Scotland and whisky go together hand in hand, but unfortunately, for most people their whisky experience ends with Johnnie Walker. The reality is that Scotland offers a vast variety of different whiskies within their regions, each with its own unique flavour. The best way to experience Scottish whisky is on a Scotch tour for tasting, which most distilleries offer.
The region of Speyside is the world’s most populated whisky region with 56 malt whisky producers. This region mainly bottles two different categories of whisky: one is light and grassy, while the other is sweet and rich.
The village of Dufftown has an old rhyme, “Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills” which captures Dufftown’s pride in their town’s whisky history. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (May 3-7, 2018) showcases private distillery tours, tastings and more.
Speyside is also home to the Malt Whiskey Trail, which takes 3 days to complete. It covers 9 whisky distilleries (ie. The Glenlivet, Strathisla and Dallas Dhu) and the Speyside Cooperage, the only working barrel maker in the UK.
There are a number of hiking trails linking multiple distilleries in the Speyside area, including one from Craigellachie to Ballindalloch which passes 5 distilleries, including Macallan and Glenfiddich.
The Highlands is the largest region within Scotland and is generally known for its smokier whiskies. The Highlands region has both the highest single malt distillery, as well as the smallest in Scotland.
Dalwhinnie Distillery is the highest distillery in the country at 1,164m above sea level. Its unique distillery tour pairs single malts with highland chocolates.
The Edradour distillery is Scotland’s smallest, dating back to 1825, which impressively has more than 25 distinctly different Highland Single Malt whiskies; furthermore, it is one of the last distilleries to use traditional equipment.
This region is known for its malts being triple-distilled, allowing for much more elegant flavours. Triple distillation allows for the removal of almost all the impurities, making the liquid much more susceptible to the wood casks whilst carrying through the more fruitier and citrus tones.
However, these days, this region has embraced blended whisky, focusing on grain whisky.
Auchentoshan is one of the few single malt scotch whiskies to still be produced in the Lowland area – it is also the highest distillate of any single malt in Scotland. The distillery tour includes a dram and a serve of ale.
Within the Islay there are only a total of 11 different distilleries producing single malt whisky. Due to their barren location and proximity to the ocean, the malts in this region tend to have both smokey and salient flavours. It is said that the whiskies from the Islay region mirror that of Speyside characteristics, because of the immense amount of peat on the island.
To get to Islay you can either fly to Islay Airport or take the ferry across to either the north or south of the island. Once on Islay, it is recommended to rent a car.
Besides the 11 distilleries, Islay is also known for its surrounding marine life, and unmistakably Scottish landscapes.