You will find Scotch whisky is usually categorised into the regions of Campbeltown, Lowland, Highland, Island, Islay and Speyside. Traditionally it used to be that each region was said to produce a certain style of whisky. Whilst this is still true to some extent, there are a growing number of exceptions that do not conform to the ‘typical’ style of an area so it is worth being aware that not all Speyside whiskies are mellow and sweet in the same way that not all Islay whiskies are peated!
Campbeltown – Situated on the Kintyre Peninsula and once home to around 30 distilleries. Now only 3 remain, with one of these (Springbank) producing 3 very different styles of great character. As you would expect whisky from this area tend to have a coastal, briny note to them.
Lowland – Lying south of an imaginary line drawn from the Clyde estuary to the Tay estuary, traditionally the whisky is light in style and this is one of the areas where triple distillation is carried out at some distilleries. Although there’s just a few distilleries left operating in the Lowlands at one time there were numerous other ones, such as Rosebank and St Magdalene, and it is worth seeking out whiskies from these closed gems
Highland – The variety of styles that are found in the Highlands reflect it’s large and diverse geographical area. It stretches from the Highland line north of Glasgow to the tip of Scotland, and from the West coast to the East but excludes the Speyside area. Thus, in style the whiskies can range from sweet to dry, sherried or not, and include smoky, peated and unpeated malt
Island – Often included as part of the Highland region, this includes all the Scottish islands apart from Islay. Again, the diverse locations mean there is whisky ranging from the fruity delights of Arran through to the peppery smokiness of Talisker on Skye. Orkney’s two distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park, present two quite different styles of whisky and the single distilleries on Jura and Mull each have both peated and unpeated whiskies. Just starting to become available in small quantities (for the first time in over 100 years) is whisky from the Isle of Lewis.
Islay – Known as the Queen of the Hebrides, Islay has 8 distilleries. Many of these produce the heavily peated single malt whisky the island is famous for but there are exceptions such as the whisky from Bunnahabhain and some of the elegant expressions from Bruichladdich (who also produce the world’s most heavily peated whisky to date!).
Speyside – Roughly half of Scotland’s distilleries are concentrated around the River Spey, which is in the Northeast. The classic mellow, fruity and floral whiskies from the area are only part of the story as there are also heavily sherried beauties to be found along with some peated malts.