Whisky On The NC500
It feels like just yesterday that we had our opening party in glorious sunshine. With memories of lovely weather still fresh in the mind, you can imagine our anguish when a planned hillwalking weekend was curtailed by poor weather. Autumn can have some excellent weather but not that weekend! What then to do on the NC500 when the weather sucks? Is there Whisky on the NC500, I hear you cry!?!
Indeed there is! Whisky On The NC500 route is only found on the eastern section, from John o’ Groats down towards Inverness. To reach the east coast from NC500Pods requires a stunning coast-to-coast drive, passing through the town of Lairg.
Most whisky distilleries provide guided tours of their site as they walk you through the whisky making process. Tours include samples of the various whiskies produced, so its best not to volunteer to be the designated driver that day!
We’ll look at all the distilleries on the NC500 in upcoming blogs, so that you can plan which ones you’d like to visit. We’ll start at the top of the Scottish mainland, close to John o’ Groats.
Our tour of whisky on the NC500 started at Old Pultney. We took the tour here, which was excellent.
Tasting barrels at Old Pultney
The distillery is in the middle of the town of Wick. Whisky was first made here in 1826, taking inspiration and flavour from the sea. Wick has a strong links to the sea, having a large harbour. In fact, ingredients for making whisky were originally delivered by ship rather than road. It’s no wonder then that Old Pultney is known as the maritime whisky.
Old Pultney Spirit Still
In the last few years Old Pultney has received several awards. In particular the 12 & 25 year old whiskies received many gold awards. You will have the opportunity to try these after the tour.
Sampling the Whisky
Old Pultney has a small visitor centre and runs tours most days (not Sundays). Book your tour here.
The towns of Wick & Thurso have been neighbours and (friendly?) rivals for centuries. No wonder then that Thurso also has its own distillery.
Wolfburn was founded in 1821, before Wick’s Old Pultney, and produced a larger volume of whisky too. It closed in the 1850s, but was brought back to life in 2012, right next to the site of the original distillery.
Various bourbon and sherry casks allows the distillery to vary the whisky flavour during the maturation process. Wolfburn has a great range of whiskies. There is even a peated whisky, which is unusual for an east coast distiller. In fact most peaty ones come from Islay.
Distillery tours are also available here, but there is no visitor centre. Enquire in advance for tours here.
John o’ Groats is situated between the towns of Wick and Thurso. To break up your tour of Whisky on the NC500, it’s nice to take the short detour to see this Landmark.
Ok so not quite Whisky on the NC500, but if you’re visiting Wolfburn, then why not stop at the nearby Dunnet Bay Distillery. Award winning Rock Rose gin & Holy Grass vodka is made here in beautiful bottles.