5 Whisky Regions of Scotland
“Uisge beatha”, “The Water of Life” , “Scotch Whisky” … Whatever you call Scotland’s national drink, and whichever Scotch you discover, you know that it is a product of quality, crafted in Scotland, with a unique heritage stretching back more than 500 years. Scottish Whisky ‘Scotch’ is renowned around the World. The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495. A friar named John Cor was the distiller at Lindores Abbey in the Kingdom of Fife. Many Scotch whisky drinkers refer to a unit for drinking as a dram.
Scotland has 5 whisky regions: Speyside, Islay, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Highlands and Islands.
Speyside is by far the biggest Whisky producing region in Scotland. It is home to more than half of the distilleries in Scotland. Blessed with fertile glens and famous River Spey, Speyside, hosts some of the biggest brands of the whisky world. Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan, Cardhu (home of Johnnie Walker), Strathisla (Home of Chivas). Speyside whiskies are known for being frugal with peat and full of fruit. Apple, pear, honey, vanilla and spice all have a part a role in expressions from this region, which are commonly matured in Sherry casks. Speyside is known for its wide range of whiskies displaying different characters, famously for sweet single malts with either very little peat or absolutely no peat present at all. Because of this style, Speyside tends to be a good entry level for those beginning their Whisky adventure as they allow the user to discover their favourite tastes when it comes to drinking single malts.
Highlands, a huge region that covers most of the Scottish mainland north of Glasgow and Edinburgh, you can expect subtle, oaky drams that express the dramatic coast and moorland, while still leaving from for rich fruitiness, honey and occasionally a little bit of peat and smoke. Due to the size of the Highland area, these distilleries make up 25% of all Whisky produced in Scotland, if you then add the neighbouring region of Speyside into this then the figure rises to as much as 85%. In the North you’ll find full bodied single malts, sweet & rich in character, Glenmorangie & Dalmore being two of the more recognisable whiskies. Lighter, fruity whiskies are more commonly found in the east, such as Glendronach and similar drams are found in the South, these would commonly have a touch less body, such as Aberfeldy. The Western Highlands offers full body with a peaty punch, the coast has a great influence on those whiskies, Oban being one of the bigger names.
Islay, (pronounced ‘eye-luh’) is a magical island where the majority of its population are involved in whisky production. The wilderness and the untamed spirit of Islay also reflect in the style of Whiskies, the region produces. Home to fiesty and peaty whiskies of the world, Islay is a polarising region. You either love it or hate it. Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich are some of the famous whiskies from the region. Islay whiskies are the strongest flavoured of all Scotch whiskies and tend to be dry and peaty. They are renowned for their strong peaty smokiness which comes from the peat fuel which they use for malting the barley.
The Lowland region lies South of an imaginary line that runs from Greenock on the West coast of Scotland to Dundee in the East. Soft and smooth malts are characteristic of this region, offering a gentle, elegant palate reminiscent of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon. The whiskies are often lighter in character and perfect for pre-dinner drinks.
A tiny region at the tip of a peninsula between Arran, Islay and Northern Ireland, Campbeltown once thrived, but is now home to only three producers. Its malts are pretty unique, giving off salt, sweetness, smoke and flavours of vanilla and fruit all at once.