The production of whisky in Scotland goes back many hundreds of years and so does the producing regions, each region produces a style/ profile, that is quite distinctive to that region. Within each of the regions each distillery has it’s own individual characteristics and this diversity gives us the different styles of what is actually the same liquid and this is the reason the world of whisky is so interesting. There are currently around 115 distilleries licensed to operate in Scotland and this is growing year by year.
The lowland region can be found south of an imaginary line running from the east ( Dundee) to the west coast ( Greenock) . This area was once a major producing area, producing a lot of whisky for the blends, unfortunately most distilleries fell on hard times in the 1980s and early 1990s. This area is now gaining a few more distilleries with new ones starting up but not currently producing whisky, the main ones in production are Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie, Bladnoch has recently come back on line while the likes of Daftmill and Annandale will be offering spirits in the near future. The style of whisky produced in the Lowlands is generally classed as light, fresh, fruity, and are sometimes thought as a perfect dram for the hot summer evenings.
This is the largest whisky producing region and offers the widest range of whisky styles and flavours. Although there is a large range of styles and flavours due to the geographical locations the whisky is generally thought as richer, sweeter and more full bodied than from any of the other regions in Scotland. This area is the home to more than 30 distilleries, including the likes of Aberfeldy, Glengoyne, Glenmorangie, Glenturret, Oban, Old Pultney , Dalmore and Dalwhinnie to name just a few.
Although this is not officially a whisky region it is probably one that most accept as a region, This is a subdivision of the highlands and is thought of as a region within a region, and speyside has the largest concerntration of distilleries in Scotland. There are currently over 30 in operation within what is a actually a small area, based around the towns of Elgin, Rothes, Dufftown, and the surrounding glens. Speyside has historically always been a heavily producing whisky area due to the combination of perfect climate for whisky maturation, the quality of water and ease of supply. The whisky produced in this area include some of the more famous of all whisky producers such as Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenfarclas, Balvenie and Glenlivet. There are mainly two typical styles in this area, the heavy rich sherried style, and a more complex style which is generally lighter with more pronounced malty flavours and some sweetness.
Campbeltown is found towards the end of the Mull of Kintyre peninsula on the west Highland coast. It was once home to over 30 distilleries but when the industry fell on hard times, partly due to the remoteness of it’s location and the resulting problems in transportation many distilleries closed. These days there are not so many operating distilleries in Campbeltown – Springbank, Longrow, Glen Scotia and Glengyle.
There are a number of distilleries found on the islands and although this is actually more of a geographical region than a characteristic region it is still thought of as a whisky region. There is no real character for this region as the distilleries all produce different styles. Generally distilleries like Arran and Scapa are lighter and fresher while Jura and Tobermory have a richer, sweeter and maltier taste, while Talisker offers a more unique peated flavour and Highland Park offers a full bodied whisky with some smokiness.
The island of Islay is a well know producer of peated whisky, Six of the eight operating distilleries produce what is thought to be the best smoky whisky in the world ( Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig ) The other two are Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain, whose whisky is normally unpeated and non smoky, although they both do occasionally produce limited amounts of peated/ smoky whisky. The Islay whisky industry is currently doing very well and the industry is the island’s main economy. The whisky produced is generally full bodied, smoky and complex. This region and the whisky produced probably is the one that divides opinion more than any other, the big peated expressions are not to everyone taste, it is a love/hate type of whisky..