Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Scotch regions and their unique flavors
Scotch, as we already know, is produced in Scotland. However, the whisky is not made throughout the country; rather it is produced only in certain regions. There are five primary (some argue six) scotch whisky production regions, namely: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay. There is also "Islands", which comprise all of the whisky producing islands in Scotland except Islay. The Islands is typically considered as part of the Highland district, but with its unique offerings, some argue that it deserves recognition as its own region.
Although each whisky made at different distilleries is unique, the malts produced in each region have some common characteristics that separate them from scotch from other regions.
The Highlands is the largest of the whisky producing regions in Scotland and generally produces more full-bodies whiskies with deeper notes of peat and smoke. Due to the vastity of the region, Highland whiskies often taste very different from each other, from the extreme heathery, spicy character of Northern Highlands to the fruity whiskies of the Southern Highlands.
Famous distilleries: Oban, Glenmorangie, Dalmore.
There are only three operating distilleries remaining in the Lowlands. Lowlands is located at the southernmost part of Scotland, and is a flat region with no mountains. Scotch from this region are generally considered as the most light bodied of the Single Malts.
Famous (remaining) distilleries: Glenkinchie, Bladnoch, Auchentoshan
Speyside, the undisputed center for whisky in Scotland, boasts the highest concentration of distilleries (more than half the distilleries in Scotland are located in Speyside). Although the Speyside region is geographically part of the Highlands, it is considered a separate region because of its unique characteristics. The region received its name from the river Spey, which cuts through the area. Many of the distilleries use water straight from the river Spey in their production process. Speyside scotch are thought to be the country's most complex, and is known for their sweetness and elegant flavors and aromas.
Famous distilleries: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, and blends like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal.
Once the whisky capital of Scotland, there are only three distilleries remaining in Campbeltown. The Scotch here is peaty, and has a salty hint and a briny character.
Famous (remaining) distilleries: Glen Scotia, Glengyle, Springbank.
Pronunced "eye-luh", Islay scotch is considered to be the smokiest and strongest-flavored (some say it tastes of the sea) of the single malts. Their strong flavor is believed to be due to the region's exposure to the high winds and seas of the west coast
Famous distilleries: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Ardbeg.
Though not considered by all as a region of its own, scotch from the Islands can be described as a milder version of Islay whisky (sort of like a hybrid between Highland and Islay whiskies).
Famous distilleries: Highland Park, Talisker.