Your Cheat Sheet to Scottish Whisky Regions

Do you know your Highlands from your Lowlands when it comes to Scotch? If you’re running a desperate search through your head for anything useful whenever the Scottish Whisky regions are brought up, we’ve got exactly what you’re looking for.

Source: Wikimedia Commons / BriangottsHow many Whisky regions are there?
There are five that remain undisputed: Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, and Campbeltown.

Islay is often considered a region on its own, but can also be included with the Islands. We've opted to consider it the sixth region.
Speyside: Glens a plenty, history in abundance
Speyside is the Whisky Manhattan: The most densely populated Whisky region in the world sits in a fertile valley of rivers and glens. Home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries, Speyside malts from these fifty or so distilleries are known for being frugal with peat and lavish with nutty fruit flavours. Apple, pear, honey, vanilla and spice all have a part to play in the Speyside Whiskies.

Speyside Whisky also knows its way around a Sherry cask, hence the variety between light and grassy malts such as The Glenlivet, and the rich and sweet likes of The Macallan, a chameleon of sorts that mirrors an old English comedic drama.

Glenfiddich distillery, Speyside - Photo: Flickr/christoph_straessler

The area is traditionally split into eight defined towns and areas: Rothes, Strathisla, Lossie, Liver, Fridhorn, Dufftown, Deveron and Speyside Central. Whiskies hailing from the region include the esteemed Glenfiddich as well as The Balvenie, Aberlour, Tomintoul and Glen Moray

Highlands: Whisky variety
Fruitcake and oak flirt with heather and smoke in Highland Whiskies. Wild seas and impenetrable moorland dominate the landscape, creating a breeding ground for powerful peaty drams, whilst still leaving room for floral, silky elegance.

Glenmorangie - Photo: Facebook/GlenmorangieNorthern Highland Whiskies, such as Glenmorangie are particularly spirited, with some relief in the cereals and honeys of Dalmore. Head south for the nutty smack of Tullibardine.

Alternatively, for enduring Whisky, which has been matured for six years in oak casks, try the dry and fruity Glengoyne.

Fruit marries smoke in Ardmore’s east, whilst Dalwhinnie offers syrupy indulgence in the Central Highlands. The West Highlands harbour full-bodied peat Whiskies smothered in smoke; Oban is top of the class in the ranks of audacity.

Lowlands: Triple distilled
Perching just above England, the Lowlands can play truant from peat or salinity. Triple distilled malts are characteristic of the region, offering a gentle, elegant palate reminiscent of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon.

The Lowlands produce drams doted on by lovers of the aperitif and mellow malt. Auchentoshan still triple distill their Whisky to this day, bringing a bracing citrus edge to the table, like an over-lemoned pancake.

Often referenced as the ‘Lowland Ladies’ due to their lighter, floral tones, the region’s famous feminine Whiskies include Glenkinchie, Linlithgow, Girvan and Strathclyde.

Islay: Home to the peated beasts
Islay might be the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, but it’s no less rugged, windswept or barren than its isolated counterparts. Islay malts are pungent with peat, smoke and salinity, revealing their complexity layer after layer.

Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Kilchoman, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich, Bowmore and Ardbeg make up Islay’s 8 distilleries. Between them, they evoke anything from linseed to moss, pepper to purity, carbolic to floral palates.

Lagavulin Distillery, Islay - Photo: Flickr/sashafatcat

The southern, or Kildalton, distilleries are responsible for the full-bodied, briny malts. Meanwhile the northern distilleries offer dry, but far less peaty, assaulting, drams.

Islands: Maritime locations and polarising expressions
The versatility of the Islands accommodates both feathery citrus flavours and smoking peaty noses. Between them, Arran, Mull, Jura, Skye and Orkney champion brine, oil, black pepper, heather and honey. For challenging, volcanic drams full or maritime notes that are anything but tame, Island malts are your calling.

Though most Island whiskies are salted by the sea, some are sweet and herbal. Talisker’s potent malt hails from the largest distillery of all the islands, whilst Tobermory offers fruity relief and Jura a delectable nutty, oily, middle-ground.

Jura distillery area, Islands - Photo: Facebook/Jura Whisky

Campbeltown: From 30+ to 3
The unspoiled peninsula of the Campbeltown region, contrary to its prolific history, now boasts only three coastal Whisky producers.

However, despite the region’s contraction, the malts produced are fiercely enduring and distinctive. Wet wool, salt, smoke, fruit, vanilla and toffee are embraced, abandoned and cocktailed in the various malts of Campbeltown.


Springbank produces three wildly different Whiskies, something achieved through varying levels of peat and still combinations. Longrow, Springbank and Hazelburn range from double to triple distilled, non- to richly peated, caramel to clear.

Glengyle produces the sweet, fruity and spiced Kilkerran and Glen Scotia befriends light and grassy palates. Campbeltown is champion of concentrated expertise.

Ready to start planning your Scotland trip? Don't skip the more detailed overviews of the Scotch Whisky regions on The Flaviar Times!

By Greg


About the author: Greg is a Whisky, brand, and business blogger, based in London. He's engaging the trade and gently educating consumers through the articles on his own blog Great Drams, here on The Flaviar Times and in other trade and consumer publications.

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