Scotch Whisky Regions

Words by Simon Diffford

Scotch Whisky Regions image 1

Single Malt Scotch whiskies are grouped by region, each embracing certain characteristics. These are: Highlands (inc. & Speyside), Lowlands, Islands, Islay and Campbeltown.

Highlands

By far the biggest region with wide variations in style, The Highlands officially encompass the islands of Arran, Jura, Lewis, Mull, Orkney, Shetland and Skye, but many, including us group these under the heading 'Island' (see below).

The Western part of the Highlands, at least on the mainland, has only a few distilleries and due to their scattered nature it is difficult to make generalisations over their character. However, the whiskies tend to be rounded, firm and dry with some peatiness.

The north of the region has several whiskies with a heathery, spicy character, partly due to their coastal location and heather in the peat. The more sheltered East Highlands and the Midlands of Scotland tend to produce fruity malts.

Speyside, the main Highland distillation area, lies between the cities of Inverness and Aberdeen. Speyside malts are noted in general for their elegance and complexity and often have a refined smokiness. Speyside boasts so many distilleries that, like 'Islands', that malts produced here are categorised under the distinct Speyside heading, rather than the more general Highlands.

Lowlands

This region is defined by a line following old county boundaries and runs from the Clyde estuary to the river Tay. The lowlands tend to produce whiskies in which the softness of the malt itself is more evident, unaffected by Highland peatiness or coastal salt and seaweed.

Island

Of the nearly 800 islands scattered off Scotland's coast malt whisky distilleries lie on the islands of Arran, Jura, Lewis, Mull, Orkney, Shetland, Skye and Islay. So many distilleries lie on Islay that the island is categorised separately while the other islands are technically part of the Highland designation. The whiskies produced at these far flung distilleries varies greatly, hence the 'Island' categorisation should be considered one purely denoting location rather than style.

Islay

Eight distilleries huddle on Islay, a windswept island lying off the West Coast of Scotland, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. Pronounced 'Eye-La', the island is 25 miles long and is populated by a little over 3,000 people. Its climate and rich peaty soil contributes to malts that are noted for their seaweedy, iodine-like character.

Campbeltown

Situated on the peninsula called the Mull of Kintyre in Argyllshire, the fishing port of Campbeltown was once home to over thirty distilleries hence it being considered a distinct region. But during American Prohibition, many bootleg malts were labelled as coming from Campbeltown. The town's reputation plummeted, and today there are only two distilleries left. Campbeltown malts are distinguished by their briny, seaside character.

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Glenfarclas 1957 image

Glenfarclas 1957

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 54

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1973 (bottled 2010 image

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1973 (bottled 2010

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 55.9

Highland Park 21 Year Old image

Highland Park 21 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 47.5

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959 (bottled 2001 image

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1959 (bottled 2001

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 48.2

Wemyss Lemon Grove ‘Cragganmore’ 1989 (22yo) image

Wemyss Lemon Grove ‘Cragganmore’ 1989 (22yo)

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 46

Glenfiddich 1974 Vintage Reserve  image

Glenfiddich 1974 Vintage Reserve

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 48.6

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1980 (bottled 2011 image

The Glenlivet Cellar Collection 1980 (bottled 2011

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43.3

The Balvenie Fifty image

The Balvenie Fifty

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 44.1

Speyburn 25 Year Old image

Speyburn 25 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 46

Convalmore 36 Year Old, Distilled 1977 image

Convalmore 36 Year Old, Distilled 1977

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 58

Signatory Balmenach 1988, 25 Year Old image

Signatory Balmenach 1988, 25 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 55.6

De Vere Glenlivet 35 Year Old 1977 image

De Vere Glenlivet 35 Year Old 1977

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 48

Mortlach 18 Year Old image

Mortlach 18 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43.4

Mortlach 25 Year Old image

Mortlach 25 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43.4

Cragganmore 25 Year Old Distilled 1988 image

Cragganmore 25 Year Old Distilled 1988

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 51.4

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year Old image

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43.1

Craigellachie 23 Year Old image

Craigellachie 23 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 46

Dailuaine 34 Year Old Distilled 1980 image

Dailuaine 34 Year Old Distilled 1980

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 50.9

Craigellachie 31 Year Old image

Craigellachie 31 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 52.2

Linkwood 37 Year Old (Distilled 1978) image

Linkwood 37 Year Old (Distilled 1978)

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 50.3

Mannochmore 25 Year Old (Distilled 1990) image

Mannochmore 25 Year Old (Distilled 1990)

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 53.4

The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old image

The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 40

Pittyvaich 20 Year Old 1989 image

Pittyvaich 20 Year Old 1989

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 57.5

Glenrothes John Ramsay Legacy Bottling image

Glenrothes John Ramsay Legacy Bottling

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 46.7

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