Over the past three weeks, my career as a drinks writer has taken me from my home base of Los Angeles to Napa and Sonoma, then on to Dallas before heading back to Los Angeles. Then I was back on the move, heading to Colorado before making my way to New Jersey and now to Monterey in California. In each place, I’ve drank and swirled and spit out whiskey, wine and tequila, along with plenty of cocktails. This year has set a record for trips; in addition to the previously mentioned destinations, I’ve also swung by New York, New Orleans, Ireland, Scotland, London, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee and more.
When you spend day after day traveling—and trying various drinks—you start to get an idea of what still gets you excited, whether that be a special bottle of whisky or an unimaginably plush hotel. In my opinion, some of the best travel experiences combine the two.
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Hotels across the globe—and I mean those sumptuous and lavish ones that make you feel like royalty—have begun amassing collections of ancient, triple-distilled single malts; rare, double-distilled Irish whiskeys; and the kind of bourbon that all your friends talk about, but can never seem to get their hands on.
If this sounds like something up your alley, these hotels should definitely be on your drinking bucket list.
The Balmoral Hotel
With its prime location in the heart of Edinburgh, the stately Balmoral Hotel is the perfect place to begin any tour of Scotland—especially for whiskey (or in this case, whisky) obsessives. The hotel opened in 1902 and offers 167 rooms that have played host to some of the world’s most famous names. It’s commonly known as the spot where author J. K. Rowling finished writing the Harry Potter series.
The Balmoral boasts three restaurants and three bars, including the world-class whisky bar, Scotch. With over 500 varieties of whisky secreted within the establishment’s hand-crafted, oak-paneled whisky cabinet, there’s plenty to explore. During the whisky experience, guests can choose their own bottlings or trust in the knowledge of the bar’s kilted Whisky Ambassadors to take them on a tailored tasting.
Choose between a sampling of five whiskies from across Scotland or four whiskies the Ambassadors find particularly interesting. Another option: Four sips of rare, limited-release bottles, such as a 1979 Port Ellen (the distillery was shuttered back in 1983 and is yet to reopen) or a 1943 Glenlivet that matured in a first-fill sherry cask for half a century.
About 45 miles north of Edinburgh sits the sumptuous Gleneagles Hotel. The property boasts horseback riding, tennis courts, skeet shooting, falconry and even three tournament-standard golf courses. But the most impressive aspect of the 232-room hotel is its variety of decadent restaurants and bars.
Whisky lovers looking to try some of their 300 whiskies should head to The Century Bar, which features a series of whisky flights made for every occasion. Flights vary from the introductory First of Many (Singleton 15Y, Glenfarclas 15Y, Talisker 10Y) to the super peaty A Taste of the Wild (Lagavulin Distillers Edition, Octomore, Ardbeg Uigedail) to flights focused on single distilleries, like Macallan or Dalmore. Those looking for the very rare pours may be interested in the Dalmore Constellation 1969 (£3200 per dram) or the Glenfarclas Coronation 1953 (£2000 per dram).
The Fife Arms
The Fife Arms sits in the middle of Cairngorms National Park, making it an excellent spot to stay the night for outdoor lovers who enjoy a few tipples of whisky. Hotel experiences include fishing, hiking and horseback riding in addition to golf at the nearby Braemar Golf Club and visits to the nearby Royal Lochnagar Distillery to sample Scotch whisky. The smallest whisky distillery in Diageo’s holdings, Royal Lochnagar is known for its delicate whisky that offers notes of fruit and light toffee. While its distillers do make their own 12 Year Old, 16 Year Old and Selected Reserve single malts, the brand is best known for producing the whisky used in Johnny Walker Blue and Black.
Speaking of whisky, just a quick trip from the hotel, guests can make arrangements for a rare whisky and food pairing workshop with food and travel writer, Ghillie Basan. They can also stop by the hotel’s King Edward VII-inspired Bertie’s Whisky Bar, which designer Russell Sage describes as an “alchemist’s shop, shelves burgeoning with tinctures—with a library of beautifully illuminated whisky bottles, which in turn cast an amber glow around the room and its guests.” In total, the bar features 365 whiskies arranged by flavor profile. Choose from fragrant, fruity, rich and smoky options.
There probably isn’t a better place to play a round of golf and enjoy a dram of whisky than Scotland, and that goes double at Dundonald Links. The resort offers 18 luxury lodges—including two, four or six-bedroom options.
The real standout, however, is The Whisky Room, where bottles line the walls and translucent bronze lamps hang from the ceiling. Dundonald worked with leading whisky consultant Blair Bowman to curate the selections. Options include a mix of well-known bottlings along with a variety of hidden gems. With over 100 different whiskies from which to choose, guests and visitors can set up tastings of iconic pours such as Glenfarclas 30-Year-Old or Highland Park 40-Year-Old. We’d recommend trying some less-sipped beauties, too, like Nc’Nean or local independent bottlers North Star Spirits.
Located in the beating heart of Dublin, just two minutes from the shops on Grafton Street, Brooks Hotel offers visitors the chance to enjoy the best of the Irish capital. The whiskey tastings at the Jasmine Bar are some of the city’s finest. The unassuming setting makes the surprise even more delicious, as you saddle up to what seems like an unexceptional hotel bar with red leather-backed stools and the kind of lighting only whiskey looks good under.
With more than 100 whiskeys from around the world in its collection, the Jasmine Bar allows guests to sample individual offerings or try flights of five. Tasters can also learn about the history and creation of each liquor. The bar offers a variety of cocktails, such as a fantastic Manhattan, for those who’d prefer their whiskey mixed, too.
Even with its Tom Fazio-designed golf course and Michelin-starred Oak Room restaurant, Adare Manor’s appreciation for Irish whiskey truly is what stands out.
The Adare Manor whiskey collection can be found at The Tack Room and includes more than 160 rare quality bottles sourced from producers across Scotland, America, Canada and Japan. Those looking to expand their knowledge of Irish offerings will be especially impressed: Visitors can choose to take part in three different whiskey-tasting experiences, each of which features four different Irish whiskeys.
The An Tearrach (Spring) tasting offers insight into the four styles of Irish whiskey: single grain, single malt, blended and pot still. Included is the opportunity to indulge in one of the Midleton distillery’s most exclusive whiskeys, along with one from the oldest distillery on the island, Bushmills. Meanwhile, the Áth Dara (Ford of the Oak) tasting gives imbibers the chance to try four Irish whiskeys that are no longer available for purchase. Finally, the Na Cinn Mhiotasacha (The Mythical Ones) Beyond Whiskey tasting features four sips of the rarest Irish whiskey in the hotel’s collection. All are pot-still offerings and, according to the hotel, “the epitome of Irish whiskey.”
Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
While whiskey isn’t usually the first indulgence to come to mind when thinking of Amsterdam, the Waldorf Astoria might change your mind. Set across multiple 17th-century, canal-side buildings, this upscale hotel is just a 15-minute walk from Dam Square. Most importantly, it features one of Europe’s most impressive whiskey watering holes—the Vault Bar.
Located in the basement of the historic hotel, this former bank-turned-bar features some of the world’s rarest Scotch whiskies, including the Dalmore 40-Year-Old Single Malt and Port Ellen 39 Years Untold Stories. Guests can also sample less-spendy Dalmore flights featuring offerings from the core range.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Most famous as the backdrop for much of the 2003 film Lost in Translation, the Park Hyatt Tokyo was the first Western luxury hotel to open in Japan in 1994. The 177-room property features a variety of dining and drinking options, including the iconic New York Bar.
With its floor-to-ceiling windows that offer unparalleled views of the Tokyo skyline and live jass band, the bar is worth visiting if only for the people-watching opportunities. Drinks-wise, though, it’s more than just “Suntory time” here—there’s also a wide-ranging selection of premium whiskies, cocktails and the largest selection of American wines in Japan. It’s easy to see why it’s been a favorite drinking spot among travelers for almost three decades.
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Three Camel Lodge
Located deep in the Gobi desert, Mongolia’s first eco-lodge features private, luxury gers—a style of Mongolian tent made with felt—with rainfall showers, thick camel-hair blankets and hand-carved furniture. Guests can enjoy horseback riding, archery and exquisite stargazing along with world-class dining.
But a must-try is one of Asia’s best whiskey bars. Featuring whiskeys from Scotland, Japan and American distilleries, the Lodge’s Thirsty Camel Bar has one of the most impressive whiskey collections anywhere in Asia. Think Pappy Van Winkle and rare WhistlePig. If you’re enticed by the idea of sipping Yamazaki, Hibiki or Orphan Barrel under a starlit night surrounded by the Atlas Mountains, this is the place for you.
Stationed along Louisville’s famed Whiskey Row, Hotel Distil has a whiskey history that stretches back to when it was the J.T.S. Brown & Sons barreling warehouse. The hotel dives deep into its roots; guests can even partake in a nightly toast to the Repeal of Prohibition at 19:33 military time, which represents the year Prohibition was repealed.
While the hotel’s location is certainly one of the main pulls for whiskey enthusiasts, its restaurant also provides a one-of-a-kind experience for bourbon lovers. Housed in the former site of J.T.S. Brown and Sons’ wholesale warehouse and bottling operations, Oak Fired Steakhouse features a constantly changing spirits list, as well as the only oak-fired grill on Whiskey Row. The Barrel Room, meanwhile, allows guests to enjoy a chef-curated menu and bourbon poured straight from one of the many barrels that line the room.
As a bonus, opt for the in-room bourbon cart upgrade, which features a selection of rare bourbons from distillers like Old Forester, Angel’s Envy, Weller and Willet, as well as accouterments and your very own bourbon steward who can lead a tasting. Traveling with a pup? As part of the hotel’s dog-friendly program, Fido has the option to sleep in a dog bed made from a handmade bourbon barrel.
Louisville isn’t the only place to enjoy whiskey and horse racing in Kentucky. Located within walking distance of the University of Kentucky and Town Branch Distillery, Campbell House is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and has the type of bourbon collection that’ll keep visitors returning for more.
The collection of over 300 bourbons is available via the hotel’s Bourbon Bar and the Rackhouse Tavern, which also offers a variety of local brews on tap. To make things even better, the Campbell House spirits director has curated 11 unique bourbon flights, each with four pours that allow visitors to sample Kentucky’s finest and rarest bourbon varieties.
The Lodge at Blue Sky
Located just 18 miles from Park City Mountain, the Lodge at Blue Sky is the perfect destination for outdoors lovers who love a good nip. There’s access to exceptional snowshoeing, yoga, horseback riding and hiking—in addition to world-class whiskey experiences. The hotel is on the same property as the High West Whiskey Distillery, giving visitors easy access to one of America’s best whiskeys without having to leave the comfort of their hotel.
The Bar at Blue Sky, meanwhile, offers bespoke High West Whiskey cocktails, each featuring herbs with garnishes harvested from the property’s farm. Also on offer: Some rarer releases from the distillery’s impressive collection, like A Midwinter Night’s Dram or the now annually released Campfire whiskey. Additionally, the hotel features complimentary weekly bitters tasting.
Last Updated: September 5, 2023