Scotland's best micro-distilleries

Named as one of the Lonely Planet's trends for 2017, micro-distilleries around Scotland will soon be getting some much-deserved attention.

Published 16th Nov 2016
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

With a rich history of distilling, Scotland has long been at the forefront of what's capable when it comes to producing quality spirit that is enjoyed around the world.

Though its larger distilling scene has been booming, in recent years it had fallen behind other countries in terms of focusing on nurturing what was capable with smaller craft distilleries.

Thankfully, with the recent surge in popularity of gin production, Scots are back doing it for themselves and new distilleries are popping up around the country, producing everything from vodka to gin to whisky and even rum.

Here are eight of the best:

Arbikie Distillery

(Inverkeilor, Arbroath, Angus, DD11 4UZ)

Brothers Iain, John and David Stirling at the Arbikie Distillery. The trio have just launched their own vodka. Picture: PA
Brothers Iain, John and David Stirling at the Arbikie Distillery. Picture: PA

Arbikie Highland Estate is a family-owned working farm perched on the east coast of Angus with a distillery that produces both white, and now brown, spirits. They grow all of their own ingredients and ferment, distil, bottle, label and mature the products on site.

The distillery found fame originally in 2014 with their excellent potato vodka, since then they have released two new gins and soon hope to lay down their first spirit in oak casks.

Dark Matter Distillery

(Burn O'Bennie Road, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, AB31 5NN)

Seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption that anyone could take a spirit uniquely associated with sunshine and white beaches and bring it to a country more famous for rain and dreich weather.

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That's exactly what brothers Jim and John Ewen decided to do following a trip to the Dominican Republic and a few years later Scotland's first rum distillery, Dark Matter, was born.

Their spiced rum is already gaining massive popularity, not just in Scotland, but across the UK.

Dunnet Bay Distillery

(Dunnet, Thurso, Caithness, KW148YD)

Martin and Claire Murray, owners of Dunnet Bay Distillery. Picture: Dunnet Bay

One of the most northern distilleries on the mainland, Dunnet Bay have made their name on the strength of their outstanding Rock Rose gin, named after one of their rare botanicals the “Rhodiola rosea” which is very difficult to find but grows on the cliffs of Caithness, it is one of the fastest selling craft gins in the UK.

They are now hoping to build on the success with the launch of seasonal versions of their core gin and their newest product, Holy Grass vodka, which is already receiving rave reviews.

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Eden Mill Distillery

(Main Street, Guardbridge, St Andrews, KY16 0UU)

Picture: Eden Mill
Picture: Eden Mill

Eden Mill is located just a couple of miles west of the famous home of golf, and is considered to be one of Scotland’s most unique distilleries in that it is also a brewery.

Currently one of Scotland's most prolific gin producers, the distillery has released a wide range of gins including their intriguing Hop gin, the punchy Oak gin and the sweet tasting Love gin.

They have also just branched out into whisky with the recent laying down of their first spirit in oak casks meaning their first whisky should be ready in 2017. They plan to make just 100,000 litres per year, ensuring focus goes onto every single drop.

Glasgow Distillery

(234 West George Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 4XB)

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Liam Hughes and Ian McDougall from The Glasgow Distillery Company. Picture: Hemedia
Liam Hughes and Ian McDougall from The Glasgow Distillery Company. Picture: Hemedia

Bringing distilling back to Scotland's biggest city for the first time in over 100 years, The Glasgow Distillery Company, which launched its first spirit, Makar Gin, two years ago is now branching out into whisky production.

Drinks industry veterans Liam Hughes and Ian McDougall decided to launch the distillery on the back of the wave of growing interest for craft spirits and a market gap in Glasgow.

Their 1770 Club gives whisky fans the opportunity to purchase their own cask filled with new make spirit from the first Glaswegian distillery in over a century and have it stored in their bonded warehouse in Glasgow for a minimum of three years and a day.

Kingsbarns Distillery

(East Newhall Farm, Kingsbarns, Fife, KY16 8QE)


The idea of former golf caddie Douglas Clements, Kingsbarns was born from a desire to bring whisky production back to the area.

Based at East Newhall Farm, with copper pot stills hand-made at Forsyths in Rothes, the small distillery has already released its first batch of new make spirit, with plans to release their first light, fruity style single malt in early 2018.

Pickering's Distillery

(1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL)

The first gin distillery to open in Edinburgh for 150 years was officially launched in what used to be the dog kennels at the city’s former Royal Dick vet school at Summerhall.

The brainchild of Marcus Pickering, a former butler at Skibo Castle, and engineer Matthew Gammell, Pickering's has produced a fantastic range of gins and alongside Edinburgh and Daffy's Gin has firmly re-established Scotland's trendiest new spirit in the capital.

Their range of core gins are based on an original Bombay recipe dating from 1947 and they have recently launched a new collection of oak-aged gins.

Strathearn Distillery

(Bachilton Farm Steading, Methven, Perth PH1 3QX) 

Scottish Craft Distillers Association, 17/03/2015: Tony Reeman-Clark of the Scottish Craft Distillers Association, pictured in a new Scottish craft distillery. Photography for Cooperative Development Scotland / Scottish Enterprise from: Colin Hattersley Photography - - - 07974 957 388
Tony Reeman-Clark at the Strathearn Distillery. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Strathearn have been at the forefront of the craft distilling movement in Scotland since almost its beginnings with Tony Reeman-Clark helping to create the Scottish Craft Distillers Association and the distillery producing several great gins.

2016 is a busy year for Strathearn, which is considered to be one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries, and the pioneer of small scale whisky distilling in Scotland, as it prepares to release its first ever Scotch and expand its product range. The micro-distillery is also set to launch its own whisky club to celebrate the release of its first batch of whisky.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-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 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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