Portree, Scotland

Photo: Cuillin Hills Hotel
Photo: Cuillin Hills Hotel

So you’ve visited wineries and microbreweries all over the world. You’ve sipped Shiraz in Australia and Riesling in Germany. You’ve tasted pilsners in Prague and lagers in Portland–Oregon and Maine. You love the smell of the barrels and talking with the brewers. And then you get excited when you find your new favorite back home. But what about spirits?

A trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without visiting a malt whisky distillery. Scotch is produced throughout Scotland, and most distilleries are found in the Highlands. Glenfiddich, Macallan, and Glenlivet are all in Speyside. One award-winning distiller is a bit farther away though. To reach Talisker, cross the Skye Bridge to “Cloud Island.” The Isle of Skye is the largest and most northerly island of the Inner Hebrides. Drive through the fog and the on-again-off-again rain. Pass the rocky Cuillin mountains and overgrown castle ruins, gleaming lochs and velvety moors. And you’ll finally be rewarded with 10-year-old, 18-year-old, and 25-year-old single malts. You swear you can smell seawater in the golden liquid, though it could just be the location on the shore of Loch Harport.

Photo: Cuillin Hills Hotel
Photo: Cuillin Hills Hotel

After the tour and the tasting, drive north to Portree, a picturesque harbor fringed by cliffs and filled with small fishing boats. Pastel buildings line the pier. Stop at the Lower Deck for a late lunch of fish and chips. Browse the shops for freshwater pearls, bronze sculptures, and local photography. And make plans for the next day. See Skye from the Sound of Raasay on the MV Stardust. Fly fish for trout on the River Lealt. Walk the ramparts of Eilean Donan Castle. Or watch sheepskin rugs being made at Skyeskyns.

When the wind picks up, find the Cuillin Hills Hotel in the hills above Portree. Originally a hunting lodge built in the 1880s, the hotel has views of Portree Bay, four-poster beds, and log fireplaces. Tweed is the fabric of choice. The Malt Embassy has 130 malt whiskies from which to select, give or take a few. You had planned to walk back into town for the evening for dinner at the new Scorrybreac Restaurant and live music at the Isles Inn Pub, but the Scotch selection is giving you second thoughts. Particularly the ones you know you can’t find back home.

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