Scotland is divided into 6 regions that all produce a whisky with a distinct style and taste.

Scotland - All Regions

For purely whisky purposes, Scotland is split into 6 different Scotch Whisky producing regions. Each region has its own characteristics and each distillery produces its own unique style of spirit hence these offer a guideline not a rule.

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As the widest reaching region it is unsurprising that Highland whiskies come in a variety that makes generalised character notes rather difficult. However, it would be fairly true to say that malts from this region are fairly robust and firm, often with a reasonable amount of peat. Other common traits found in certain brands include a spiciness and hints of heather and sea (in the rugged north and west), and more fruitiness (in the slightly more sheltered south-east).

Historically both Speyside and the Islands regions have been considered part of the Highlands. Whilst Speyside is now recognised as a region in its own right some still count the Islands as part of this larger region. Despite being by far the largest geographical area, the Highlands contains only around 30 distilleries.

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The most hospitable and agricultural part of the Scottish countryside, with less extreme impact from the elements, it is perhaps unsurprising that whisky from the region is equally untempered by the briny flavours of the Islands or the peat of the Highlands. This, coupled with predominantly larger stills, gives most Lowland malts a light and dry quality with a spirity taste. In the same way that the Lowlands are the entrance into Scotland, so are it's whiskies often the starting point on many journeys into the world of Single Malt Scotch.

Currently there are only three distilleries in the Lowlands producing whisky (including Bladnoch, the most southerly in Scotland), with one more new distillery active but not yet bottling any product. However, there are still bottlings available from at least six now defunct distilleries, becoming increasingly rare over time.

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Generally regarded as the sweetest of the Single Malts, Speyside whisky is noted for its elegance and complexity. A fairly sheltered area, with good sources of water, the conditions are right for smooth tasting drams, although the sheer number of distilleries does allow for widely varied tastes from brand to brand – from heavier peats and sherries to lighter grasses and minerals.

Universally acknowledged as the heartland of malt distillation, it was Speysides illicit distillers who turned legal in the early 1800's that formed the backbone of the Scotch whisky industry. Even now, the Speyside region accounts for over half of the distilleries in Scotland – more than 80 in production with others currently not in use.

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Like the Highlands, Island malts often differ significantly from each other, although most retain a sense of brine from their seaside location and some display a degree of peatiness. Island malts do not include those from the Isle of Islay, which is considered a region in its own right.

Only a few Island distilleries remain, stretching from the Orkney Isles in the far north, down the west coast to the Isles of Jura and Arran

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Islay (pronounced "eye-luh") malts are renowned the world over for their strong peaty and occasionally medicinal flavours, the power of which divide most whisky drinkers into either the "love it" or "hate it" camp. Laphroaig is particularly famous, often seen or name-checked in US television and film as a sign of a discerning drinker. Despite this association with peat, however, some of Islay's whiskies are much lighter, although still retaining some smokiness.

Despite its small size Islay is considered a mecca for whisky lovers, with eight working distilleries all within easy reach of each other.

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Tacked on to the end of the Highland region, stuck between the Island region distilleries of Jura and Arran, close enough to see Islay to the west and the Lowlands to the east, it would be easy to assume Campbeltown whisky would be a little schizophrenic. Indeed, some of the peat and saltiness of its neighbours can still be found in the few malts available, yet there is still something in their briny nature that allows them to stand out on their own.

Despite being a small peninsula Campbeltown once boasted around thirty distilleries in its region, at one stage even daring to claim to be the whisky capital of the world. In the twentieth century, however, a steep decline with multiple closures led to Campbeltown losing its status as an official region, a status which it only regained in the last few years. With only three distilleries it has a long way to go to reclaim its past glory, although connoisseurs still hold whisky from this region in high regard.

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