Since Lowlands had almost all Scotch distilleries in the past, it used to be the base camp of Scotch Whisky. Until 1784, the Wash Act drew a geographic line between the Highlands and the Lowlands and taxed these two regions at different rates, forcing lots of Lowlands distilleries to close. From 1790 to 1800, the number of illegal distilleries surged. They hid into Highlands woods to escape from the officials, and afterwards many Scotch Whisky distillers located in Highlands.
Nowadays Lowlands has only a few distilleries, while most of them are using triple distillation which is similar to the Irish style - fresh and smooth with grassy notes. Glenkinchie is one good example. Rosebank, once closed, produces treasures that many whisky lovers are dreaming of.
Highlands is the most complex whisky region in Scotland, whisky in this region is very diverse. Every distillery has its own vivid character, mostly affected by its geography. For example, whisky produced by a seaside distillery has a hint of Islands Whisky’s maritime flavour; while a distillery on high hill follows the traditions strictly and produces layered whisky; plain whisky tends to be fresher and lighter. Highlands now has over 30 distilleries. To know about Highlands whisky, the best way is to drill in every distillery.
Situated in Black Isle, Highlands, The Singleton’s Glen Ord is one of a few distilleries that insist on purchasing barley from the same farm every year. The soils there are dark and fertile, barley produced there is good and rich in aroma.
This easily accessed flat region has rivers, glens, valleys and a mild climate, which creates the most favourable environment for producing whisky. Having pushed by the 1823 Excise Act, many distilleries settled in this region. In 1860, the Spirits Act allowed mass production of blended whisky of grain whisky and single malts. Plus the opening of railways in 1863, which provided a fast channel to deliver products to ports for selling, Speyside was even more prosperous. Despite the alcohol control and the famous ‘Pattison Crash’, most distilleries have managed to survive until now. Instead of the classic peaty whisky, most of the Speyside distilleries produce light, delicate, floral and grassy whisky, in order to introduce whisky to beginners. It’s the key product of Scotch Single Malt Whisky.
There are about 800 islands off the western and northern seaboards of Scotland, with distilleries locating on the big ones. Basically the region is like Highlands, it’s hard to conclude all distilleries with a single character. Highland Park and Scapa are both located on Orkney, yet their characters are totally different. However, most of the Islands distilleries have peaty flavour, just not as strong as Islay’s. To compete with Speyside whisky, many Island distilleries also produce non-peaty whisky.
The formation of peat depends on the distribution of organic matter and climate of every island. The peaty whisky produced by each island is hence different. Even with the same PPM level, each peaty whisky will have a slight difference - that’s the unique charisma of Islands whisky.
It’s believed that whisky distillation reached Scotland from Ireland via Islay. While historians are still debating over this saying, Islay is legendary enough. There were a high number of distilleries in the past. Once recessed, Islay is now home to 8 distilleries. The common character of Islay whisky is the sharp peaty flavour. Whisky from the northern area is milder, such as Caol Ila, one of the base ingredients of Johnnie Walker. While the southern area produces thicker whisky, such as Lagavulin, named ‘The Kind of Islay’. As the northernmost distillery on Islay, Bunnahabhain mainly produces smoky whisky. It is worth noting that Port Ellen, once closed and turned to be a malt house, is going to produce whisky again. Fans must stay tuned.Back