Scotland and Scotch: The Regions

Green scenic pastures, castles, lawn bowling, kilts and bagpipes, are some of the highlights that a few might be cognizant of when the term Scotland comes up in a conversation. But a majority of us might have something different that pops up in our minds every time we hear the word Scotch…oh sorry! Scotland (You see my point!!)

The Irish might have invented whiskey but the Scottish are what made it famous, and I mean insanely famous! Be it single malts or blends, these folks are renowned the world over and to many there is nothing like a good glass of scotch. Scotland’s varied geography and physical attributes play a huge role in also diversifying the whiskies in terms of aroma, taste and color.

In this blog, I’ll be looking at focusing on the various regions, their influence on their native whiskies and a couple of good options to flavor.

Scotland can be broadly categorized into 5 regions and a 6th subcategory:

  1. Highlands
  2. Speyside
  3. Lowlands
  4. Islay
  5. Campbeltown
  6. Islands (Sub Category)

map Highlands: The largest of the whisky regions, the Highlands, are home to a wide gamut of vegetation. The Northern East parts consist of a mix of peat bogs and pockets of thick forests, while the Southern regions are made up of coniferous forests on one end and large farmlands on the other. The heart of the highlands are home to several mountain ranges. This varied flora is largely responsible for the wide variety of flavor profiles whiskies in this region inherit.They tend to be sweet, floral and fruity towards the south but can also be spicy and nutty if we happen to sip from the north.

Whiskies from the West Coast could also hone maritime aromas due to the influence of the sea. Glenmorangie and Dalwhinnie are popular produces from this region.

Speyside: Although technically placed in the heart of the highlands, this zone bears half of the distilleries in Scotland which made sense to recognize it as a distinct region. These regions are home to flavors such as honey, vanilla, citrus and fruit but are more elegant and intricate in nature. It’s mellow and sweet flavors attribute to its popularity and is an admired choice to whisky lovers, both amateur and experienced.

Stars from the Speyside: Glenlivet, and Glenfiddich

Lowlands: Better known to the Scottish as the ‘Ladies of the Lowlands’, the distilleries here produce whisky that is both fresh and light. The use of little to no peat in the drying process and the thrice distilled wash lends it this character. There are only 3 distilleries in this region and the gentle nature of the whiskies makes it a good entry for those who want to explore the world of scotch.

Auchentoshan is a good example of a whisky available from this region.

Islay: The peat rich Island of Islay (pronounced ‘Eye-lay’) is dubbed as ‘The Whisky Island’ and is one of the most renowned regions for whisky. Produces from this region are usually stronger that those from others. The Island is home to around 8-9 distilleries most of which with the exception of some whiskies from the Bruichladdich distillery are heavily Peated which gives the whisky also a smoky flavor. Its proximity to the sea adds a salty, briny, and sometimes sea weedy taste.

Famous whiskies of the region: Laphroaig, Ardberg, Bowmore and Lagavulin

Campbeltown: One of the earliest and smallest whisky producing regions, the ‘Detroit of Whisky’ was once home to around 30 distilleries. But with the advent of the World War, followed by the Great Depression, and the Era of Prohibition within the United States, only the larger and more robust distilleries survived while the rest ceased to exist. Currently, only 2 major distilleries exist, the Springbank and the lesser known Glen Scotia. The Glengyle, a recently renovated distillery (ceased production post the world war) shares its heritage with the Springbank distillery.

Whiskies from this region: Springbank, and Hazelburn.

Island: This region is a subcategory some say fall within the Highlands, while others say is clubbed with the Islay. The region being spread out does not have a fixed flavor profile, but ends up picking up characteristics from either worlds, be it peaty, smoky, fruity or briny in profile.

Highland Park and Jura are some of the popular whiskies manufactured here.

…And that my comrades is the end! Probably the next time you sip on your favorite scotch, you might as well think about where it comes from.  

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