Scotch whisky regions 101: a refresher
We’re kicking off Whisky Month on BARS&clubs today, and what better way to do it than with a refresher on Scotch whisky regionality?
Single malts are divided according to the geographical location of the distilleries, and for good reason – apart from the Highland malts, each geographic area has a distinct style of whisky.
Lowland whisky distilleries are all located south of Dundee in the east, and Greenock in the west. While there are not that many anymore, just three in fact, whiskies from this region tend toward being soft and light in character, with malty, grassy notes and subtle, delicate aromas.
Distilleries: Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, and Glenkinchie.
The Highland distilleries are all located north of the aforementioned imaginary border, and they make up the largest group of distilleries in the country. Because of the larger geographical area of this region, there is greater variation between styles of the distilleries. The western part of the Highlands tends toward a firm, dry character with slight peatiness and saltiness. The northern Highlands tend to produce whiskies with a more spicy character. The east and into the Midlands – being more sheltered from the coastal winds – produces whiskies of a more fruity character.
Distilleries: Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, and Glenmorangie.
Whiskies from the valley of the River Spey have a very specific character thanks to the particular climatic conditions. The region features unique granite mountains, heathery moorlands and a valley that is the watershed of a system of rivers. The whiskies are noted for exhibiting flowery, heathery-honey notes, and mellow flavours. Some of the distillers also feature a light peatiness.
Distilleries: Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, The Macallan, and Balvenie.
The island of Islay isn’t nicknamed Whisky Island for nothing – the tiny landmass features no less than eight producing distilleries. These whiskies are the strongest flavoured of the four main regions and are renowned for their dryness, maritime flavours and strong peat smoke, thanks to the abundance of local peat and exposed sea-side conditions.
Distilleries: Bowmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig.
Located in the south west, this small sub-region produces a whisky that lands somewhere between the Islay and Speyside styles. Thanks to the exposed, coastal location of the town, the whisky from here features a particularly oily, briny quality.
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’s also home to the world famous whisky liqueur, Drambuie.
The extreme northern archipelago of mostly uninhabited islands around Orkney is the definition of isolation, however, above the town of Kirkwall sits the ‘High Park’, home of the legendary Highland Park distillery, said to have been founded in 1795.
Distilleries: Highland Park