The Manual’s Guide to Scotch Regions
If asked, could you name the different regions that Scotch is produced in? Sure, you might get Highland and Speyside, but what about Lowlands? Did you know there was a region called Campbeltown for a while? Well, with our quick guide to the wonderful world of Scotch regions, you soon will. Wow your friends over a glass of single malt and indulge in the wide variety of Scotch whiskies out there for you to try.
The Highland region is the largest Scotch region by both size and production. Because of this, it also produces a huge range of styles and flavor profiles, ranging from very sweet malts to very dry. The Highland region is the best place to look if you’re seeking a wide range within a region. North Highland malts are usually lighter in body, while Western Highland malts are slightly smoky, yet still less peaty than nearby Islay. The other regions offer an even wider variety that are all influenced by the soil, climate, and water where they are being produced.
Look for: Royal Brackla 12, Glenfiddich 18 Year Old
Many consider the Island region to be a middle ground between Islay and Highland Scotches (which makes sense, considering it’s designation as a subdivision of the Highland region). The Islands region is made up of the Islands of Skye, Mull, Orkney, Arran, Jura, and Lewis. The whiskies produced here are seen to have a coastal, with more sweetness and less peatiness than those in Islay, but more so than other Scotch regions.
Look for: Highland Park 12 Year Old, Talisker 10 Year Old
This region’s Scotch is defined by the dramatic sea climate that surrounds it. Nicknamed “Whisky Island” because of the concentrated number of distilleries found on the island, the Islay scotches taste strongly of the sea, adding notes of brine and strong peaty flavors. If you’re looking for incredibly smoky scotch, the Islay region is the place to look.
Look for: Ardbeg Dark Cove Limited Edition, Laphroaig Quarter Cask
If you’ve never heard of Lowland Scotch, it’s probably because there are only three active distilleries left in the region. Produced in the southern part of Scotland, the scotches from here are usually lighter, have grassy notes, and can be considered more delicate than other scotches.
Look for: Auchentoshen 17 Year Old, Glenkinchie 12 Year Old
This region gets its name from the River Spey (which, incidentally, provides the water to many of the distilleries in the region. Over half of Scotland’s distilleries are located in the Speyside region, which was the reason for it being considered it’s own region (it was once part of the Highland region). The scotches produced here are the sweetest that you will find in any region. Also in the Speyside region, you’ll be able to find many different scotches that are either light and floral or rich and sherried.
Look for: Speyburn Braden Orach, The Macallan 1824 Masters Series Rare Cask, Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year Old
No longer an officially-designated region, the Campbeltown region is still home to three operating distilleries. The Scotches produced here are known for complex flavors and a slightly oceanic, salty finish typically (similar to what you would find in the brininess of Islay Scotches).
Look for: Springbank Green 12 Year Old, Longrow 11 Year Old Port Cask Finish
(Pictured: The Royal Brackla Distillery)