SCOTLAND’S WHISKY REGIONS
The single malt whiskies of Scotland are grouped by region. In the past. there were four whisky distilling regions, however, these regions have more to do with old government regulations and taxation systems than flavour profile or tasting notes.
The four main Whisky Regions of Scotland are Campbeltown, Highlands, Islay and Lowlands. Speyside and the Islands are now accepted as sub-sectors of the Highlands region.
Each of these individual regional areas do produce many whiskies which are similar in their broad basic flavours, though there are definitely a few exceptions.
You may find that many whiskies from the same region have similar attributes in taste and style, but this is more of a guideline rather than a set rule.
Many tasting experts may disagree, but the final flavour of a whisky is decided more by the distilling equipment used and the techniques used to produce each whisky rather than by the geographical location of where the whisky is produced.
Speyside is whisky heaven! By far the largest (by number of distilleries) and arguably the most famous of Scotland’s whisky regions, this breathtaking area sits in a lush valley of rivers and secluded glens and is home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries.
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 Whiskies – Facts
- Number of distilleries: 50
- Oldest distillery: Strathisla (1786)
- Most popular distillery: Glenfiddich
- Flavour profile: fruity, sweet, spicy, vanilla
Regarded by many as ‘whisky island’, Islay lies in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. It might be just 25 miles long and 15 miles wide, but Islay punches well above its weight for producing single malt Scotch whisky. There are nine whisky distilleries on the island, including the most recently opened Ardnahoe Distillery. Bowmore is said to be one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1779.
Most of Islay’s original distilleries – some long since lost to history – started as farm distilleries and retreated to secluded glens and caves during the 17th century when the excise man came calling. You’ll find distillery staff much more welcoming these days and it’s well worth taking a tour around all of Islay’s whisky distilleries.
Islay Whiskies – Facts
- Number of distilleries: 9
- Oldest distillery: Bowmore (1779)
- Most popular distillery: Ardbeg
- Flavour profile: powerful, peaty, smoky, sweet, salty
With 47 distilleries spread across the Highlands and Islands, the Highland whisky region is by far Scotland’s largest geographical whisky producing area. Highland whiskies can be extremely diverse and most would say they have the widest array of styles, from rich and textured to fruity and floral.
In this region you’ll find some of Scotland’s oldest and most famous distilleries including Glenturret at Crieff and Balblair at Tain.
Explore Highland distilleries and sample the region’s distinctive malts and blends. You’ll find some of whisky’s most famous names here – and some of its most fiercely individual spirits.
Highland Whiskies – Facts
- Number of distilleries: 47
- Oldest distillery: Glenturret (1775)
- Most popular distillery: Glenturret (Famous Grouse Experience)
- Flavour profile: fruity, sweet, spicy, malty
Although Campbeltown is Scotland’s smallest whisky-producing region, consisting of just three distilleries, it’s single malts have unique characteristics that are considered by serious malt lovers to represent a distinct region in its own right. The three distilleries that survive today produce some of the finest malts you’re likely to find; they have a loyal following and are respected worldwide.
Springbank malts are robust and smoky with hints of their salt. Glen Scotia malts are lighter with grassy notes. Glengyle’s Kilkerran malts are lighter and sweeter, but with the distinctive oily and salty notes you’d expect from a Campbeltown whisky.
Campbeltown Whiskies – Facts
- Number of distilleries: 3
- Oldest distillery: Springbank (1828)
- Most popular distillery: Springbank
- Flavour profile: fruity, peaty, sweet, smoky
The distilleries of the Lowland region can be found picturesquely set amongst the beautiful, rolling countryside of southern Scotland. Reflecting the gentle hillscapes and fertile farmlands, Lowland Scotch whiskies offer the perfect introduction to single malts.
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.
Lowland Whiskies – Facts
- Number of distilleries: 18
- Oldest distillery: Auchentoshan (1800)
- Most popular distillery: Glenkinchie
- Flavour profile: light, unpeated, floral, citrusy, sweet