Glen Moray is also a great trip, especially if you're into detail. The young bloke who took us around went into great detail when he understood he had returning visitors. Can't for the love of me remember his name though.
Otherwise I think visiting distilleries out of season can be recommended, since you then don't have to risk the chance of being shown around by a part-time employee who doesn't even like the stuff.
My best trips has always been when elderly ladies has been the tour guide (those who've been with the company since their youth). Both at Balvenie and Blair Athol I was lucky enough to experience such guide - great trips, loads of anecodes about the olden days.
Bladnoch is of course very well worth the trip. Especially if you get the Irishman himself (owner Raymond). But beware the trips might not follow the 'normal' intinerary.
Maybe Ardbeg gives a good selection of drams during the festival, but all we got was a dram of TEN. Not that I'm complaining! Emma does a good tour. Incidentally, they have some bottles of 17 available that they got back from Italy, so if that's your favorite, hit the online shop now.
I really liked the fellow at Caol Ila--knowledgeable and enthusiastic in the extreme. But there were only three of us on the tour.
Islay has a great advantage in that there are very few casual tourists on the tours--no one is just passing through here. Your best bet is to go there and do all that you can fit in. I haven't heard good things about Bowmore's tour lately, but all the others are worthwhile.
I have been experiencing tours at the same distillery that one time were simply awefull, and the other time splendid. So much depends on the tour guide, which one you have, her/his mood, the weather (personal experience), etc. etc.
But tours that so far never gone wrong on me are Ardbeg, Aberlour, Glenfiddich (yes seriously!), Blair Athol, Bruichladdich and Strathisla.
And I also agree on the right time of the year to visit Scotland. Personally, we always go the end of may, and begin of june. This is the driest part of the year, and also a lot quieter then the summer when you will experience much more crowded tours, and seasonal only staff. Aside of that, many distilleries dont produce in the summer. And july and later.. Those damn midgets!
The worst ones I had so far were in Highland Park and Talisker. They have too much tourists and the guides were not very knowledgeable.
As Jeroen mentioned, always try to pick the oldest guide!
Jeroen Kloppenburg wrote:And july and later.. Those damn midgets!
Short people got... no reason....
We got Michael Heads (distillery manager) at Jura, and he was entertaining as well as knowledgeable, of course. And yes, Bruichladdich warrants mention. There was a seasonal part-timer doing the tour, but he knew what he was talking about--they must train them quite intensively. They're fairly liberal with the tastings, too, and are happy to have you hang around the shop for a while. We were there three hours in all, and were rewarded with a McEwen sighting.
One very large factor affecting the quality of a tour, over which you have no control, is how many people are on it. If you're lucky enough to have a group of half a dozen or less, there is a lot more time for questions and blether. We were surprised to find several tours booked up (12-16 people) in October.
Also, on Islay, try to resist the temptation to squeeze too many tours into one day. You can do Laphroaig at 10:15 and Ardbeg at 11:30, as we did, but you will end up running out of the Laphroaig tasting, or even earlier. We gave Caol Ila short shrift, too, having to catch the ferry to Jura. The folks there were insistent that we come back later and have another dram, but we never found the time, and we regretted it. That fellow will rattle on forever--go with it.
Low humor department: At Laphroaig, the pretty young part-timer who gave the tour showed us the four washbacks in one room, and said "We have six altogether." To our American ears (and juvenile minds), it sounded like "We have sex all together." We were mature (?) enough not to react at the time, but laughed about it the rest of the week. Oh, what adolescent little boys we are!
MrTattieHeid wrote: Bruichladdich warrants mention.
Bruichladdich gets my vote. there early, flew in at 10 am - went straight there, tours did not start until 11.30am - so we made coffee for the staff. chatted to Jim, shared a dram of ours and he offered us his!!! watched the shop during a staff mtg. had a excellent tour learnt more about milling than anywhere. disturbed by fire alarm. shared more drams, drank from the valinch - directly from the valinch, bought 2 lots of futures, a cask (full) and a couple of valinches - then left for bowmore.
bowmore - Also a good tour but very mechanical, by the book. although the tasting afterwards was generous.
Low season is the best time to go. individualised tours. few tourists, excellent.
Tullibardine may be small, and not very famous, but they have got a friendly and attractive set up. Their whisky is fandabbydozy too.
Aidan wrote:Oh, and they were called the Crankies (or Crankys, I'm not sure how you spell it).
Oh, ok. Thanks a lot, Aidan!
Cranky as "eccentric"? Well, who isn't! At least most of the folks posting around here, somehow... (no offense meant against anybody)
...and that's, what I like about it! Eh, fandabbydozy, I should say.
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