Scottish Whisky Regions
The grouping of distilleries into regions is something of an un-exact method to help categorize styles of whiskies being produced. Officially, there are five regions – Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, Islay, and Campbeltown. In practice, there’s often a sixth region included, the Islands. Each region has it’s distinct characteristics they’re known for. Nowadays though, it’s worth noting that there are exceptions to the rule in each region – unpeated in Islay, and peated in Speyside. Below we’ve given you a quick rundown on each region, as a rough guide to follow and keep in mind throughout your Scotch adventures.
Speyside, situated within the vast Highlands region, is home to more than 50% of Scotland’s distilleries. Some of the most well known, largest producers call Speyside their home. The typical Speyside whisky comes across with a smooth, nutty palate, tending toward quite a honeyed sweetness. Speyside has also become very well known for its sherry cask matured whiskies, which offer a much richer experience than usual Speyside releases.
Notable Distilleries: The Glenlivet, The Macallan and Glenfiddich
The largest (geographically, at least) of all regions and home to some of the more varied whiskies, each distillery representing their unique locale and environment. Expect a more robust, and often drier, dram compared to those of Speyside. Technically, the Islands are in fact part of the Highlands region, though we’re putting them separately as the islands are growing more and more distinct as the years go on.
The lowlands, more or less the area between England and Edinburgh, is famous for much lighter and more delicate styles of whiskies. The lowlands is the one region in Scotland that is traditionally known for using triple distillation, not that triple distillation is required or even that common here any more. Expect noticeable floral and grassy notes, followed by the occasional citrus twang.
The most famous region for peated whiskies, Islay is home to some of the most exceptional peated whiskies in the world. Expect heaps of smoke on the nose, palate, and finish for almost all Islay whiskies. Within the billowing smoke, however, you’ll find a spectacular array of intricacies both intense and delicate. Though almost synonymous with peat nowadays, distilleries are breaking the mould, with Bruichladdich being a notable distillery that forgoes the use peat.
Arguably the most diverse region for Scotch, the whiskies coming from this region vary not only island to island, but also producer to producer. Salinity is a mainstay feature across the board, given their proximity to the sea. There’s often use of peat in the Islands, that helps to differentiate them somewhat. We’ve seen a wonderful growth of attention and business for this unrecognised region, and no doubt we’ll see more in the future.
With just a handful of distilleries, Campbeltown isn’t the largest of regions in production or size, (though it used to be an extremely prominent region!) but it does have a fiercely passionate following thanks to the unique character and charm of its whiskies. Often carrying a clear dryness, with some releases using peat, and of course that sea air coming through on the palate. Here’s hoping the resurgence of Campbeltown will continue!
Notable Distilleries: Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia