For centuries, the Gaelic-speaking clans produced 'uisge beatha' (Gaelic: 'water of life'), long before it became an internationally-renowned drink. Now, far more than just a Highland icon, whisky is one of the most important and characteristic Highland exports.
Many distilleries have visitor centres and offer tours and tastings so that visitors can learn a little about the distilling process and the mystery of the chemistry which makes simple ingredients - barley, water, yeast and, sometimes, peat smoke - into a world-famous drink.
On a typical distillery visit you will find out exactly what malt is (germinated and dried barley) and learn a new vocabulary with words like wort (hot water and ground malt) and mash tun (the large vessel that holds the wort). In short, distillery visiting is entertaining and, at the end of it, you will have made your first steps to becoming a whisky connoisseur and can approach any pub gantry with confidence!
There are distilleries throughout the Highlands, from Ben Nevis Distillery in Lochaber to Pulteney Distillery in Wick (the most northerly on the Scottish mainland), and even an "illicit still" at Drumchork Lodge Hotel in Aultbea - all making it easy to find out more about Scotland's national drink.
A number of hotels also participate in a Whisky Toursim initiative training scheme and are designated as "Scotch Whisky Embassies". Those in the Highland area are:-
Newton Hotel, Nairn
Golf View Hotel, Nairn
The Boat Hotel, Boat of Garten
Muckrach Lodge, Grantown on Spey
Glenmorangie House, by Tain
The Royal Golf Hotel, Dornoch
the world's only Malt Whisky Trail, Moray is the heart of Whisky country! The trail takes in 8 distilleries in, and one cooperage (where the wooden whisky casks are traditionally produced), with each site clearly signposted.
It is no coincidence there are so many distilleries in Moray; the region provides the perfect conditions and the perfect raw materials for producing whisky of the highest quality. The plains provide the barley, the rivers provide the pure spring water and the higher ground provides the peat. It is then up to each distillery to work its own individual magic to produce a unique, flavoursome malt whisky.