Step back in time with a visit to Dallas Dhu distillery, the 19th-century whisky distillery that became a tourist attraction after spirit production ended in 1983.
Review of Dallas Dhu distillery
Scotch Whisky is one of the country’s most-loved exports, with millions of bottles sold around the world annually. The ‘water of life’ (known as uisge beatha in its native Gaelic) has been made in Scotland for hundreds of years and the first official records of the distillation process date as far back as 1494.
Many distilleries have been and gone in the intervening years but luckily for whisky-loving tourists the distillery at Dallas Dhu is now in the protection of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) who have restored this fascinating part of Scotland’s history back to its former glory, although unfortunately it no longer produces spirit.
The old distillery is fascinating to walk around and HES have done a great job of explaining how grain becomes spirit through a series of information panels.
If you’ve got any kind of interest in the history of Scotch whisky and how it’s made you’ll definitely enjoy visiting this tourist attraction in Morayshire.
Continue reading to discover why you should visit this attraction.
Things to do at Dallas Dhu distillery
Although there are tour guides on hand to answer questions you can walk around the distillery at your own pace so I suggest you take it slow to read each information panel as they’re packed full of facts about Scotland’s favourite tipple.
As you meander through the rooms you’re also told of the daily life of the buildings and the people who worked there on a self-guided audio tour, which I definitely recommend you pick up from the ticket desk.
The entire complex is open to explore and you’ll be able to visit all the areas where whisky production took place – from the two-storey malt barn warehouse where barley grains were turned into malt, to the still house where the ‘wash’ was turned into spirit.
The process is retold in detail and you’ll soon discover each stage of the whisky life-cycle and how the grain and water slowly turns into alcohol.
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Perhaps the most important part of the distillation process is the stage where seemingly nothing happens at all, which you’ll be able to see for yourself in the enormous bonded warehouses.
These huge storage areas contain the oak barrels that the whisky was stored in (if you didn’t know, Scotch whisky can’t be given that name until it’s stood in a bonded warehouse in Scotland for at least three years), and the smell still lingers in the air.
If you’ve ever visited a working distillery you’ll know what an amazing smell these warehouses produce, and while Dallas Dhu’s barrels have long-since been emptied they really do make you feel like you’re stepping back in time.
In fact, walking around the distillery is a bit like taking a journey in a time machine and the rich smells of grain and antique oiled machinery are certainly evocative of a bygone era.
Two areas to take a good look at are the still house that contains the enormous copper stills and the room containing the giant mash tun that mixed malted barley and water. You can see similar equipment in use at nearby Benromach distillery but you won’t be able to get as close as you can at Dallas Dhu.
The end of the self-guided tour includes a dram of whisky from a small bar next to the well-stocked gift shop and an outside picnic area surrounded by fields is the perfect place to stop for a well-earned lunch.
The history of Dallas Dhu distillery
Dallas Dhu began life as the Dallasmore distillery in 1898 when entrepreneur Alexander Edward saw an opportunity to meet the rising demand for fine malts to be included in the blends that were popular at the time.
However, Edward sold Dallasmore to a Glasgow whisky blending company before it actually went into production, and it was this company that changed the name to Dallas Dhu to highlight the link between Dallasmore and their own whisky blend, Roderick Dhu.
Although Dallas Dhu produced quality whisky for over 80 years, falling demand in whisky blends meant that it had to reduce production in the 1970s, and the doors were finally closed in 1983.
Since that time Historic Environment Scotland has taken ownership of the plant and they’ve carefully restored the buildings and machinery into a faithful recreation of the original working site.
If you want to find the best whisky distilleries in the region read my Guide to the Speyside Whisky Trail.
- This restored distillery is a unique glimpse into Scotland’s whisky-making history. As far as I know this is the only attraction of its kind in Scotland.
- It’s fascinating to learn about yesteryear whisky production and thankfully HES have provided plenty of information panels in case you want to know more about the old manufacturing equipment.
- You get a free dram at the end! Just don’t forget we have a near-zero drink-drive policy in Scotland.
- There’s a gift shop on site but no café. You can at least get snacks at Dallas Dhu but if you’re really hungry I recommend driving a couple of miles into Forres which has lots of places to eat in the High Street.
- After you’ve seen Dallas Dhu you can visit a still-working distillery at Benromach which just a 10-minute drive away.
- Check out my Guide to the Single Malt Whisky Regions to learn more about Scotch whisky production.
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Dallas Dhu Distillery
- Benromach Distillery. Invererne Rd, Forres IV36 3EB. 8-minute drive. A highly-rated Speyside single malt whisky distillery that was founded in 1898. The distillery offers guided tours and whisky tastings.
- Findhorn Beach. North Shore, Findhorn, Forres IV36 3YQ. 18-minute drive. A wide golden sand beach that sits alongside the River Findhorn and Kinloss Barracks. The region that borders the river is home to a number of cafés and restaurants and the shallow water of Findhorn Bay is a haven for windsurfers.
- Falconer Museum. Tolbooth St, Forres IV36 1PH. 6-minute drive. A museum in Forres that showcases a number of exhibits from the fields of archaeology, social history, natural history and world heritage. The building that the museum is housed in is a magnificent example of Victorian architecture.
- Nelson’s Tower. 6 Clovenside Rd, Forres IV36 3BT. 8-minute drive. Monument to Admiral Nelson that is set inside thick woodland. The walk to the monument is quite steep but the climb up the 97 steps to the top of the tower is worth it for the spectacular views across the Moray countryside. The monument is manned by volunteers so is not always open.
- Brodie Castle. Brodie, Forres IV36 2TE. 12-minute drive. Restored ancestral family home of the Brodie clan that comprises buildings from the 1500s to the 1800s. Visitors can explore the castle’s impressive collection of furniture, artworks and ceramics. Externally, there are expansive grounds that are famed for their daffodil displays.
More places to visit in Grampian
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