The Best Vacations For Whiskey Lovers

Father’s Day is just around the corner. And if your dad is into whiskey, we have just the list for you. In fact, if it were as simple as just buying him a bottle of the brown stuff there would be many lists just for you. This time of year, the internet is a deluge of written recommendations on the subject. But if you’re eager to get your whiskey-loving patriarch something a little more substantial this season, we’re here to suggest an alternative that will be quite well received, indeed: a whiskey-themed vacation.

We know what you’re thinking… “That’s considerably more substantial than just a mere bottle!” Well, that depends on the bottle you were planning to gift. Vacations certainly aren’t cheap and it doesn’t help that much of the world’s finest whiskies are being crafted in far flung lands. Still, if you plan a trip properly and spread the cost out across multiple members of your family it’s entirely reasonable. You’ll reward him with memories that will last far longer than any liquid on the shelf of his home bar.

So without further ado we present several itineraries that are ideal for dad. And it doesn’t just have to be for Father’s Day. Or even for dad. Anyone who is a fan of whiskey ought to view these getaways as obligatory pilgrimages.

Whisky And Wonder In Wales

Welsh whisky? Yes, it’s a thing. And it’s spectacular. The rugged southwestern edge of Great Britain has a history of whisky-making that stretches back centuries. In fact, one particularly prominent Welsh whiskymaker emigrated to the United States in 1783 and began distilling in what is now Louisville, Kentucky. His name: Evan Williams. The ancient art was lost soon thereafter, however, and it wasn’t until the year 2000 that Penderyn revived the category as the first new distillery in Wales since 1894.

Today you can take tours of the facility and get up close and personal with their unique Faraday Still—a sort of pot/column hybrid that was designed by a direct descendent of legendary Victorian scientist Michael Faraday. That’s enough to satisfy the geeks in the crowd. But what’s even more satisfying is the liquid it produces; light on the tongue yet still rich in flavor. The versatile distillate is accentuated through a series of special finishes. Standouts include Legend, which spends time in ex-Madeira barrels, as well as Celt. Finished in ex-peated quarter casks, it’s an optimal dram for dads keen on gently dip their toes into the smokier side of whisky, without diving in head first.

But when its time to dive head first into dinner, dad can head up a narrow farm road to The Red Lion Inn: a family run pub occupying a 12th century drover’s inn. Enjoy a pint—or a pour of the local whisky—alongside a perfectly seared rump of Welsh lamb. All while marveling at the billowing hills and medieval cemeteries that surround.

To overnight, book a room at the three-star Ty Newydd Country Hotel at the edge of town. Spend the following day hiking through some of the 520 square miles of Brecon Beacons—one of three Welsh National Parks. Then meander your way down small country roads on your way towards the coast and the capital city of Cardiff. A proper pub crawl awaits!

A Family Affair In The Urban Home Of Bourbon

Making bourbon tends to be a generational affair in Kentucky. Which means its particularly relevant to explore when celebrating your own family. Not long ago, said exploration would necessitate renting a vehicle, heading out of Louisville and hitting up the historic Bourbon Trail. But in recent years whiskey-making has returned to the center of the city. And so if your dad is an American Whiskey aficionado, a weekend of bliss awaits just a 15 minute taxi ride from SDF airport.

Book him a room at the stylish Hotel Distil, right in the heart of the revitalized Whiskey Row. From here he’ll be able to walk to about half a dozen distillery experiences—Old Forester’s new downtown digs are literally on the very same block. High on the list of can’t-miss experiences here are inventive cocktails at the 2nd story bar above the Michter’s Fort Nelson facility; an afternoon at the recently-expanded Angel’s Envy distillery, where your dad can shake hands with third generation whiskey maker, Kyle Henderson—or his dad, Wes—and a tasting of vintage gems at Justins’ House of Bourbon. For dinner enjoy some local fare from Doc Crow’s, which actually boasts a surprisingly robust oyster selection, or the inimitable Proof On Main inside the 21c Hotel. And this was all just day one.

Belfast And Bushmills Slow

Irish Whiskey has been the fastest growing category of spirit in the US for several years running. Much of that growth is driven by stuff coming out of the Republic, namely, Jameson, Redbreast, Teeling, Waterford. But the oldest distillery on the Emerald Isle and indeed the world, is in Northern Ireland. And Bushmills is an easy jump outside of the capital city of Belfast, which is worthy of ample whiskey exploration all its own. Stay at the Merchant Hotel and dad can enjoy cocktails from the trendsetting bar that birthed Dead Rabbit in New York City. Then he can crawl his way through the Cathedral Quarter, home to many of the town’s most celebrated tipple houses.

An hour-long drive up towards the North Channel will deliver him directly to the warm and welcoming arms of Old Bushmills. The pride of County Antrim originally received its license to distill all the way back in 1608. Today it hosts daily tours and offers specialized bottlings of the most award-winning Irish Single Malt on the planet. If dad is a fan of the stuff, he’ll be wise to get his hands on offerings from the new Causeway Collection. Named for the neighboring Giant’s Causeway, these extra old releases spend significant amount of time in secondary barrels. The 1991 Madeira Cask, as a sterling example, spent a total of 16 years in its namesake cooperage after an initial thirteen in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry oak. Just a dram alone is worth the journey.

But there’s actually much more to see (and sip) in this part of the world. Secure dad’s stay at the nearby Lough Erne Resort—or have everything arranged by Lang Atholl Experience. The bespoke tour operator specializes in full service explorations of Ireland and Scotland, which often equals quite a fair bit of whiskey along the way. “From Belfast it’s only a short drive to Copeland, Echlinville, Hinch, Radeon Estate and Killowen distilleries,” explains managing director Ross Corcoran. “During a 2-night stay in the Northern Irish capital you can easily build an itinerary that involves 8 different whiskey makers—each affording their own distinct style and scenery.”

Cape Breton Island: The Closest You Can Get To Scotland Without Crossing The Pond

Nova Scotia literally translates to “New Scotland.” And once you make it to the northeasternmost part of the province it’s easy to understand why. Rolling green unfurls into the distant sea, farmlands sit atop lochs, populated with nothing but sheep and cattle. By the time you find your way to Glenora Distillery you’ll be checking your GPS to ensure you didn’t somehow wormhole your way into Speyside. All this is to say, this is the closest any North American dad can get to scotch country without going airborne.

When it was founded in 1989, Old World-inspired Glenora became Canada’s very first single malt producer. The spiritual callback to its Scottish heritage is so profound that the Scotch Whisky Association even sued them over the use of the word Glen (a case which was summarily dismissed). One notable difference though is that, unlike at most scotch distilleries, you can actually stay here on-site, overnight. So book dad a room in one of their hillside chalets, overlooking the 200-acre property. Tours and tastings are going on daily, through the stillhouse and into the the barrel aging warehouse. He’ll get to enjoy access to an admirable mockup of a British pub, which serves exceptional fish and chips and plays trad music into the late evening hours. Before bed, he can poke some hits from customized Cuban cigars, soaked in the very same single malt he’ll be pairing it with.

Trace The Birth Of Craft In The Bay Area

The phrase, “craft spirits” is bandied about so frequently today as to almost become cringe-inducing. So it’s difficult to imagine that when St. George Spirits began small batch distilling 40 years ago, they were accused of being foolhardy daydreamers. They started with eau-de-vies and began bottling American Single Malt long before domestic drinkers were ever even familiar with the concepts. Today they remain at the vanguard of the trade. As master distiller Lance Winters says, “if it’s only you doing it you are crazy, but if others do it too it’s a movement.”

Well, there’s certainly a movement to marvel at these days. And the San Francisco Bay Area remains a dependable incubator of its innovation. Book your dad a room at the historic 4-star Claremont Club at the base of the Berkeley Hills and coordinate several days for him to trace the evolution of craft whiskey. Begin with a tour and tasting at St. George [note: the tasting room is temporarily closed due to ongoing COVID restrictions, check their site for more details], where he can savor some Baller Whiskey—“a California take on the Japanese spin on Scotch whisky”—while taking in the San Francisco skyline directly across the water.

Then have him traverse that same body of water (by bridge or ferry) to explore Hotaling & Co.—formerly known as Anchor Distilling—in the Portrero Hill neighborhood of SF. Here he’ll enjoy a 100% malted rye which was the first modern example of the category to be distilled entirely on copper pots. Much like the folks at St. George, master distiller Bruce Joseph was labeled a radical when he began making it back in 1993. Today he is revered as an industry legend.

Next book dad a tour over at Seven Stills in the ever-sunny Mission Bay section of the city. Part brewery, part distillery, the folks here are cooking all kinds of funky flavors in bottle form. Whipnose Whiskey is a firm and bitter liquid, boiled down from an IPA of the same name. Eau De Oyster is a whiskey made with Northern Californian mollusks delivering a gentle maritime tonality.

On day two, bring dad up to Mare Island just across the Napa River from Vallejo. Hiding here behind the brick facade of an historic naval shipmaking site is Savage & Cooke. One of the more eccentric distillery tours anywhere, its avant-garde vibe is owed to the creative animus of founder Dave Phinney—a wunderkind of the wine world who carved his reputation challenging the status quo. After taking in the tasting (and art installations) dad can tackle some world class fried chicken from the eatery on-site. Make sure he departs in the early afternoon to get ahead of that notorious Bay Area traffic…And to make it back to Berkeley in time for happy hour.