Dining Savouring Centuries: A Tour Of Whiskey Distilleries That Defined The Craft

Savouring Centuries: A Tour Of Whiskey Distilleries That Defined The Craft

Explore the rich heritage and age-old alchemy of whiskey-making as we take you on a journey through the world's oldest distilleries.


By Esha Dasgupta Published on Dec 14, 2023, 03:00 PM

Savouring Centuries: A Tour Of Whiskey Distilleries That Defined The Craft
Image credit: Kelly vanDellen/Shutterstock

From the rolling hills of Scotland to the verdant landscapes of Ireland, and from the rugged hills of Himachal Pradesh in India to the bourbon-loving heart of America, the oldest distilleries in the world have dedicated themselves to preserving the art of whiskey-making. These venerable establishments have not only withstood the test of time but have also weathered storms, all to create the intoxicating ‘amber nectar’.

Join us on a spirited journey through time, where expert craftsmanship and traditional distillation practices converge to produce some of the finest spirits known to humanity. 

A toast to history: Discovering the world’s oldest whiskey distilleries

Bushmills, Ireland (1608)

Bushmills Ireland
Image credit: bushmills.eu

The oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world, Bushmills was established in 1608 in Northern Ireland. Famous for its exquisite single malt whiskey, the brand has won many accolades in global spirits competitions. Notably, it received the only gold medal ever awarded for whiskey at the Paris Expo of 1889. Bushmills sources water from the River Bush, flowing over basalt rocks, and uses malt barley in the production of its world-renowned whiskey.

Kilbeggan Distillery, Ireland (1757)

Kilbeggan Distillery Ireland
Image credit: kilbegganwhiskey.com

Founded by Matthew MacManus, Kilbeggan Distillery is one of the oldest in the world, with licence to distil since 1757. While facing financial challenges and temporarily ceasing operations in 1957, it resumed activities at its original site in 2007. Besides the Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye, made with traditional Irish ingredients, this distillery on River Brosna produces three notable brands: Kilbeggan, Locke’s Malt, and Locke’s Blend. In addition to its whiskey offerings, it features a restaurant, a fully-restored 19th-century waterwheel, and a steam engine to ensure operations even during the river’s low water levels.

Glenturret Distillery, Scotland (1763)

Glen turret oldest distillery
Image credit: theglenturret.com

The Glenturret Distillery is the oldest working distillery in Perthshire, Scotland, and among the oldest whiskey distilleries in the world. Perched on the banks of River Turret, it was officially established in 1763. However, the site has a history of illicit distilling dating back to 1717. Despite changing ownership and facing closures during the First World War and US prohibition, Glenturrent persists as a bastion of whiskey craftsmanship. Glenturret uses water from the River Turret, the finest barley and ages its products to perfection in oak casks.

Bowmore Distillery, Scotland (1779)

Bowmore oldest distillery
Image credit: Robert Colonna/Shutterstock

One of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, Bowmore stands on the shores of Indaal Lake on the Isle of Islay. Despite changing ownership several times and facing closures in 1915 and 1925, it resumed operations in 1963 under new leadership and has thrived ever since. Among their notable offerings are the Bowmore 12, Bowmore The 50-Year-Old, and the super-smooth Bowmore 1957. Take a tour to know more.

Strathisla Distillery, Scotland (1786)

strathisla oldest distillery
Image credit: Alin Popescu/Shutterstock

As the oldest continuously operating distillery in the Scottish Highlands, Strathisla Distillery, founded in 1786 as Milltown by Alexander Milne and George Taylor, remains an iconic presence. Now owned by the Chivas Bros, it sources water from The Broomhill Spring in Moray for its malt barley and ages its whiskey in used Bourbon casks for a smoother finish.

Shop the best travel experiences here.

Balblair Distillery, Scotland (1790)

Balblair oldest Distillery Scotland
Image credit: balblair.com

Established in 1790 by John Ross, Balblair Distillery manufactures classic Highland whiskey with a unique flavour profile. Using Black Isle barley and glade water flowing down Edderton hills, the spirit features fruity undertones and a full body. Balblair employs a 62-hour fermentation process for its single malt. Balblair began releasing Vintage Whiskey in 2007, followed by the exclusive age-statement whiskeys aged 12, 15, 18, and 25 years. 

Oban Distillery, Scotland (1794)

Oban oldest distillery Scotland
Image credit: obanwhisky.com/

Oban Distillery, established in 1794, is one of the world’s oldest and smallest of its kind in Scotland, with only two pot stills for distillation. Owned by Diageo, a prominent beverage and alcohol company, Oban is known primarily for its 14 and 18-year-old malts, as well as a rare 32-year-old edition, often featured as part of Diageo’s Special Releases.

Related Stories

Glen Garioch Distillery, Scotland (1797)

Glen Garioch Scotland
Image credit: Stewart Allen/Flickr

Founded in 1797 by Thomas Simpson in Aberdeen, Glen Garioch is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, specialising in small-batch scotch whiskey. Glen Garioch prides itself in offering non-chill-filtered malt whiskey with a honeyed aftertaste and a creamy texture. Their much-adored offerings include a 12-year-old whiskey aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, US (1805)

Buffalo Trace
Image credit: buffalotracedistillery.com

The Buffalo Trace Distillery, established in 1805, is the oldest operating bourbon distillery in the US. Situated in Kentucky, Buffalo Trace was allowed to operate during Prohibition for the production of ‘medicinal’ whiskey. Known for the Buffalo Trace brand of bourbon, the facility also distils rye whiskey, bitters, bourbon cream liqueur, and vodka.

Kasauli Distillery, India (1855)

oldest whiskey at Kasauli distillery
Image credit: Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Founded in 1855, Kasauli Distillery is the oldest of its kind for scotch whiskey in Asia. Starting as a brewery and distillery in Himachal Pradesh’s Kasauli, the brewery was relocated to Solan due to insufficient spring water, leaving behind the distillery. Kasauli’s main brands include the much-adored single malt whiskey, Solan No. 1, along with Colonel’s Special, Diplomat Deluxe, and Old Monk rum.

(Feature image credit: bushmills.eu) 

Related: Best Bottles Of Blended Whiskey For The Home Bar, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

-Are the oldest distilleries still in operation today?
Yes, some of the oldest are still in operation today, despite changing ownership and experiencing closures for various reasons. 

-What types of whiskey are produced by the oldest distilleries?
Most of the oldest operating ones produce single malt whiskey or peated whiskey.

-Can visitors tour the oldest whiskey distilleries?
Yes, some places, such as Balblair and Bowmore, offer daily tours for visitors interested in gaining insights into the whiskey distillation process.

-What are the specific regions known for hosting multiple old distilleries?
Regions like Scotland and Britain are renowned for hosting numerous old distilleries with rich histories.

-Do the oldest whiskey distilleries adhere to traditional production methods?
While some of the oldest ones maintain their traditional production methods, others have adopted modern techniques and tools.

-Can we buy whiskey directly from these distilleries?
Yes, some of these places have visitor centres and shops where guests can purchase bottles of the brand’s finest offerings.

Written By

Esha Dasgupta

Esha Dasgupta

Esha is a traveller at heart, with a penchant for exploring the unchartered. She has previously worked with TravelTriangle and Internet Moguls. When not in work mode, she can be found downing endless cups of coffee while reading Enid Blyton/Sidney Sheldon.

Never miss an update

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest on travel, stay & dining.

No Thanks
You’re all set

Thank you for your subscription.