“There is no such thing as bad Whisky. Just some whiskies happen to be better than others.” William Faulkner
Scotch whisky has been around since ages. The earliest record of distillation in Scotland is noted down to 1494. It evolved from what was first known as a Scottish drink called Uisge Beatha, meaning water of life, in Scottish Gaelic, in Latin it was known as aqua vitae, i.e. essential water.
Today, it has come a long way. There are five dedicated whisky regions in Scotland, namely the Highlands and Islands, Speyside, Lowlands, Campbeltown and Islay. While to many the Highlands and Islands regions are the same as the latter is a part of the Highlands, it is often considered as a separate region as the notes of Whisky produced on the Islands are very different from the ones in Highlands.
The Scots love their Whisky. To the Scots, their Whisky is as essential as Wine is sacrosanct to the Italians. Like Wine from different regions, Whisky produced from the different areas in Scotland looks, tastes and smells different as the variations of each location add to the whisky’s flavour. For example, whisky produced in coastal distilleries will taste different than the inland whisky or a single malt produced in the Islands won’t taste the same as the one from Speyside. In short, even from within the regions, whisky created will have completely different aromas and notes. This is a crucial detail to note as each one of the six whisky regions of Scotland is a powerhouse in its own right.
Let’s take a closer look at the Scottish Whisky Regions:
The Highlands is one of the stunning locals covered in a lush verdant landscape in Scotland making up for almost 25% of the whisky produced in Scotland. The Highlands range from the North of Glasgow to Thurso as well as the east and west regions excluding Speyside. Given the size of the area, it is only natural that the whiskies here have diverse and different flavours. Moreover, each sub-region offers its own distinct character. The North provides full-bodied single malts that are sweet and rich. Fruity, lighter flavours come from the East like the Glendronach and Aberfeldy from the South. From the West, Oban.
There are said to be over 25 distilleries in the area and offer whiskies with Highland flavours such as the malt, oak, heather, smoke, dried fruit and fruit cake.
Nestled in the North-east region of Scotland, Speyside is a sub-region to the Highlands. There are over 60 distilleries in the area and is known for its wide variety of whiskies, especially the sweet single malts crafted with little or no peat. Due to this, Speyside whiskies are great for those who are beginners in their whisky-discovering adventure. Some of the most famous, renowned whiskies in the world are produced in Speyside – Glenfiddich, Macallan and Glenlivet. The typical Speyside flavours are vanilla, oak, nutmeg, dried fruit, malt and apple.
While this region is known to be the second-largest whisky region in Scotland in terms of area, it is home to only five distilleries. The Lowlands begin from the South of Scotland up to the North of Glasgow and Edinburgh meeting the Highlands at the border. Whiskies here are light and gentle with no peat and unlike in the other regions, the Auchentoshan distillery still triple distils all its produce. Due to its location inland, there are hints of salinity in the Whisky. Lowland whiskies are great for beginners who are embarking on the malt whisky route.
As a part of mainland Scotland, Campbeltown nestled at the foot of the Mull of Kintyre was a whisky hotspot with over 34 distilleries in the area but today there are only three. Today, this region offers Whisky that is famous for its dryness and pungent taste even. This is because of the location. Also though this region is small, the distilleries here continue to produce very different whiskies. For example, Glen Scotia produces grassy and light whiskies while Springbank is robust and smoky. The typical flavours of Whisky found here are vanilla, toffee, brine, smoke and dried fruit.
The island of Islay is on the west of the Scottish mainland and is the smallest whisky-producing region in Scotland. Of the eight distilleries here, three are world-famous ones – Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Laphroaig. The whiskies here are peaty single malts. It is believed that Whisky reached Scotland via the Islay from Ireland in the 13th century. Typical flavours found in Whisky here are brine, black pepper, oil, honey and smoke. The famous whiskies from this region are the Highland Park, Jura and Talisker.