The Highlands are geographically the largest region, and the area is sometimes subdivided into the Western, Eastern (fruity), Northern Highlands (heathery, spicy: Glenmorangie), and midlands or South Highlands (soft). Climate and topography vary within the Highlands, giving a diversity of style. In general, however, these whiskies are balanced and elegant, with subtle notes of heather and honey. Among these are the classic styles referred to by spirits expert Paul Pacult as "inland" in order to differentiate them from the more maritime styles of whisky. In all cases, the level of peat is independent of the location of the distillery.Speyside
In the center of the Highlands region is the sub-region of Speyside, which some people recognize as a separate region. It lays along the river Spey and its tributaries the Livet, the Avon and the Deveron. This area has very soft water, filtered through the Grampian Mountains. "Heather and honey" are common descriptors for this type of whisky, and it is generally regarded as the most balanced.
This sub-region can be further subdivided by Scotch connoisseurs into smaller areas, including the Livet, Dufftown, Lower Spey and Upper Spey, the Findhorn, the Lossie, and others.
Technically, the islands other than Islay are also considered Highland malts, although the whisky produced there can vary widely. Those produced on the Isle of Skye (Talisker), Mull, Arran and in the Orkneys (Highland Park), are somewhat maritime in character, but usually show less iodine than those from Islay. Islay
Islay is a small island, exposed to the sea. Ardbeg, Lagavullin, Bowmore, Laphroaig are examples of the whisky produced here. In general, they are smoky, with a strong dose of sea salt or iodine on the nose. The most common styles also use a lot of peat, since the island has no coal, and distillers traditionally resorted to the local peat. This is not uniformly the case, however, and there are un-peated styles produced here as well.
Islay was the first region of Scotland to produce whisky, since the technology was imported from Ireland, and Islay is the closest outpost. One reason that distillation flourished on Islay in the early years was that the local lord collected the taxes on the mainland, but his sheriff, who was less exacting, collected them on Islay. Distilleries were legalized throughout the country in 1823, with the provision that they distill a minimum of 180 liters/week in order to ensure consistency.Campbelltown
The Campbelltown region is in decline with only two working distilleries (Springbank, Glen Scotia). These whiskies are generally similar to Islay malts but with less smokiness.
The Lowlands are defined by a line drawn from Dundee to Greenock. This area tends to produce smooth, mellow, and fairly neutral whiskies, many of which are triple distilled. The majority of the whisky distilled here is used in blends.
[Link to this Entry]