Scotch Whisky — spelled without an “e” — has a long and storied history, as well as a place high up on the mantle of revered and respected spirits.
Although all varieties of whisky, or whiskey if it comes from the United States or Ireland, have a certain standard that they must adhere to in order to earn their names, Scotch has the most rigorous set of rules to abide by.
Even once you distinguish what sets Scotch apart from Irish whiskey and American Bourbon, you still have to understand that within Scotland, the different Scotch producing regions are fiercely protective of their whisky and its profile.
In today’s post from the spirits experts at Northstar Liquor Superstore in Johnstown, we will examine each Scotch producing region from Scotland, highlight some of the most popular brands, and illuminate the differences in profile.
To find the perfect bottle of Scotch for you or a loved one, stop by and visit with our knowledgeable and friendly spirits experts in Johnstown plaza, or shoot us a question via our online form and we will happily get back to you with the answers you are looking for.
The Scottish Highlands produce some of the most iconic images of Scotland, including jagged cliffs, mountains, valleys, fog, and ancient castles. They also invoke an image of the fighting spirit of Scotland as seen in the movies Braveheart or Highlander. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most iconic Scotch available also comes from this region in the northern part of the country.
As the largest geographical Scotch producing region in Scotland, the Highlands produce a wide variety of Scotches with profiles that largely depend on their location to the coast, peat-rich areas, and distilling method.
In the North, sweeter, full-bodied single malt Scotch is common. Less bold, more gentle fruit-flavored Scotch comes from the East. Southern Highland Scotch tends to resemble this same profile more often than not. The western area of the Highlands tends to produce a highly peat-driven Scotch with brilliant mineral qualities derived from its proximity to the coast.
Well-known Highlands Distilleries
- Dalwhinnie (also considered a Speyside Scotch)
With over 60 individual distilleries, the Speyside region, nestled along the Northeast coast of Scotland, is the single largest Scotch producing region in the country, accounting for over half of the world’s Scotch made annually.
Much like the Highlands, Speyside Scotch can come in many different styles and profiles, although this has more to do with distilling method and tradition than regional differences in soil, grain, etc.
With common flavors that include dried fruit, soft spices, and a generally approachable level of peat (if any at all), Speyside Scotch Whisky is popular with newcomers and Scotch aficionados alike.
Well-known Speyside Distilleries
- Glenfiddich (world’s best-selling single malt whisky)
- Glen Moray
Ranging from the southern coast of Scotland to just North of Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Lowlands Scotch-producing region of Scotland is best known for a variety of spirit that is grassier, toastier, and less peaty than its northern and coastal counterparts, and is the second largest geographical region in terms of production.
However, there are only a small number of active distilleries in the Lowlands, making it one of the least diverse regions that produces Scotch.
Lowland Scotch is not always made from 100% malted barley, and in recent years, appears to have focused more on large scale production than smaller, traditionally crafted whisky — which doesn’t mean these distilleries don’t still produce some excellent Scotch that has helped open the door for many new Scotch drinkers.
Well-known Lowland Distilleries
A once thriving center for Scotch production, the Campbelltown region of Scotland’s whisky production fell steeply during the mid-1800s when supply problems and competition from northern distilleries all but eliminated the region — so much so that many people simply lump Campbelltown in with the Islands variety of Scotch these days.
With only three active distilleries remaining, the Campbeltown region still produces some notable Scotch, often with distinct brine, smoke, and toffee-driven characteristics due to its protrusion into the Irish sea, although Glen Scotia does produce a surprisingly light, grassy Scotch.
- Glen Scotia
The Scottish island of Islay (pronounced “eye-luh”) is the smallest geographical region of Scottish whisky production, yet one of the most famous. To be an Islay Scotch, the malt must be smoked, fermented, and distilled on the island itself.
It is thought that whisky distillation made its way from Ireland to Scotland via the island of Islay sometime during the 1400s, furthering the region’s claim to being the true heart of Scottish Whisky.
With many robust, peaty varieties that embody the essence of Scotch, Islay whisky often presents notes of smoke, brine, minerals, seaweed, and dried fruits like apple.
Well-known Islay Distilleries
The final region on our list is one of the most diverse, as it covers the islands of Scotland ranging from the Irish sea all the way to the Orkney Islands. Officially, these distilleries are not recognized by the Scotch Whisky Association as belonging to their own region, however, it is easy to group them given their isolated locations and sea-driven profiles.
With similar seaside flavor profiles as the Islay and Campbelltown regions, you can expect a healthy dose of peat smoke, brine, and minerality in Scotch from the Island region. However, many of these whiskys also present unique notes ranging from black pepper to sweet honey.
Well-known Islands Distilleries
- Highland Park
Find The Perfect Scotch Whisky For You At Northstar Liquor Superstore in Johnstown
No matter what kind of Scotch you enjoy, or even whether you are currently a Scotch drinker or not, the experts at Northstar Liquor Superstore can help you find the perfect bottle of Scotch Whisky for you. Stop by and visit us at our Johnstown Plaza location today.