Example tour agendas • Islay o Kickoff at the Bon Accord o Ferry to Islay o Day 1 – Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg o Day 2 – Arnahoe, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore o Day 3 – Kilchoman, Bruichladdich o Day 4 – Jura and Caol Ila • Speyside o Kickoff at the Bon Accord o Aberfeldy, Royal Lochnagar o Glen Moray, Gordon and MacPhail, Elgin Catherdral o Glenlivit, Culloden, Clava Cairns o Glenfarclas, Glenallachie o The Cairn, Benreach o Group dinner at SWMS in Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel • Speyside and the west o Kickoff at the Bon Accord o St. Andrews, Blair Athol o Balvenie, Knockdhu o Benromach, Gordon & MacPhail o Loch Ness, Urquart Castle, Eilleen Donan Castle, Talisker o Ben Nevis, Arisaig and Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct o Tullibardine and Glencoe • Northern Scotland o Kickoff at the Bon Accord o Edradour o Tomatin and Culloden o Balblair and Glenmorangie o Clynelish and Old Pulteney o Standing Stones of Stenesss, Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Brewery, Skara Brae, Scapa o St Magnus Cathdral, Highland Park o Woflburn, Dalwhinnie 5. Consider the timing of tours May or September work well. 6. Be proactive with your booking Your tour guide can do this. Generally, up to 6 months in advance to secure hotels and if necessary, ferries. Use your industry contacts as they make sense to secure special distillery visits or the opportunity to meet key industry people while on tour, but don’t get caught up looking for freebies, in the grand scheme of things, distillery tour charges are small. 7. Cost For planning purposes, you should expect to pay about $3,500 plus flights and meals. Likely about $5,500 in total.

Posted by tyrone.cotie at 2024-05-18 17:44:26 UTC