Wolfburn single malt scotch whisky logo with wolf.

Wolfburn Distillery

  • Scotland
  • Gold Medal at World Whisky Awards 2021, Silver Medals 2021
  • https://wolfburn.com/
Phone Number
  • +441847891051
  • Henderson Park, Thurso KW14 7XW, United Kingdom

Metal wolf sculpture outside Wolfburn distillery.

History of Wolfburn Distillery

The history of Wolfburn Distillery, founded in 1821 by William Smith in Thurso, is a tale of craftsmanship, legacy, and revival. Here’s an overview:

Founding and Early Success (1821-1858)

  • Founding: In 1821, William Smith established Wolfburn Distillery on the outskirts of Thurso, naming it after the nearby stream, Wolfburn.
  • Construction: The distillery was built using durable Caithness flagstone, and its original foundations are still visible today.
  • Growth and Production: Smith’s investment quickly bore fruit, making Wolfburn a significant malt whisky producer. By 1826, it produced approximately 125,000 liters annually, becoming Caithness’s largest distillery.
  • First License and Output: The distillery received its first distilling license in 1823 and by 1826, was producing 27,500 gallons of whisky.
  • Peak and Closure: Throughout the mid-1800s, the distillery thrived, but by 1858, it closed, and its equipment was auctioned off.

Lost Years and Regional Context (1858-2013)

  • Mystery of Closure: The exact closure date is unclear, with some records suggesting intermittent operations into the 1860s. By 1872, it was in ruins.
  • Historical Milestones: During this period, significant events like Queen Victoria’s marriage in 1840 and the completion of Big Ben in 1859 occurred.
  • Prohibition Impact: From 1922 to 1947, prohibition led to the closure of many distilleries in Caithness.

Reawakening and Modern Era (2011-Present)

  • Revival Plans: In 2011, plans for the new Wolfburn Distillery were initiated.
  • Reconstruction and Resumption: By 2012, the distillery was designed and built, and in 2013, it resumed operations after 150 years.
  • Contemporary Achievements: Wolfburn has since won multiple Gold Medals for Excellence, marking its quality and recognition in the whisky world.
  • 200th Anniversary: In 2021, Wolfburn celebrated its bicentennial with a special limited-release whisky.

Legacy and Cultural Significance

  • Logo’s Historical Roots: The Wolfburn logo, designed in 2011, is inspired by a 16th-century drawing, reflecting the historical presence of wolves in northern Scotland.
  • Royal Recognition: The distillery’s legacy was further acknowledged by a visit from Prince Charles in 2019.

Awards Won by Wolfburn Distillery

Gold Medal at World Whisky Awards 2021 – Northland single malt whisky, in the Non-Age-Statement category.

Consecutive Awards – Northland has won six consecutive gold medals in international shows.

Silver Medals – Morven and Aurora received silver medals at the World Whisky Awards 2021.

Recognition of Core Range – This is the first instance where all three of Wolfburn’s 46% ABV core range won awards at the same ceremony.

Wolfburn Distillery Tour Information and Experience

The Wolfburn Distillery Tour offers a unique and intimate glimpse into the world of whisky-making at one of Scotland’s most northern distilleries. Here are the specific details of what visitors can expect:

Distillery Tour Experience

  • Authentic Insight: Unlike many distilleries, Wolfburn doesn’t have a visitor center. This means the tour provides an authentic experience, taking guests directly into the heart of the distillery’s operations.
  • Tour Schedule: Tours are available weekdays at 10 AM, 12 PM, and 2 PM. Arrangements for different times or weekend tours can be made upon request.
  • Duration: Standard tours last approximately 1.5 hours, including the tasting session. The premium tour, which includes additional tastings, is about 2 hours long.

Tastings and Pricing

  • Standard Tour and Tasting: Priced at £15.00 per adult, this includes a tour of the distillery and a tasting of four core whiskies.
  • Premium Tour and Tasting: For £35.00 per adult, guests can enjoy the standard offerings plus a tasting of three rare or limited release whiskies. This premium experience requires prior arrangement.
  • Souvenirs: Each visitor receives a complimentary ‘Perfect Dram’ glass as a memento of their visit.

Group Bookings and Special Requests

  • Group Arrangements: For larger group visits, arrangements can be made via a contact form or by emailing tours@wolfburn.com.
  • Customization: Visitors from specific countries (France, Greece, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland) due to customs regulations, and those wishing for out-of-hours tours, need to coordinate bookings through a contact form.

Visitor Feedback

  • Guest Reviews: Visitors have praised the tour for its thoroughness, insightful and knowledgeable guides, and the engaging tasting session. Highlights include the hands-on experience with the machinery and the detailed explanation of the whisky-making process.

Photography Policy

  • Photo-Friendly: Photography is encouraged to share the experience with friends and family. However, video recording is not permitted within the distillery.

Flask & Barrel Review of Wolfburn Distillery

As a seasoned whisky collector who’s been on numerous distillery tours, I recently visited Wolfburn Distillery, and I must say, it was an experience worth sharing. Giving it a solid 4.7 out of 5, here’s my take on the visit:

Firstly, the location of Wolfburn is quite striking. Nestled in the northern part of Scotland, it has a certain charm that’s hard to miss. The distillery, being the most northerly on the Scottish mainland, adds a unique touch to its character.

The tour itself was insightful. Having seen many distilleries, I was impressed by Wolfburn’s blend of traditional and modern techniques. The staff were knowledgeable and passionate, which always makes a tour more enjoyable. They provided an in-depth look into their whisky-making process, from fermentation to maturation.

Tasting their whisky was, of course, the highlight. Their Northland single malt, which has won multiple awards, was a standout with its unique flavour profile. It’s matured in small quarter casks, which seems to add a depth to its taste. Also, the Morven and Aurora expressions, both winners of silver medals, were remarkable in their own rights.

The visitor centre was well laid out, offering a good range of merchandise. It’s always nice to take home a souvenir from such visits, and Wolfburn didn’t disappoint.

If I had to pinpoint a downside, it would be that the range of whiskies available for tasting was somewhat limited compared to larger distilleries. But it’s understandable given Wolfburn’s boutique nature and focus on quality over quantity.

What To Do Nearby Wolfburn Distillery

Thurso Castle: Discover the ruins of Thurso Castle, once the ancestral home of the Earls of Caithness, featuring an impressive gatehouse. The castle’s picturesque ruins and historical significance make it a worthwhile visit.

Harold’s Tower Mausoleum: This unique mausoleum sits above the grave of Viking Earl Harold. It’s a site of historical interest and provides insight into the region’s Viking heritage.

Things Va Broch: Explore this 2000-year-old broch, which was also used as a Viking parliament. The site offers a glimpse into the ancient history of the region and the architectural ingenuity of the Iron Age.

North Coast Visitor Centre (Caithness Horizons): This centre is ideal for learning about the history and culture of Caithness. It includes exhibits on the area’s Pictish and Viking connections.

Surfing on Thurso Beach: Known for its big Atlantic swells, Thurso Beach is a popular spot for surfing enthusiasts. It’s a great place to either participate in or watch surfing.

Scrabster Harbour and Holborn Head: This major fish port is also a key crossing point to Orkney. The walk from the harbour to Holborn Head offers stunning views of cliffs, puffins, orcas, blowholes, and Clett Rock.

The Castle & Gardens of Mey: A short drive from Thurso, this historic castle was owned by the Queen Mother. It’s a beautiful place to explore, with well-maintained gardens and rich history.

Dunnet Head: Known as the most northerly point of mainland Britain, Dunnet Head offers spectacular coastal views and is a great spot for birdwatching, including puffins.

John O’Groats: The iconic village at the northeastern tip of Scotland, famous for its signpost marking the end of the road from Land’s End. It’s a picturesque spot with beautiful coastal views.

Melvich Beach: A stunning beach on the north coast, perfect for a relaxing stroll or to enjoy the scenic beauty of the area.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Wolfburn Distillery?

Y Not Bar & Grill:  It is rated 4.3 stars and offers a warm and inviting atmosphere. For reservations or enquiries, you can contact them at +44 1847 895808. The bar and grill is at Meadow Lane, Thurso KW14 8ER, United Kingdom.

Captain’s Galley Restaurant: The restaurant is rated 4.6 stars and is known for its delightful seafood. You can reach them at +44 1847 894999. This restaurant is situated at The Harbour, Scrabster, Thurso KW14 7UJ, United Kingdom, providing a scenic dining experience.

The Blue Door Coffee Shop & DinerThe restaurant has a 4.4-star rating and is an excellent spot for coffee and casual dining. Their contact number is +44 1847 892244, at 18 Smith Terrace, Thurso KW14 7JY, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near Wolfburn Distillery?

Pentland Lodge House: The hotel boasts an impressive 4.8-star rating. You can contact them at +44 1847 598091 for bookings or further information. The lodge is conveniently located at Granville Street, Thurso KW14 7JN, United Kingdom, making it an ideal choice for visitors seeking a comfortable stay.

Weigh Inn Hotel: This hotel has a solid 4.0-star rating and offers a welcoming environment for its guests. You can reach them at +44 1847 893722. The hotel is in Scrabster, Thurso KW14 7UG, United Kingdom, providing easy access to local attractions.

The Park Hotel: The hotel has a favourable 4.3-star rating and is known for its excellent service and amenities. For enquiries or reservations, their contact number is +44 1847 893251. Located at Oldfield Court, Thurso KW14 8RE, United Kingdom, it’s a great option for those exploring the Thurso area.