6 days discovering Scotland's whisky distilleries by superyacht

Oban Distillery, Oban

The west coast of Scotland is a whisky-loving superyachter’s paradise. The biggest problem is not what to see but what to cull reluctantly from the itinerary. One could spend months here without getting bored and without supping the same whisky twice. The area recently attracted Roman Abramovich who spent five days on a luxury yacht in Scotland.

There are well over a dozen distilleries dotted along the coast and in the islands that make up the Inner Hebrides, each offering a warm welcome. And as you cruise between them you’ll see spectacular sunsets, as well as killer whales, basking sharks and dolphins and, nearer the shore, otters, seals, eagles and puffins.

Day one: Oban Distillery, Oban

You will probably start your voyage in Oban snugly situated in the Firth of Lorn and sheltered from the worst of any weather by the island of Kerrera. There has been a distillery in the town since 1794 and a dram of Oban 14 Year Old will make the perfect start to your journey: intense, sweet and fruity with just an iodine hint of the salty sea. Pack a couple of bottles on board, just in case.

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Jura Whisky, Isle of Jura

Next stop will be the slipway at Feolin, on the rugged, barren Isle of Jura, which is home to only one distillery, the eponymous Jura Sample the range, from the entry-level 10 Year Old Jura Origin, to the oily, smoky, heavily peated Jura Prophecy and the bizarrely tasty Jura Brooklyn, finished in American white oak bourbon, amoroso sherry and pinot noir casks.

Lunch in the Jura Hotel in Craighouse is a must, if only for the local langoustines, lobster and Islay crab. Then take a taxi to the north of the island to visit remote Barnhill, home to the writer George Orwell during the late 1940s. Orwell relished the house’s isolation and finished his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four here, famously declaring that Jura was “extremely ungetatable”.

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Ardbeg Distillery, Isle of Islay

Next is Islay. It’s only a five-minute hop across the water to Port Askaig on Islay’s east coast. Moor here or sail round to Port Ellen in the south where the marina can take large yachts. Stretch your sea legs with a bracing three-mile walk to Ardbeg Distillery, passing Lagavulin and Laphroaig along the way. Then get stuck into a seafood chowder, whisky cured gravadlax or shellfish platter at Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Café.

You’ll get a good sense of why the whisky tastes the way it does here. It’s no coincidence that Ardbeg has a notable salty tang to it given that the sea breaks on the cobbles of the old jetty just yards from the tasting room. This jetty is suitable for tenders, so you can head straight back to your superyacht or play a quick round at nearby Islay Golf Club.

Picture courtesy of Jaime Pharr/Shutterstock.com

Bruichladdich Distillery, Isle of Islay

In the morning, head around Loch Indaal to Bruichladdich. If you’re feeling adventurous – and peckish – take a quick detour to Loch Gruinart. Here you can don wellies and forage for cockles, winkles, shrimps, mussels, oysters, scallops, seaweed, sorrel and goodness knows what else. It’s hugely satisfying, especially when your chef cooks those scallops in a sorrel sauce washed down with several hearty slugs of Bruichladdich Unpeated. The floral, sweet and complex tang of the whisky could have been made with this dish in mind.

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Tobermory Distillery, Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull and the distillery of Tobermory is next. You’ll be weather-battered as you arrive and the colourful houses that line Tobermory’s waterfront are a welcome sight, as is the similarly battered distillery itself. Its former name of Ledaig means “safe haven” in Gaelic and will make complete sense as you escape the choppy Sea of the Hebrides.

Mull is an exhilarating island with much to enjoy. The scenery is jaw-droppingly fine and visitors are soon bewitched, either by the whisky itself or by such sights as the ancient Lochbuie Stone Circle, MacKinnon’s Cave or the wild Loch Ba in the heart of the island, reputedly home to the witch Cailleach Bheur.

Make sure you take in a meal at glorious Tiroran House Hotel with its dramatic views over Loch Scridain. The food is first-rate (try the bouillabaisse or the local lamb) and it has a great range of single malts.

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Talisker distillery, Isle of Skye

Then it’s off to the fabled Isle of Skye and the dramatically sited Talisker distillery, slap-bang on the shore of Loch Harport. There’s a safe anchorage here, although getting to it can be interesting if it’s blowing a gale.

Enjoy the brand new Talisker Skye, a fantastic dram, smokily sweet with a spicy side to it. They’ll have it in the bar at the Three Chimneys the Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms where chef Michael Smith creates culinary masterpieces such as Blackface lamb shoulder with spiced couscous, or River Esk sea trout with blood orange and seaweed dressing. You can walk it off with a hike in the Cuillin hills or a scramble up the Old Man of Storr.

And before heading back to your yacht, make for the Oyster Shed which will provide boxes of hot, cold or live seafood to take back on board and enjoy with the many bottles of uisge beatha you have collected on your travels.

If you have been inspired by this itinerary don’t min our guide to a luxury yacht charter in Scotland.

PIcture courtesy of Stocker1970/Shutterstock.com

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