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, which started production in 1798, has twice won the accolade of Best Spirit in the World. The distillery, on the outskirts of Kirkwall, has a five-star visitor centre and offers a range of guided tours and tasting packages. Visitors can see the whole whisky-making process, including the atmospheric and rare malting floor where the barley is turned by hand. Views of the peat fires, which give the barley its distinctive flavour, and a taste of the famous single malt are included in the experience. There is also a well-stocked shop at the distillery. 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, surprisingly, production at this craft whisky distillery is run by just three people.
Orkney Brewery, based at Quoyloo in the west mainland, has won several national and international awards for its beers and is the only brewery in Scotland with a five-star visitor centre and restaurant. Well known beers in the firm's range include Red McGregor, Dark Island, Raven Ale, Northern Light and Skullsplitter - named after a Viking earl.
The Swannay Brewery in Evie brews Scapa Special - voted Champion Beer of Scotland in 2008 - along with Orkney Blast, St Magnus Ale, Dark Munro, Orkney Best and Island Hopping. Both breweries supply cask and bottled ales, with their ranges widely available throughout the islands.
Orkney Wine Company makes fruit wines and liqueurs. The Orkney Wine shop is sited 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.
The Orkney Wine Festival is held in June at fine food venues across Orkney and features winemakers and experts from around the world. August’s Orkney Beer festival, staged in the Stromness Hotel, showcases local beers along with award winning ales and ciders from across the UK.