Scotland's Whisky Regions
Whiskies are divided into groups according to the geographical
location of the distilleries in which they are made. Each group has its
own characteristics, ranging from the lighter Lowland
Malt Whiskies to those distilled on the island of Islay which are generally regarded as the heaviest Malt whiskies. The production of Grain Whisky is not so influenced by geographical factors and it can be distilled anywhere in Scotland, though the majority are produced in central Scotland.
Stills at Glenkinchie.
Glenfiddich distillery, Highlands.
Strathisla distillery, Highlands.
Lagavulin distillery, Islay.
Bruichladdich distillery, Islay
Lowland Malt Whiskies are made south of an imaginary line drawn from Dundee in the east to Greenock in the west. Relatively few in number, and diminishing even further in recent years, the Lowland Malts do not match the robust Highland Malts in their force and flavour, tending to have a grassy softness without the heatheriness, coastal seaweed and brine. Classic examples of Lowland Malt you can buy online are:
Highland Malt Whiskies are made north of the imaginary line drawn from Dundee in the east to Greenock in the west. This is by far the biggest of the regions and incorporates within it large variations in character and flavour between different distillers. The western part of the Highlands has a small number of scattered distilleries with noticeable variations to their character due to differences in coastal exposure and altitude. If they are to be characterised together they share a firm, dry character with slight peatiness and saltiness. The northern area of the Highlands tends to produces whiskies of a more spicy character. The Eastern area, which is more sheltered from the coastal winds, and into the Midlands, produce whiskies of a more fruity character. Distinctive examples of Highland Malts you can buy online include:
From the valley of the River Spey. Although these whiskies come from within the area designated as Highland Malt Whiskies, the concentration of distilleries and the specific climatic conditions produce a whisky of an identifiable character and require a separate classification. The region has unique topography of granite mountains flowing down into the heathery moorlands and valley that is the watershed of a system of rivers. The whiskies are noted for their elegance, exhibiting flowery, heathery-honey notes and a sometimes restrained, fragrant peatiness.
Excellent examples of Speyside Malts you can buy online include:
From the island of Islay, this region is renowned for its medicinal peat smoke and maritime flavours, which are potent expressions of the local peat and exposed sea-side conditions. The whiskies are the heaviest of all malts, with a peat driven strength and firmness and complexity.
Classic Islay Malts you can buy online include:
Other areas of Scotland which are generally accepted as regions in their own right include:
Campbeltown, in the south west which produces a whisky somewhere in between the Islay and Speyside style, incorporating characteristic flavours from both districts. Campbeltown is situated on the mull of Kintyre some 240 km from Glasgow, south of Islay. Due to the exposed, coastal location of the town, Campbeltown whiskies have their own distinct character defined particularly by an oily, briny quality. There are only three distilleries in the region with one of the highlights being Springbank.
Isle of Skye. A spectacularly beautiful island of wild moorlands and dramatic mountain peaks known as the Cuillins. Although only one distillery produces malt whisky on the island, it must rate as a classic malt expression and a must try. The whisky is Talisker. The island also produces a world famous whisky liqueur, both are available online.
Orkney Islands. The extreme northern archipelago of mostly uninhabited islands around Orkney is in every sense isolated. It is not known when the first distillery was established in Orkney, but there were almost certainly local producers by the middle of the eighteenth century. Above Orkney's capital, Kirkwall, is a rise with fine views out to the northern isles traditionally known as the 'High Park'. It is here that Highland Park distillery was said to have been founded in 1795. The distillery remains one of the legends of the whisky world. There are several expressions available with the 18 year old being the standout.
Other Islands also producing excellent whiskies include the Isle of Mull, Isle of Arran and Isle of Jura.