Love a wee dram or two? We take a look at the best whisky bars from around Scotland.

People come to Scotland for its dramatic scenery, warm welcome and rich history – with millions of tourists making their way here from all points of the globe every year.

Recently, there has also been a dramatic rise in food and drink tourism, with those who cross our borders seeking to try our world beating seafood, our delicious beef and, of course, our national drink.

Thankfully, there has never been a better time to be a fan of Scotch whisky, from the increase in visitor centres and tours at some of the country’s most famous distilleries to retailers selling bottles by the hundreds now widely available around Scotland.

But it’s the bustling bars and local pubs that offer one of the simplest and most genuine ways to enjoy a dram or two, in the company of locals and under the expert guidance of the staff behind the bar.

With that in mind, here are some of the best bars and pubs in the country in which to enjoy the uisge beatha.

Speyside

The Highlander Inn

Best Whisky Pubs

Picture: Highlander Inn

Based in the heart of one of the biggest whisky producing regions, (or the epicentre of the whisky universe, if you go by the rather dramatic tagline on the Inn’s website) The Highlander Inn is more of an institution than a bar.

Owner Tatsuya Minagawa is an icon in the industry and his welcome is to some people as big a draw as the bar’s collection, and what a collection it is, with 400 different whiskies, including a large number of single cask malt whiskies – it is a must see.

Interestingly, the bar also claims to have one of the largest selections of Japanese whiskies available outside South East Asia, and with a patio just outside the bar, there’s a perfect place for you to enjoy a cigar and a dram on a warm and dry summer night.

The Quaich Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

The Craigellachie Hotel is one of the best known hotels in Scotland, first built in the 1800s, the hotel is a favourite among visitors to the region’s distilleries and fishing spots. It is also probably as well known as some of the distilleries that surround it.

The Quaich Bar will astound you with its knowledgeable staff and amazing collection of malts (there are over 700).

If you’re a foodie as well as a fan of whisky, then you won’t be disappointed as the Craigellachie’s own Copper Dog restaurant named after the devices distillery workers used to ‘sample’ whisky from casks in storage.

With food sourced within a 40 mile radius from local hand-picked suppliers and an award-winning chef, it’s the place to go for some fantastic Scottish dishes to accompany your chosen dram.

The Mash Tun

Best Whisky Bars

The incredible Glenfarclas Collection. Picture: The Mash Tun

Constructed in 1896, the Mash tun was originally the dream of James Campbell, a naval captain, who asked for the building to be designed in the form of a small ship. Situated on the banks of the River Spey, the bar is run by knowledgeable and friendly staff who will be more than happy to offer advice or even just a chat about our national drink.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the gantry is the Mash Tun’s range of Glenfarclas bottlings, a unique collection of 47 single cask whiskies, with one for each consecutive year from 1952 to 1998. Definitely one to visit when in Aberlour.

Highlands

Dornoch Castle Hotel, Dornoch

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

A hotel since 1947, Dornoch Castle has garnered an impressive reputation as a whisky destination due its close proximity to a number of leading whisky distilleries in the Highlands – such as Balblair, Glenmorangie and Dalmore – its excellent range of old and rare whiskies, the knowledge of brothers Phil and Simon Thompson and of course, the fact it now has its own micro-distillery on the grounds.

Lying close to the city of Inverness, the Castle’s whisky bar has won plaudits from websites like Whiskybase.com and publications such as the Scottish Licence Trade News, as well as becoming an official SMWS partner bar earlier this year.

Fiddler’s Bar & Restaurant, Drumnadrochit

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

The Fiddler’s Bar and Restaurant is a multiple award-winning family-run business operated by the Beach family since 1996. Serving salmon, beef or game as well as award-winning haggis, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to great food.

However, it’s the whisky selection and service that will really get your attention. Check out their Top Ten Desert Island Drams list for a choice of great whiskies that the staff will happily recommend or kick back and enjoy their famous whisky library which includes nearly all the named Scottish single malts.

For those of you who are just starting out on the journey to whisky enlightenment, the bar offers triple tastings and whisky flights to help advise you on where to begin.

The Fiddler’s also happens to be on the ‘Great Glen Way’, a 73 miles walk that runs from Fort William, in the west, to Inverness, so you’ll have no excuse not to visit if you’re taking part.

Accommodation is also on offer, so should that you be tired after all that walking/feasting/drinking then you’ll have a place to lay your head for the night.

Aberdeenshire

The Grill, Aberdeen

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: The Grill

Aberdeen is once again becoming a great place to go for food and drink and any whisky fan heading to the Granite city should check out the Grill.

It’s one of the oldest bars in the city and with nearly 600 whiskies on the gantry you’ll be bowled over by the selection – and it’s fairly decent value too.

Luckily there are helpful staff on hand to offer advice or if you want to sit back and take your time then they have comprehensive menus. They also offer whisky flights, a selection of four whiskies, to try.

CASC, Aberdeen

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: CASC Bar

A dedicated craft beer and whisky bar in the heart of Aberdeen’s Merchant Quarter, CASC is gaining a reputation as one of the best places to go for a ‘half and half’ in the city.

The bar has over 500 whiskies – with a focus on single casks – an off sales and even a walk-in humidor specialising in cuban cigars.

They also do a roaring trade in Hot Toddies which are particularly good in the winter time.

The Cave Bar at Meldrum House Hotel, Old Meldrum

Though Meldrum House itself is stunning, and the world class golf course is also a big draw, for any whisky fan the real reason to visit is definitely the stunning Cave Bar.

If the story is true, then the atmospheric bar is definitely the oldest on this list (and possibly one of the oldest in Scotland) as its origins are said to lie almost 800 years ago.

Feeling like a Smuggler’s Den it’s a fun (and cosy) place to choose a dram from one the nearly 120 whiskies behind the bar, it is also home to one of the largest collections of Glen Garioch whisky in the country, and, if it all gets too much for you then the hotel has plenty of accommodation for weary travellers.

The Lowlands

Glasgow

Bon Accord

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

The Bon Accord in Glasgow’s North Street is the place to go in Glasgow if you’re looking for some great food, great atmosphere and especially if you want a cracking dram and beer.

The Bon prides itself not only on its whisky selection but also on the excellent selection of ales that Paul McDonagh (the owner) offers.

The gantry is taken up by around 350 whiskies and thankfully they have tablet computers behind the bar with the full selection (including detailed photos of the bottles) for you to take to your seat and peruse at your leisure. Once you’ve finished up here you can head to the…

The Potstill

Best whisky Bars

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

The Potstill is situated smack bang in Glasgow’s town centre on Hope Street and is easily accessible from either of the city’s two main train stations.

With a gantry of over 650 whiskies and bar staff that ‘hop about like demented librarians in a library of golden liquid’ (as they were once described), you are more than likely to find the whisky you are looking for.

The pub was taken over by Frank Murphy six years ago and now has had various members of the family working there over the years (one sister, his dad and eight cousins – including yours truly), so there’s always someone on hand to help with advice or even just to chat about whisky.

Wishaw

The Artisan Restaurant

Best whisky bars

Picture: The Artisan

With over 1,300 whiskies, (this might just secure it the title of the biggest selection out there) the Artisan restaurant is situated on the Main Street in Wishaw.

Run by chef and keen whisky collector Derek Mather, the restaurant has firmly established itself as a firm favourite with locals, offering an excellent selection of Scottish dishes such as Stornoway black pudding and Lanark haggis.

It is the whisky selection, however, that will really blow you away.

Derek has amassed one of the best collections we’ve seen and most are for sale by the dram. Best of all, the Artisan staff have all been trained to be whisky ambassadors and as such their knowledge of the products is second to none.

We recommend you try and have a chat with Derek if you can, mostly just so you can ask him about his love for Bruicladdich which he’ll be more than happy to talk about.

Edinburgh

Whiski

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: WHISKI Bar & Restaurant

Situated in the middle of the Royal Mile, this bar is an easy find for any tourist (or local) looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh and just enjoy a nice dram in a relaxing atmosphere.

Whiski provides all day dining which means no matter the time of day , you can grab a bite to eat while you sit and peruse their excellent gantry.

We recommend trying the excellent haggis.

Whiski also has the benefit of live music seven nights a week, meaning it can’t be beat for great atmosphere.

Whiski Rooms

Edinburgh Whiksy

Picture: Whiski Rooms

Expanding on Whiski’s original idea and cranking it up a notch is the Whiski Rooms. Also situated near the Royal Mile, though in a far grander venue.

Perched on the Mound,  the bar offers dramatic views over Princes Street and the Rooms offers daily tutored tastings, a dedicated whisky shop and is also listed as an Ardbeg embassy. So if you are an Ardbeg fan it’s the place to go when visiting Edinburgh.

Bow Bar

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

Located on Victoria Street (also known as West Bow), one of the most spectacular streets in the Old Town and situated close to both the Castle and the Grassmarket.

The Bow Bar is one for fans of truly traditional pubs. Hidden behind its unassuming frontage of blue paint and plain glass windows, you’ll find a classic gantry filled to the brim with whisky – 150 in all – and a traditional bar that offers more than its fair share of real ales. With friendly staff and a cosy atmosphere, this is a real hidden gem in the heart of Edinburgh.

Amber Restaurant

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

For award-winning food as well as a great location and over 330 whiskies.  You can’t go wrong with the Amber Restaurant and its accompanying whisky bar. The restaurant, which is part of the Scotch whisky Experience, offers whisky and food matches as well as fantastic Scottish Tapas.

Also on offer are a selection of regional tasting trays for those of you who want to get the most out of your whisky tasting experience.
We recommend you take a look at the McIntyre Whisky Gallery, a beautifully lit bar which offers direct access to the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection.

For those of you who still feel unsatisfied by all of that (or if you just have a sweet tooth) the Scotch Whisky Experience also offers the chance to try out their Scotch Whisky and Chocolate Tasting Experience, featuring Coco Chocolate matched with sherry cask whisky. What more could you want?

The Kaleidoscope Bar, SWMS Queen Street

The newly refurbed Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar at the Queen Street venue of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is one of the more distinctive bars on this list. Now open to the public, the bar offers offers a constantly changing menu of whisky flavours to taste and explore.

With over 200 whiskies on the gantry, and with the expertise of the SMWS bar staff on hand, you’ll have plenty of fun whiling away the afternoon learning about the Society’s innovative approach to whisky tasting.

Campbeltown

The Ardshiel Hotel

Best whisky bars

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller

Situated in Campbelltown – which was once a thriving Mecca of whisky production – the Ardshiel Hotel is probably one of the first names anyone will give you when asked where to go in Scotland to drink whisky. Originally built in 1877, for one of the many whisky barons resident in Campbeltown at that time, the Ardshiel Hotel is now a popular family run hotel.

The hotel’s Usquebaugh Bar and Lounge, which offers a superb choice of over 200 malt whiskies including a fine selection of Springbank, Cadenhead, and Islay malts, is the place to go for whisky lovers. We recommend checking out the hotel’s freshly caught seafood while you’re there too.

The Islands

Ballygrant Inn, Islay

Best Whisky Bars

Picture: Ballygrant Inn

Located near the small village of Ballygrant, just three miles from Port Askaig ferry terminal – and also not far from the Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila Distilleries.

The whisky bar – known locally as Robolls bar – has a huge selection of over 400 whiskies, with many, as you would expect hailing from the island itself.

Open until 1am on the weekend, the friendly family who run the bar are also well versed in the world of whisky and happy to spin a yarn or two about the island’s own whisky community as you relax, dram in hand, by the heat of  the log burning stove.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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