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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.

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 BalvenieAberlourTomintoul and Glen Moray.

  • Speyside distilleries
  • Aberlour − the best selling whisky in France
  • Allt-a-Bhainne− relatively unknown distillery whose whisky goes almost exclusively into Chivas Regal blending
  • Auchroisk− modern 1970s distillery that produces whisky exclusively for the J&B Rare blend
  • Aultmore− little known distillery owned by Dewars
  • Balmenach− old distillery renovated and restarted by Inver House Distillers in 1997
  • Balvenie− Glenfiddich's 'little' sister but still one of the largest distilleries in Speyside
  • Benriach− a small independently owned and innovative distillery
  • Benrinnes− one of the corner stones of the Johnnie Walker blended whisky range
  • Benromach− small and experimental distillery owned by independent bottling company Gordon & Macphail
  • Braeval− also known as Braes of Glenlivet, a distillery built to produce whisky for blending
  • Cardhu− the home of one of the best selling single malt whiskies in southern Europe and America
  • Cragganmore− a typical Speyside whisky that is the region's representative in the 'Classic Malts' series
  • Craigellachie− distillery that produces whisky exclusively for the Dewar's white label blend
  • Dailuaine− environmentally friendly distillery that is the backbone of the Johnnie Walker blended range
  • Dufftown− little known but large distillery in the town of the same name
  • Glendronach− distillery that forms an important part of the Teacher's blend
  • Glendullan− distillery that produces whisky for the Old Parr blend for the export market
  • Glenfarclas− Scotland's second oldest continual family owned distillery
  • Glenfiddich− pioneering distillery that is the home of the world best selling single malt whisky
  • Glenglassaugh− distillery that has been recently re-opened in November 2008 by private investors
  • Glen Grant− a large and famous distillery that is one of the biggest sellers worldwide
  • Glenlivet− Scotland's first legal distillery and one of the best selling whiskies in the world
  • Glenlossie− a little known distillery that produces spirit for a variety of Diageo blends
  • Glen Moray− popular single malt that was recently taken over by French spirits company La Martiniquaise
  • Glenrothes− highly reputable distillery that produces rich single malts and whisky for the famous Cutty Sark blend
  • Glen Spey− a light fresh spirit that is used primarily in the J&B Rare blended range
  • Glentauchers− distillery that produces exclusively for the Ballantine's blended range
  • Inchgower− Diageo owed distillery that contributes to the Bell's and Johnnie Walker blended ranges
  • Knockando− one of the earliest distilleries to export single malt whisky. Currently one of the best sellers in continental Europe and America
  • Knockdhu (An Cnoc)− renamed as 'An Cnoc' to avoid confusion with Knockando whisky
  • Linkwood− well reknowned light and fresh whisky that is released as single malt and contributes towards blends
  • Longmorn− rich and fruity whisky that is well regarded as a single malt but is mostly used in Chivas Regal's premium blends
  • Macallan− iconic distillery that produces classic whiskies that are amongst the best selling worldwide
  • Mannochmore− a 1970s distillery that is the home of the Haig's blended range and once produced the legendary black whisky Loch Dhu
  • Miltonduff− high capacity distillery that produces the lion's share of whisky for the Ballantine's and Teacher's blends
  • Mortlach− dark and fruity whisky that is becoming harder to find due to its inclusion in the popular Johnnie Walker black label
  • Speyburn− a light, fresh and zesty whisky that is marketed as 'value for money' and one of the best sellers in America
  • Speyside− a new distillery set up in ancient farm buildings that releases whisky under the names 'Speyside' and 'Drumguish'
  • Strathisla− one of Scotland's oldest distilleries contributing to Chivas Regal blends Strathmill
    • − little known distillery that is the home of the J&B Rare blended whisky brand
  • Tamdhu− large distillery with one of the largest malting facilities in Scotland. contributes to the Famous Grouse blends
  • Tamnavulin− 1960s distillery recently re-opened by owners Whyte & Mackay
  • Tomatin− independently owned large distillery whose single malt is popular in Japan and contributes to the Antiquary blend
  • Tomintoul− the highest distillery above sea level in Speyside
  • Tormore− large 1950s distillery with pioneering architecture designed by Sir Albert Richardson

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.
Northern 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: Soft & Smooth

Perching just above England, the Lowlands can play truant from peat or salinity. Soft and smooth 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 GlenkinchieLinlithgowGirvan 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.

LaphroaigLagavulinKilchomanCaol IlaBunnahabhainBruichladdichBowmore and Ardbeg make up Islay’s 8 distilleries. Between them, they evoke anything from linseed to moss, pepper to purity, carbolic to floral palates.

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.

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.