Scotland is famous for many things: its rich history, epic scenery and of course its whisky.
The history of the famous brew actually comes from the country’s rebel past. The distillers avoided paying the taxman for almost 200 years. At one point in the late 18th century, there were 8 legal distilleries compared to 400 illegal ones!
Today, a good quality Scotch whisky is renowned across the world, and accounts for a large number of Scotland’s food and drink exports. This makes the country one of the best travel destinations in the world to taste the finest whiskies.
Scotch is divided into 5 producing categories, all with their own distinct flavour. They are Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Highland and Islay.
This region encompasses Edinburgh, Fife and Glasgow, with flat lands and a mild climate. This makes it ideal for growing barley, and is famous for its light and unpeated whiskies.
There aren’t many single-malt distilleries left, but visitors are encouraged to visit those still present to learn about the production process.
Learn more about Lowland whisky and try some for yourself at the Scotch Whisky experience. It’s based on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, and is home to the country’s largest whisky collection. Check the website for the most up-to-date information.
This region’s home to approximately half of the country’s distilleries, located in the pretty highlands just east of Inverness. Its named after the River Spey, and the majority of the distilleries are in the nearby glens.
The land together with the pure water in Speyside all make for a fine, smooth whisky. They differ to the salty and peated varieties from other regions and are characterised by sweet and fruity blends.
There are many, many distilleries to choose from, but a nice starting point is the Aberlour Distillery in Banffshire. Guests are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at how the whisky is made and of course taste it after! Booking is strongly recommended. Get your tickets here.
The Highlands region is huge, and encompasses Orkney to the Isle of Arran in the south, and Aberdeenshire to the Outer Hebrides.
Expect strong and robust single-malt whiskies in this region, all made with the purest water from the Highlands. Whiskies from the north distilleries tend to be full-bodied and sweeter, while in the south, they’re lighter, drier and fruitier.
Pay a visit to Glenmorangie Distillery, which has been producing Single Highland Malt since 1843. During the tour, you’ll see the skilled workers making the whisky, plus the tallest copper stills in Scotland, standing at 16ft 10’.
At the end, you’ll of course get to sample a dram or two of the fine stuff.
At 25 miles long, Islay is situated on Scotland’s west coast. There are 8 active distilleries, and the abundance of spring water, barley and peat make it ideal for producing whisky.
What distinguishes Islay whiskies from the other regions is the peat. The peat has been burned in kilns to dry the barley, and been formed for millions of years (!). The result are single-malt whiskies with a renowned smokiness and a faint taste of sea air and seaweed.
One of the oldest distilleries in Islay is Bowmore Distillery. It’s one of the few places that still produces its own floor malted barley, which is hand turned by maltmen every 4 hours.
Visitors can watch this long-time tradition in the distillery, and even buy a single-malt ranging from 12 years old to 25+ in the shop.
Scotland’s smallest whisky-producing region, Campbeltown, has 3 active distilleries. Despite its small number, its single malts have a distinctive flavour that continues to attract a growing following.
The land, peat bogs and farms growing barley give Campbeltown all the resources it needs to produce a fine whisky.
One of Scotland’s oldest family-run distilleries in the region is Springbank Whisky Distillers. It’s also the only distillery in Scotland to carry out the entire whisky production process.
This includes the traditional floor malting, maturation and bottling. Springbank offers visitors a range of tours to view the factory and process first hand, as well as the tasting room, where guests can sample the distillery’s hard efforts.