” I wish to live to 150 years, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand a glass of whisky in other”- Ava Gardner
For the longest of times, whisky has been a symbol of class, luxury and has certainly been a way of life for many. The top of that chain is commanded by Scotch whisky. This elegant dram has culture, history and livelihood of a whole country attached to it. A beverage which is adored by the world for representing the very best of its land. Lets dig in to see what it is and what are the different regions producing the scotch whiskies.
What is Scotch Whisky ?
Not any whisky can be called scotch, the basic outline of requirements are:
- Has to be produced and aged in Scotland.
- Has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years in oak barrels.
- Cannot be less than 40% ABV (Alcohol By Volume).
Scotch Whisky: What are the raw ingredients?
- Cereal- can either use barley or a mix of other grains.
Scotch Whisky: Different Types
- Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Distilled at a single distillery and the cereal is Barley (malt always refers to malted barley for scotch whisky).
- Blended Malt Scotch Whisky: A blend of two or more single malts from different distilleries.
- Single Grain Scotch Whisky: Distilled at a single distillery using one type of grain.
- Blended Grain Scotch Whisky: A blend of two or more single grain whiskies.
- Blended Scotch Whisky: A blend of two or more single malt and single grain whiskies.
Scotch: Regions of Scotland
The complete landscape of Scotland is full of distilleries (around 120) and they fall into different regions. Each region produces whiskies of their own style and characteristics. These qualities are mainly driven by surrounding environment and by the master distiller. So, lets discuss the 6 whisky making regions of Scotland.
Highlands: It is by far the largest whisky producing area of Scotland. Being a vast region it produces a large varieties of whiskies. These are commonly light bodied with sweet spice and citrus characteristics. Some may have mild smokiness and few which are distilled closer to the sea will have some saline notes as well.
Notable Brands: Glenmorangie, Aberfeldy, Dalmore, Dalwhinie, Glengoyne etc.
Speyside: Mostly considered to be a sub-division of Highlands. Speyside is basically the region of whisky making around the banks of river “Spey” that passes through the heart of highlands. Nearly half of the distilleries (50 distilleries) of Scotland are in Speyside. Reason being abundance of water and barley.
The flavour profiles of the the huge selection of of Speyside whiskies can be divided into two camps. One being light, complex, floral and the other is rich and heavy whiskies. Most of them have a light peaty smokiness in common.
Notable Brands: Mcallan, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, The Glenlivet, Benriach, Cardhu etc.
Islay: This small whisky region is completely exposed to ocean and is know to produce the strongest whiskies, flavour wise. One of the most important profile being “peaty”. Peat is a special type of fuel used to dry the barley, it is formed naturally by bio degradation of plants in the soil.
The whiskies of Islay have a very distinguished profile; they are saline, peaty and have hint of sea weed to them. Its an acquired taste, but people who love get stuck to it. there are 9 distilleries churning out quality whiskies.
Notable Brands: Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Port Ellen, Kilchoman and Bruicladdich
Lowlands: The south of Scotland is basically called Lowlands. These are basically un-peated, light whiskies with some fruity and trademark grassy notes to them and are mellower than their highland counterparts. Even though it has Single Malt’s, its the hub of grain whiskies and are mostly used in blends. They are an excellent choice as an aperitif.
Notable Brands: Glenkinchie, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch etc
Islands: As they are mostly connected to Highlands, they are said to be a extension of it. these whisky making Islands are Isles of Mull, Skye, Orkney, Arran, Jura and Lewis. These whiskies have common characteristics of salinity and peaty flavors attached to them. They are more peaty than highland malts but less peaty than Islay whiskies.
Notable Brands: Talisker (Skye), Arran (Arran), Jura (Jura), Highland Park (Orkney), Scapa (Orkney), Abhainn (Lewis), Tobermory and Leidag ( both by Tobermory in Mull).
Campbletown: This region lies in the end of Kintyre peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. At a point of time this small region had 30 distilleries but today it has only 3. With a demand of whisky rising the region is trying to revive from its ashes.
Campbletown malts are very rich and heavy bodied profile with peat and a salty finish.
Notable Brands: Glen Scotia, Springbank, Kilkerran, Hazleburn and Longrow.
From delicate flowery to saline and peaty, scotch as an umbrella has a huge variety of whiskies with varied flavor profiles under its belt. I hope these varied styles from the different regions will match up to your celebrations, so keep trying them and I promise you will never be bored of them.
Click here and know the difference between Whisky and Whiskey.
Want to know about the different scotch distilleries; Click here.