There are five undisputed Scotch whisky regions: Speyside, Highlands & Islands, Lowlands, Islay, and Campbeltown. The Islands are often considered a region on its own, but they are actually part of the Highlands.
There are nearly 800 islands scattered off Scotland’s crenellated coastline, of which only a few are inhabited – and fewer still have a distillery.
Island single malts are the single malt Scotch whiskies produced on the islands around the perimeter of the Scottish mainland. The islands (excluding Islay) are not recognized in the Scotch Whisky Regulations as a distinct whisky producing region, but are considered to be part of the Highland region. Islay is itself recognized as a distinct whisky producing region.
The whiskies produced on the Islands are extremely varied and have few similarities, though can often be distinguished from other whisky regions by generally having a smokier flavor with peaty undertones.
List of Island Malts
- Abhainn Dearg, on Lewis
- Arran, on Arran
- Highland Park, on Orkney
- Jura, on Jura
- Scapa, on Orkney
- Talisker, on Skye
- Tobermory and Ledaig, both produced at the Tobermory distillery on Mull
The Islands represent a very diverse region and one that is not strictly recognized as a region by the Scotch Whisky Association. It is most probably for geographic ease that this small group of islands is lumped together. There are so many different characters to be found, although usually a slight salinity is to be found, thanks to the vicinity to the sea.
To the very north there is Orkney, whose single malts are coastal and full in the case of Highland Park, with plenty of honey, malt and heather and smoky malt. The other Orcadian distillery, Scapa, has a delightful citrus and herbal quality. Then there is the Isle of Skye with its sole distillery: Talisker. Single malts here are often described as being ‘volcanic’ in character with plenty of body. There’s Arran, who make a malty, rich whisky. It’s a recently founded distillery on the Isle of Arran, founded in 1995. Finally, there’s Mull and Jura. Each with a single distillery a piece. On Mull the Tobermory distillery produces a sweet, thick, slightly herbal whisky (and a heavily peated version called Ledaig) whilst on the Isle of Jura, the distillery with the same name produces some slightly maritime, oily drams with a nutty cereal character.