Relaxing with a highball of Scotch or enjoying a well-made drink is a pleasure (or near ritual) enjoyed by many. With the continuing popularity of classic cocktails and the resurgence of cocktail culture in general—not to mention the copious imbibing on Mad Men—liquor has taken on an increasingly prominent position in the zeitgeist.
With that comes a desire to really know a thing or two about the spirits that fill one’s glass or shaker. And now, thanks to tours offered by distilleries around the globe, travelers can get a glimpse behind the scenes of some of their favorite brands.
Spending an afternoon at a distillery can offer an unprecedented peek into a spirit’s lineage, place in history and production. It can also lead to interesting discoveries, like how a favorite whiskey, for instance, matures in barrels that once held sherry, port or even rum.
Many tours start at the very beginning. From barley destined for whiskey to sugarcane earmarked for rum, raw ingredients lay a foundation for an experience that excites—and challenges—all the senses. (Try to detect the notes of spice, toffee and berries in Ireland’s Bushmills 16-Year-Old Malt, and you’ll see how.)
These facilities also happen to be located in beautiful places. The rolling hills of Kentucky set the scene for a host of distilleries that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Maker’s Mark—with its signature red wax–dipped bottles—attracts 100,000 visitors a year to its 650-acre location. Head to Scotland, where the Macallan Distillery, located on a 370-acre estate that borders the River Spey, produces a distinguished array of single malts. And if rum is your drink of choice, visit the stunning Aragua Valley in Venezuela, where the fifth generation of the family behind Santa Teresa rum carries on the tradition.
Pack your bags and get a taste of the spirited life at these ten distilleries that are worth the trip.