Diageo, owner of the Johnnie Walker brand, has submitted pre-planning applications to Highland Council for a possible development at Teaninich, Ross-shire, and to Moray Council for Glendullan and Inchgower, both on Speyside.
All three locations are next to existing Diageo distilleries.
Diageo said the new malt whisky distillery would produce some 13 million litres of alcohol per year. This would make it the largest in its portfolio.
Also included in the applications are plans for expansion of the existing distilleries at Teaninich and Glendullan.
Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard, the producer of Chivas Regal and Glenlivet, said it will re-open an expanded Glen Keith distillery in April after a 13-year hiatus.
It is the final part of its expansion drive which has seen it reopen Allt A'Bhainne and Braeval and double capacity at Glenlivet.
Christian Porta, chief executive of its Chivas Brothers whisky arm, said: "Clearly the next stage for us, and we have started to think about it, is the building of a new distillery from scratch."
The Herald revealed Diageo's plan to open a new distillery in February.
Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh said in June he planned to invest £1 billion in its whisky production sites including up to two new distilleries and the expansion of existing plants.
Brian Higgs, Diageo's malt distilling director, said: "We are still working to finalise the location of the new distillery, but it will be one of the three sites where we have submitted pre-planning applications.
"It is necessary for us to begin the planning process at all three potential locations, so we will be able to move forward as quickly as possible with construction of the new distillery once our final location decision has been made.
"As part of the planning process we will be consulting carefully with the local communities around each site about our plans."
The distillery will have an onsite bio-energy plant using by-products of distillation to provide renewable energy.
In 2010, Diageo opened the £40 million Roseisle on Speyside, the first major new malt distillery built in Scotland for 30 years.
It created 25 jobs and produces up to 10 million litres of spirit a year.
Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard has embarked on a drive to bring Scotch whisky to Africa, historically a weak spirits market.
It has established businesses in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Angola and Morocco in the last six months.
It is anticipating that, as in China and East Asia, a growing affluent middle class and high net worth individuals will prove a new market for its products.
Pernod, the world's second largest spirits company behind Diageo, is seeking to build distribution deals with existing players in the African soft drinks and beer markets.
Currently 53% of Chivas Brothers' products are sold in mature markets but it plans to do most of its business in emerging markets in the next few years. Pernod hopes to boost demand for whisky in the UK by attracting younger customers.
Denis O'Flynn, managing director of Pernod Ricard UK said: "We have identified a potential for Scotch whisky in its home market."
He said the group had made a drive to sell Ballantine's through supermarkets. The group has also been marketing its flagship Chivas Regal whisky to Britain's Asian community with a particular focus on Diwali.
Mr Porta said he expected to see high single digit sales growth in Scotch whisky over the next few years.