The Home of Whisky

The Spirit of Excellence


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Since the mid 1980’s the appreciation of and the interest in Scotch Malt Whisky has been miraculous. Having been perceived as an old man’s tipple it is now acknowledged as a drink of choice by a younger sophisticated consumer. Malt whisky is enjoyed by both men and women alike, who are keen to learn more of the intricacies of this fascinating subject.

 

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 ISLAY

Situated off the West coast of Scotland, Islay is the home of 7 working distilleries and 8 if you count Kilchoman Farm Distillery, Islay’s newest and now the islands most westerly.

The southern distilleries, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin are the most intense and not for the faint hearted. Generally they have the recognized characteristics of brine, iodine and seaweed with the aroma of tar and smoke.

The distilleries from Bowmore across Loch Indaal to Bruichladdich and north to Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain tend to be lighter but still with a maritime presence.

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 SPEYSIDE

Speyside is recognised as the crème de la crème of whisky production and accounts for more than half of Scotland’s malt distilleries. Whisky blenders have traditionally classified malt whiskies into four categories – top-notch, 1st, 2nd and 3rd – and they are agreed that Speyside is home to the 12 top-notch distilleries.

The River Spey is lined with distilleries, as are the many adjoining rivers that flow through the region. “Smiths” Glenlivet, the only distillery permitted to call itself “The Glenlivet”, takes its water from the River Livet or, more precisely, Josie’s Well. Surprisingly very few Speyside distilleries take their water from the River Spey using water from wonderful sounding sources such as the Burn of Auchenderran, Scurran & Rowantree Burns, Foggie Moss Spring, The Craggan Burn or, as in the case of Glenfiddich, Robbie Dhu Springs. The general characteristics can be all things to all people, highly perfumed and floral apples, pears banana and bubble gum.

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HIGHLAND

Coming down the East Coast towards the town of Inverness we encounter Old Pulteney, the most northerly mainland distillery, then past Clynelish and Glenmorangie towards Dalmore on the Cromarty firth.

East Highland Malts skirt Speyside and stretch from the Moray Firth to the Tay and westward to Royal Deeside. From the top, Macduff, Glendronach, Ardmore, Fettercairn and Royal Lochnagar; a wonderfully smooth malt with vanilla toffee sweetness. A generalisation of the main characteristics would be medium bodied, slightly sweet, smooth and with a hint of smoke.

Heading south, we pass Tomatin Distillery then on to Dalwhinnie, nestling at the foot of the Cairngorms mountain range. Further south we pass Blair Athol Distillery, and Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland. Finally Deanston, a converted cotton mill and Tullibardine close to Gleneagles both in the lush fertile countryside of Perthshire. Generally these whiskies tend to be light bodied with violets, mint and soft fruit.

Two distilleries on the West Coast finish our tour of the Highland region. Ben Nevis Distillery, which takes its name from Britain’s highest mountain, is situated on the shores of Loch Linnhe at the southern end of Loch Ness. On the west coast looking on to the Isle of Mull is the Oban Distillery that dates back to 1794.

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ISLAND

Starting in the far north, Highland Park and Scapa from Orkney are classed as Island whiskies in the same category as Jura, Ledaig from the Isle of Mull, and Talisker from Skye. Although you would expect Orkney Whiskies to have a maritime influence this is not the case as they tend to be medium bodied with heathery lavender aromas.

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LOWLAND

The region bounded by an imaginary line from Greenock on the south side of the River Clyde through Dumbarton on the north side running north east through Perth to Dundee. Hadrian’s Wall forms the Southern border of the Lowlands.

Like all things related to Scotch Whisky there are no hard and fast rules as Glengoyne Distillery proves. Being probably south of this line it is in fact a Highland Whisky.

Lowland whiskies tend to be light with grassy and floral notes. They make excellent aperitifs.

In 1885/86 there were 25 operating Lowland Distilleries. By 1930 there were six left. Today there are three.

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CAMPBELLTOWN

Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre, the most southern point on the West Coast, was a haven for illicit distillers and it is claimed that the art of distilling was introduced here with the first Gaels from Ireland in the 6th century.

Campbeltown at one time was known as the whisky capital of the world due to there being 34 working distillers between 1880 and the 1920’s. Today only 2 distilleries remain, Springbank and Glen Scotia.

Both are described as being full bodied with a salty finish.