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Aberfeldy is a great wee distillery to visit! It’s not that far away if you live in East or West Central Scotland, they have a great tour with a tourist centre and they even have one of Robert Burn’s writing tables in the museum! For Whisky historians the distillery offers a unique glimpse into the success of the Dewar’s Whisky dynasty, the famous Whisky Barons who developed Dewars Whisky from a wee shop on Perth High Street in 1846 to global brand and Victorian icon of entrepreneurship.
The distillery is located within the Highland Whisky region, so you would expect the spirit to be floral with honey and heather notes. It was built by John Dewar & Sons Ltd in 1896 during the Victorian Whisky boom and is reportedly located just three miles from John’s birthplace. It has enjoyed only one break in production in 1917 -1919. The distillery is now owned by Bacardi ltd having been bought from Diageo in 1998 and the visitor centre was opened in 2000.
There are a variety of tours you can select all at various prices and they each include at least one dram and for drivers there is a little bag you take home with you. However, certain tours only offer Dewar’s white label as the driver dram so try and avoid being the designated driver! With your ticket you also receive a wee voucher which reduces the prices of the items in the visitor centre. In addition Aberfeldy is one of those rare distilleries that has a pour your own bottle cask in the visitor centre. It should be noted that you are not allowed to have your phone on while taking the tour in case you blow the place up.
Without wishing to divulge too much about the tour, so as to encourage you to see it for yourselves, I’ll express some of my highlights.
The standard tour takes you through the working distillery to see the working mash-tun, the active stills and a show warehouse – the warehouse is interesting because here you receive the ‘beauty of blending’ from Dewar’s and your surrounded by casks from a variety of open and closed distilleries, some have been closed for a very very long time but don’t be fooled into thinking that the Whisky held in glass samples jars in the centre of the room is actually from some of the closed distilleries because they’re not as confirmed by the tour guide…
After the tour you are permitted to enter the museum via a Game of Thrones Iron Throne style thoroughfare made of broken up casks (staves). The museum illustrates the wealth and success of the Dewar Whisky barons, with examples of paintings and antiques bought such as the famous 'Monarch of the Glen' by Sir Edwin Landseer and a Robert Burn’s writing table, in amongst other treasures accumulated by the family over the years.
Robert Burn's writing table and the 'Monarch of the Glen' which painting which Tommy Dewar reportadely owned although this is not the actual painting.
The museum is a superbly interactive and contemporary place, with drawers that pull out to reveal facts as well as a phone that allows you to select parts of the museum you wish to hear about. It is amazing to see the pioneering marketing skill of Tommy Dewar who visited 26 countries in 2 years in his pursuit to sell Dewar’s across the world. The most interesting part of the museum I found was the collection of White Label Dewar’s that were arranged in a timeline since the 1940’s, it provides an amazing insight into marketing through the years that any Mad Men fan would love, jumping between selling the Scottish brand though bagpipers and Stags to sell the Whisky just on the name Dewar's.
Samples of Dewar's historic blending bottles