Shire whisky distilleries brought together

The active and lost whisky distilleries dotted around Aberdeenshire have been brought together for the first time.

Aberdeenshire’s rich but under-recognised whisky heritage is being showcased with the council’s Secret Malts of Aberdeenshire guide.

Aberdeenshire Council’s economic development team has been working in partnership with local whisky producers to highlight the hidden range of small distilleries all within an hour’s drive of Aberdeen.

Targeting the tourism markets, both at home and abroad, whisky connoisseurs, local people and historians, The Secret Malts of Aberdeenshire guide highlights the fascinating history of eight local working distilleries. The comprehensive booklet also details the area’s “lost”, or non-operational, distilleries, as well as a guide to whisky tasting and the location of some specialist whisky retail outlets.

Whisky and tourism experts from across Scotland joined councillors and representatives from Aberdeenshire’s distilleries for the launch of the new guide at Glendronach Distillery at Forgue, near Huntly, on Wednesday 28 May.

Aberdeenshire Provost, Jill Webster, said: “The Secret Malts of Aberdeenshire provides a wonderful insight into the whisky heritage of our region, but it is so much more than just a booklet.

“Many people will be astonished to learn that they can actually visit a number of these distilleries and hear, see and taste first-hand the true art of the distiller, whose skills have remained almost unchanged for hundreds of years.

“It is fitting that, during Scotland’s designated Whisky Month of May, Aberdeenshire Council is helping to lift the veil on some of our region’s hidden treasures.”

Of the eight working distilleries featured in the guide, most are relatively small in scale but each has its own distinctive history, style and taste. Four of them have small visitor centres and shops offering regular tours led by knowledgeable guides.

Three of the distilleries are not officially open to the public, but will organise informal tours, often led by the distillery manager who can offer a unique insight into how their whisky is made.

Chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Councillor Peter Argyle, said: “Whilst the Speyside area is rightly celebrated across the world for being the centre of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Trail, we believe that our relatively small and intimate distilleries also have a huge amount to offer to visitors and to the whisky connoisseur.

“Perhaps a little less well known, the flavours, quality and charm of these “secret malts” make it well worth the effort for us to highlight the trail and for visitors to seek them out.

“Initial reaction to the whisky trail has been so encouraging that we will soon be ready to announce details of the availability of foreign translations of the guide which is an extremely exciting prospect for our tourism industry and for the economic prosperity of Aberdeenshire.”

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Scotch Whisky is an iconic product worldwide. The industry supports 35,000 jobs and around £2 billion is being invested in infrastructure over the next two years. It is of vital importance to the economy. The Secret Malts of Aberdeenshire guide is a great initiative which will encourage even more people to visit distilleries across the area.”