This Type Of Tour Is The Highlight Of Any Trip To Scotland, According To Rick Steves

There are multiple European countries who take immense pride in their beverages. Think wine in Italy, beer in Czechia, or more specific drinks like Guinness in Ireland. Aside from tourists flocking to world famous bars and pubs throughout the continent, the international intrigue surrounding Europe's popular drinks makes for immersive tours of wineries, breweries, and the like all over Europe.

Among Europe's regions which are renowned for — if not synonymous with — specific drinks is Scotland. This northern section of Great Britain evokes images of kilts and imposing castles. While you enjoy all the stunning destinations on your Scotland trip, you may want to grab a glass of Scotland's popular beverage: Scotch. Better yet, you may want to add a Scotch distillery tour to your itinerary. "This is a land of booze geeks," travel expert Rick Steves explains on his website. "Whether or not you like this stuff, a highlight of a visit to Scotland is touring a distillery — and you can choose from more than 100."

Distillery tours are located all over Scotland

Scotch is a type of whiskey (spelled "whisky" in Scotland) curated in Scotland. While there are single malt and single grain Scotch whiskies, people tend to buy blends between the two or blends of malt or grain whiskies combined from more than one distillery. Different regions of Scotland have their own flavor hints as well, such as vanilla in the northwest Highlands or lighter flavoring around Edinburgh.

Rick Steves has taken part in a handful of Scotch whisky distillery tours. While they all bring unique experiences in environment and flavors, Steves recommends some standouts. In the fairytale-like town of Oban, the late 18th century Oban Distillery is a significant draw. Tours take visitors behind the scenes to show the process of making Oban Scotch whisky and include tastings. After the tour, head to the local Cuan Mor restaurant with whisky curated from the Oban Distillery. Straight north of Edinburgh is the Speyside Cooperage with tours paying special attention to the barrels — or casks — which hold the whisky for years before they are ready for consumption. Speyside Cooperage is slightly more remote, but accessible through the nearby town of Elgin.

See one of the world's largest whisky collections in Edinburgh

For a distillery tour near some of Scotland's biggest tourist attractions, check out those offered by the Scotch Whisky Experience in the historic and stunning city of Edinburgh. The Scotch Whisky Experience also features one of the largest collection of Scotch whisky in the world, with almost 4,000 bottles. This company is located on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, a section of the city's Old Town encompassing the stark Edinburgh Castle, landmark churches, and authentic shops in between. One of these shops deserving of a visit is Cadenhead's Whisky Shop. In a YouTube video, Rick Steves explains that the whisky sold here is "from the source," and therefore "without all the compromises that come with more profitable mass production."

The pride which Scottish people have in their Scotch whisky is a prime example of "food patriotism." This relates to how important it is to connect with local culture through cuisine. "Understanding 'food patriotism' here in Scotland — or in any corner of the world — brings out the fun and fascinating facets of each place," Steves says on his website. Take part in Scotland's "food patriotism" responsibly, however, as Scotch whisky has a ABV of 40 percent.