SCOTTISH WHISKY REGIONS
Surprisingly, a lot of people ask ‘does Scotland produce whisky?’ With over 120 distilleries in the country, we think it’s fair to say, yes, Scotland does produce whisky.
The DNA of each scotch comes down to a number of factors, including the water, grains used or casks, but ultimately the distilleries in regions share traits.
Some debate the number of regions that produce whisky in Scotland but an easy way to look at it is by three umbrella regions which are then divided into ‘sub-regions’.
These three regions are Highlands, Islands and Lowlands. Click on the buttons below to learn more about each region.
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The Highlands is the region of Scotland that by far produces the most whisky in the country, simply down to the number of distilleries. This is a particularly popular part for blenders of whisky. Historically, blenders would categorise spirits from different sub-regions. Its these sub-regions that are probably more widely known in today’s whisky world.
Click below for more information on each sub-region.
Distilleries from the North Highlands are fairly close to the sea. Therefore their characteristics are quite similar to those of the Island whiskies. This includes ‘salty’ or ‘spicy’ notes.
This is a sub-region that is very well known. It is so well known that it is usually cited a region in itself. Speyside is where more than 60% of distilleries in Scotland are concentrated, so it’s fame comes of no surprise.
The whiskies that come from this area are often more ‘vanillery’ or sweeter as they are matured in oak casks. The distilleries tend to maintain the sweeter and smoother tastes as the malts are normally not peated.
The Central Highlands is where you will find more mountainous terrain. The traits of this region are similar to that of Speyside, they are sweeter, lighter whiskies.
Like other parts of the Highlands the East has a sweet but dry and light finish. The malts in this regions can be more full-bodied. There are, unfortunately, not too many distilleries left in this region.
In the past and even today, there have been few distilleries in this sub-region. Access to some of the ingredients required to make whisky is a little more restricted. Historically, there used to be a lot of farms in this area and many farmers used to make their own ‘home brews’.
This was once a distillation hive of activity but the depression in the 1920’s knocked a lot of distilleries out of business. There are now only a handful of distilleries left but the area is still quite well known in the whisky world. The area has good access to the necessities for making whisky and the outcomes are often light in weight and flavour.
The Scottish Islands are very popular among whisky enthusiasts. The weather around these small locations affects the water and this means there are either saltier or spicy flavour tones. A number of the Islands also tend to opt for peating the malt which gives quite a few whiskies a distinct smokey flavour. The number of distilleries on the Isles can range from many in a small location to just a single distillery.
Islay is renowned for peaty whiskies. This means that some of the grain has been smoked using peat and this gives the products a distinct flavour. Some of the distilleries go a lot heavier on the peating than others and there are quite a few Islay distilleries.
There is only one distillery on the Isle of Mull and that is in Tobermory. The town is a picturesque place with colourful houses on the sea front. The flavours of Tobermory’s distillery are lightly smoked and have that maritime character that is prevalent in other Isle products.
Arran is a very small isle. It takes about an hour to drive around the whole island. There is only one distillery, Arran, which was established by a renowned whisky expert after there hadn’t been a distillery on the island for 150 years. The scotch is not as peaty as its island peers and is lighter in flavour.
Skye is a big isle compared to the others, it’s borderline attached to mainland Scotland. Despite its size, there are only two distilleries here, one significantly more recognisable than the other. Talisker is from here and is known for it’s smokey but also slightly sea salted taste. The other distillery is Torabhaig.
As with most of the other islands, there is one distillery which is Jura. Jura neighbours the peaty Islay isle but the flavour of Jura whisky is a bit more oily and earthy.
Over time, there have been 215 registered distilleries in the Lowlands, although only about 4 remain today. The area was known for the ‘industrialisation’ of whisky due to developments with harvesting grain and good conditions for farming the barley. Lowland whiskies are usually light in colour and weight and have more herby tastes than other scotches.