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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Lagavulin 16yo Islay single malt whisky image

Lagavulin 16yo Islay single malt whisky

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43

Ardbeg Alligator 2011 image

Ardbeg Alligator 2011

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 51.2

Port Ellen 32 year old (distilled 1978) image

Port Ellen 32 year old (distilled 1978)

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 53.9

Ardbeg Supernova 2010 image

Ardbeg Supernova 2010

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 60.1

Caol Ila 25 Year Old image

Caol Ila 25 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society 127.32 image

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society 127.32

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 65.2

Lagavulin 21yo Special Release 2012 image

Lagavulin 21yo Special Release 2012

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 52

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2013, Bot. 2013, Distilled 1995 image

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2013, Bot. 2013, Distilled 1995

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 51

Caol Ila Distillers Edition image

Caol Ila Distillers Edition

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 43

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2013 Distilled 1998 image

Caol Ila Feis Ile 2013 Distilled 1998

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 56.5

Lagavulin 37 Year Old, Distilled 1976 image

Lagavulin 37 Year Old, Distilled 1976

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 51

Port Ellen 34 Year Old, Distilled 1978 image

Port Ellen 34 Year Old, Distilled 1978

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 55

Signatory Caol Ila 1984, Sherry Cask 29 Year Old image

Signatory Caol Ila 1984, Sherry Cask 29 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 54.7

Bowmore 50 Year Old 1961 image

Bowmore 50 Year Old 1961

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 40.7

Caol Ila 30 Year Old Distilled 1983 image

Caol Ila 30 Year Old Distilled 1983

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 55.1

Caol Ila 17 Year Old Distilled 1997 image

Caol Ila 17 Year Old Distilled 1997

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

Port Ellen 32 Year Old Distilled 1983 image

Port Ellen 32 Year Old Distilled 1983

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 53.9

Port Askaig 30 Year Old 2015 Release image

Port Askaig 30 Year Old 2015 Release

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 45.8

Port Ellen 16th Release, 37 Year Old image

Port Ellen 16th Release, 37 Year Old

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 55.2

Lagavulin 1991 Single Cask 200th Anniversary image

Lagavulin 1991 Single Cask 200th Anniversary

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 52.7

Ardbeg Ten (10 Year Old) image

Ardbeg Ten (10 Year Old)

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

Laphroaig 18 Year old image

Laphroaig 18 Year old

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

Ardbeg Galileo image

Ardbeg Galileo

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 49

Ardbeg Ardbog image

Ardbeg Ardbog

Category: Spirits
Sub category: Whisk(e)y
alc./vol: 52.1

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