Looking for something as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey? This article takes you on a windy whiskey trip around the world to uncover the greatest Whiskey distilleries and destinations across the globe.
NB: We will use Whiskey and Whisky spelling according to their cultural relevance which is “whisky” when it’s from Scotland, England, Canada, or Japan and “whiskey” everywhere else.
USA distilleries – nothing as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s – Tennessee
Are you as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey? Crafting something that endures for over 150 years takes time and character. You’ll find plenty of both in the people and history that make Jack Daniel’s. JD was the first registered distillery in the USA in 1866. A rockstar legacy brand that has stood the test of time from prohibition to world wars and regained its core momentum from the Rock n’ Roll era into today.
Jim Beam Stillhouse – Kentucky
Come as a friend, leave as a family. They are quite the welcoming bunch at the Jim Beam Stillhouse with the support of 8 generations of beams under their roof, a birthplace for bourbon since 1795. Their innovation is next to none in the Whiskey industry – sporting an impressive lineup of beverages and variants including limited timers, highballs, classics, flavor collaborations and more refined bourbons. It’s also worth noting that Knob Creek and Basil Hayden also live within this family.
Woodford Reserve – Kentucky
Self-proclaimed; “The world’s finest Bourbon Whiskey” we must admit Woodford comes out on top as an all-star in its trade. It comprises more than 200 detectable flavor profiles from bold grain & wood to sweet aromatics, spice and floral notes. Sitting within one of the most beautiful distillery sites and a National Historic Landmark we would give this one a big tick in the must-visit category.
Maker’s Mark – Kentucky
Tradition never dies at Makers Mark. Since 1953 from the old letterpress to the way each barrel is hand-rotated and hand-dipped, Makers Mark is truly skilled at their craft and consistency. The distillery is located on a Limestone shelf and watershed which filters out iron from water (unpleasant in bourbon) but retains calcium and magnesium-rich water remaining their key to crafting the unique taste of Maker’s Mark in which yeast can flourish.
Wild Turkey – Kentucky
Now that’s the spirit – carrying a rich tradition that dates back before prohibition. Founded by the ‘Buddha of Bourbon’ and longest-tenured active Master Distiller in the world; Jimmy Russell and now teaming up with none other than Matthew McConaughey as Creative Director to push the brand forward another lifetime. You can’t fault this team of passionate connoisseurs with a true sense of adventure – even the Wild Turkey brand got its name from a wild hunting trip for, as you can guess, Turkeys.
High West – Utah
Founded in 2006 by husband and wife team David (former biochemist fixated on the parallels between fermentation and distilling) and Jane Perkins. Park City founded the perfect base encapsulating the Old West and Utah’s hidden whiskey history. What’s even more exciting is that this humble distillery sits at the base of one of the best ski mountains in the world. Ski-In-Ski-Out whiskey tasting anyone?
Scotland – Explore the magical taste of the Scottish highlands
Speyside is home to the most reputable whisky distilleries in the country of Scotland, producing half of the entire country’s single malt whisky. and hailing some of the best-selling and top consecutive award-winning labels in the world; Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
The Speyside Way Whisky Trail should be number one on your Scotland bucket list. It’s a multi-day hike starting in Buckie on the coast of Moray Firth. The trail is spanning 116 Kilometers (72 Miles) and marked by a thistle in a hexagon all the way to the Cairngorms National Park mountain ranges. The most famous visit-worthy distillery sites on this trail are;
- Glen Moray
Established in 1897 on the banks of River Lossie in Elgin. Known for its Single Malts and remarkably sunny days.
A truly sensory experience with a handcrafted and mastered distilling process orchestrated like a symphony where every minute counts.
- Glen Grant
Known for ‘capturing nature in every drop’ of its bottles with inspiration from its eclectic surrounding 22-acre garden. Glen Grant Distillery needs no introduction, already highly acclaimed as being a global favorite founded by industrial and visionary leaders; brothers James and John Grant in 1840.
Also known as the heart and soul of Chivas Whiskey. Each and every cask made has its own signature taste – smoother, richer and more generous.
- Speyside Cooperage
What would whiskey be without its casks? Now we must caveat this site by saying you can’t actually taste the whiskey here but if you want to dive deeper into the whiskey process then this is a landmark worth mentioning. Its Acorn to Cask expedition gathers over 100,000 casks from all over the world each year for repairs using only natural ingredients and highly skilled Coopers for you to observe.
- Glen Fiddich
The Glen Fiddich distillery is highly regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious whiskeys. Still fully owned by William Grant & Sons, a fifth-generation Scottish family distiller. Known not only for its classic range but possibly even more so for its Rare & Vintage labels, Cask collection, and Experimental Series.
This distillery is now owned by Diageo, its Scotch whiskey makes up an important part of Johnnie Walker blended whiskeys. Known for its playful collaborations and innovative limited-time only special single malt reserves such as the Cardhu Gold Reserve Game of Thrones House Targaryen.
- The Glenlivet
A whiskey built on courage and morals. Founder George Smith was the first legal distillery in the parish of Glenlivet which didn’t make him a favorite amongst the local illicit distillers and sinister smugglers, he carried a pair of flintlock pistols with him at all times, making it clear he wasn’t afraid to use them to protect his legacy and vision which is now bottled up 200 years later in the Glenlivet Founders Reserve by Master Distiller Alan Winchester.
Ireland and its famous whisky distilleries
Let’s start with a fun fact by the Distilled Spirits Council. Did you know? More than 5 million cases of Irish Whiskey were sold in the United States in 2020 (worth a whooping $1.1B)! There are several Irish Whiskey Distilleries worth an exclusive mention and may come with little surprise as well-known legacy Whiskey brands; Jameson and Bushmills, take the leaderboard.
Jameson Distillery Midleton
It wouldn’t feel right not to mention this relic first as one of the best-known Whiskey brands in the world Jameson also takes the cake for being the largest in Ireland and harboring the world’s most expensive bottles of vintage 1974 whiskeys valued at €35,000 each! Jameson Distillery was the result of a power play amongst local distillers to merge and conquer with the rise of competition and popularity of blended whiskeys.
They say you should never choose your favorite child but Ireland has certainly been making some special exceptions for this distillery as a #1 favorite to visit for over 10 years. Their exclusive Descendants Cask Programme is also worth a special mention as it gives individuals, groups, and businesses the opportunity to become one of only 100 ‘Descendants’ – cask owners in the 2022 Cask Edition. They take small batching to the extremes with only 4 casks being produced daily – so make sure not to miss out on this one!
Old Bushmills Distillery
Is it the Godfather of Distilleries? Marking its territory as one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in Ireland dating back to 1608 perched amongst the iconic Causeway Giant. Its name is generated from its ingredient origins which are water from the River Bush and Barley from the local mills. Bushmills uses 100% malted barley to create their iconic malt whiskey.
Originally dating back to 1829 and getting its middle name from its prospering manager Daniel E Williams. Spanning 58 acres of grain to glass, this impressive distillery site is a challenger brand that embraces cultural diversity with a mission to encourage the world to ‘blend’ and a goal to make the world wiser, richer, and more open place. World-famous for its blend of 3 types of different Irish whiskeys Tullamore is a truly unique and vital addition to the Irish Whiskey legacy.
Teeling Whiskey Distillery
Paving the way for the future of Irish Whiskey – Teeling was the first new distillery in Dublin for 125 years – let’s call it the Great Whiskey Revolution of 2015 however don’t be fooled the name Teeling actually comes from a long line of Teeling Whiskey enthusiasts and some bad financial acumen until its present-day operations. Known predominantly for their Small Batch approach across Single Malt, Single Grain, Single Pot Still and the Peated Single Malt Teeling knows how to keep our taste buds coming back more time and time again.
Pearse Lyons Distillery
We can thank god for this one, literally, as Pearse Lyons resides in St James restored church making Pearse a fairly new kid on the Whiskey block in comparison to its legendary worthy adversaries however they certainly know how to “Keep up with the Joneses” offering a gastronomic Whiskey experience pairing it’s Signature Whiskeys with magnificent food.
Roe & Co
Dublin’s newest Distillery on the Block. Named after the great 19th Century Whiskey Pioneer George Row – Ireland’s largest exporter of Whiskey. Roe & Co certainly capitalizes on the Georges’ legacy; Thomas Street Distillery and Diageo have also reaped the benefits after its €25 million investment into this new high street swanky distillery.
What’s your next Whiskey destination?
Whilst this concludes our top picks on Whiskey destinations and distilleries in Ireland, Scotland, and the USA, we should mention there are a significant amount of new micro/small batch Whiskey Distilleries popping up across these countries. They have not been included in this article but are still worth a visit. In particular “new school” whiskey and spirit distilleries have been making a significant movement globally in whiskey making and would also be worth a visit to see innovation in this category.
This micro category of Small Batch makers is supposed to be exclusive to 3, 5, or 10 barrel releases. However, this isn’t always the standard as major brands have been known to ‘small batch’ up to 300 barrels. These small-batch limited-time whiskey offerings really set the bar and are an invisible divider on whiskey drinkers versus whiskey connoisseurs often playing a pivotal role in ‘upgrading’ your tastebuds and appetites for more superior whiskey, often also referred to as bourbon, bottles.
Time to book your Whiskey road trip!