Commonly known as ‘scotch’, single malt whisky and blends combining malt and grain whisky are the popular products associated with the Scottish tradition. Scotch malt whisky production is located in four regions, each with their own unique flavours. When it comes to whisky, few countries do it better than the Scots, nor do many other places offer such an eclectic variety of tastes and distinguishable flavours. Originally, Scotland was divided up into four regions, all home to a vast number of distilleries which produced the drink in abundance and were prevalent in the whiskey industry. These are now famously known as Highlands, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islands, Islay and Speyside, and each has, throughout history, produced its own version of Scottish Whisky that have come to be recognizable by the region.
Home to the Highland single malt, this is arguably the most renowned region and most acclaimed producer of Scotch Whisky, and also the one that produces the most. This region produces smooth malts which are warm and rounded. West coast varieties exhibit maritime flavours, whilst honey and heather flavours come from the Central Highlands. Given that it is geographically the largest of all the Scottish regions, this is unsurprising. Its malts are typically smooth and floral in flavour, medium to full-bodied and often rather dry, though as there are so many, it is difficult to make generalisations or pick out characteristics, as they can vary considerably from distillery to distillery.
Examples include: Glenmorangie, Aberfeldy, Ben Nevis and Glen Ord.
Though no longer considered an official region of Scotland, it is still recognised as as a specific region for its whiskey production. Though once home to over thirty distilleries and herladed as the ‘Whisky capital of the world’, only three of these distilleries now remain, and its once flourishing production has somewhat diminished. Their whiskies nonetheless remain popular, and are known for their smokiness and salty flavours.
Examples include: Springbank, Glen Gyle and Glen Scotia.
Often the connoisseur’s choice, these delicate fruity malts are styled and polished by undergoing a thorough maturation process in sherry casks. Though Speyside is, technically, part of the aforementioned Highland region, its whiskies are distinctly different, usually fruity and delicate, embodying fresh fruits and vanilla flavours that only get better with age. It has the largest number of active distilleries in Scotland and offers a truly tremendous amount of choice for those with a sweeter tooth.
Examples include: Glenfiddich, Macallan and Balvenie.
The Islands (Islay)
Home to eight distilleries, the tiny island of Islay, with a population of just over 3,000, has a passion for whisky that goes almost unparalleled, producing highly distinctive, heavy and smoky malts that come with a powerful kick. These powerful malts are flavoursome with characteristically strong maritime aromas.
Examples include: Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Bowmore and Laphroaig.
These lighter malts have little peat flavour and thus have a fresher taste with cereal and floral overtones. The whiskies of the Lowlands are much like the airy countryside and green, hilly landscape itself; light, fragrant and fresh, and they sit in stark contrast to the heavier flavours produced in the Highlands. Like Campbeltown, it only has three distilleries still in operation, but their whiskies are popular as ever.
Examples include: Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, and Glenkinchie.