The world of Scotch whisky is vast and complex. Some would say that it is too extensive for any one person to truly understand. Yet, this blog post will not be dissuaded in its attempt to provide a comprehensive, if distilled, look at the different regions that make up Scotland: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside. It will outline some of the key differences in flavour profiles between these different regions as well as what makes them unique from each other. (It’s not too often an article refers itself in the third person; this is one of those times.)
Campbeltown is one of five whisky-producing regions in Scotland. It’s a coastal region situated on the Kintyre peninsula in southwest Scotland. The area has been distilling Scotch since 1794 and was home to historic Campbeltown Distillery, which shut down its stills for good back in 1993. Many will say that it isn’t technically an active region any longer however a few producers are working hard to keep this tradition alive and make some great scotch from here including Springbank, Glengyle, and Glen Scotia.
Highland is one of the original four Scotch whisky producing regions in the Kingdom Of The Gaels. Located in the northernmost part of Scotland, it’s a region that is often overlooked by those passing through on their way to visit more famous (and remote) places like Islay or Speyside. Actually – stop the tour bus. This area has been distilling Scotch since the 18th century and as such you might not know some of your favourite brands if they weren’t from the Highland area. For example: Glenmorangie comes from this region and is considered a flagship brand for many when it comes to single malt Scotch. Take a look at the labels in your collection. You probably have a few Highland whiskies.
Speyside is the heart of Scotland’s whisky industry and is home to 50% of the distilleries, including the likes of Glenlivet and Macallan. Surrounded by the Highland region, Speyside has a more diverse collection of whiskies available with different flavours emerging from those that have been aged in sherry casks or are made using peat-smoked barley.
Islay‘s name means ‘the Island’ for good reason! This region is an actual island off the coast of southern Scotland so it’s not easy to get there. However, if you do head over, expect to be greeted by heavily peated malts – as well as some others which use unpeated malt. These regions produce what many call ‘extreme flavour profiles: Peaty, smokey, iodiney, Band-Aid-y and briney. (Think “Laphroaig!”)
Lowland is Scotland’s most populous whisky producing area and is one of the oldest distilling regions in Scotland. This region is home to distilleries that include: Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Daftmill, and Glenkinchie. These whiskies tend to get associated with adjectives such as “grassier” and “lighter.”
Our last stop on this tour is a hop over to The Islands. While it is considered part of the Highland region, it’s also regarded as an “unofficial” region. Here you’ll find distilleries peppered all over the Isles of Jura, Arran, Orkney, Skye, Lewis, Raasay, Mull, with one in the works on the Isle of Barra. This “region” is known for creating that run the gamut of tasting profiles.