Two award-winning whisky distilleries, two award-winning breweries and the UK’s most northerly winery can all be found in Orkney. Throw in Scotland’s only wine festival and a beer festival and you have a great mix of quality drink opportunities to savour.
Highland Park has won the accolade of Best Spirit in the World twice and has a five-star visitor centre. All year round there are guided tours of the distillery on the edge of Kirkwall where you can see the whole whisky-making process, including the atmospheric and rare malting floor where the malting barley is turned by hand. Views of the peat fires which give the barley its distinctive flavour and a taste of the single malt are included in the experience. There is also a shop at the distillery which started production in 1798. Scapa Distillery, just half a mile away, began its business making single malt whisky in 1885 and is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. It produces a delicate whisky; the malt is not peated but the water comes from a peaty burn. There are no tours of Scapa as, amazingly, production at this craft whisky distillery is run by just three people.
Orkney Brewery in Quoyloo in the west mainland has won national and international awards for its beer. Well known beers include Red McGregor and Skullsplitter, named after a Viking earl, and not for the faint hearted. The Swannay Brewery in Evie, owned by the Highland Brewing Company, brews Scapa Special, voted Champion Beer of Scotland in 2008. Orkney Blast and St Magnus Ale are two of several other ales. Both breweries supply cask ales to bars and bottled ales.
Orkney Wine Company makes fruit wines and liqueurs. The Orkney Wine shop is next to the Italian Chapel and the business also supplies local shops, hotels and restaurants. Ingredients used are local wherever possible, and include gorse, blackcurrants, sloes, cranberries and rhubarb.
Orkney Wine Festival is held in June at fine food venues across Orkney and features winemakers and experts from around the world. Orkney Beer festival in August in the Stromness Hotel showcases Orkney beers along with award winning ales and sometimes ciders from across the UK.