For Whisky to be called Scotch Whisky, it has to satisfy certain criteria which are governed by law Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. There are literally pages of regulations but in simple terms a Scotch Whisky must:
- Be made from barley
- Have been produced in Scotland
- Have been matured in Scotland
- Be matured in oak casks
- Be matured for minimum three years
- Contain nothing else except natural caramel for coloring
Geography plays a main stage for whisky-lovers, and it’s important to know where distinct Scotch whisky styles started and can be found today. Originally defined by four regions (Highlands, Lowlands, Islay, and Campbeltown), today Scotch whisky production is defined by the following six regions.There are 5 main areas of Whisky production in Scotland recognized in law.
Speyside has the largest concentration of distilleries 50% of all the regions. All of which are situated around the Spey river valley in north-east Scotland.Speyside is named after the River Spey, the river that runs through the region. The whiskies from this region are some of the bestselling whiskies in the world. Not surprising when you look at the elegance and depth of the classic Speyside styles.
The temperature, climate and abundance of very pure water make the Speyside region an ideal environment for consistently producing a very high quality malt. With more than 60 distilleries in the Speyside region is there a Speyside style? The answer is in part yes. Many of them are very rich and quite complex. The majority of Speyside whiskies possess a core flavor profile distinguished mouthfeel tend to be subtle light & fruity. Beyond these core values you will find that there are several styles of Speyside whisky produced. Each offers a different experience of their own. These whiskies usually hit all the marks!Whiskies from Speyside tend to be subtle and light with great finesse and little or no peat flavor.
- Tasting note: Orchard fruits like apples and pears, spiced, honey, vanilla, rich
The Highland region is the largest of the whisky producing regions includes Island Whiskies except Islay and with whiskies of various styles and known for their range. From fruit spicy Tullibardine, Clynelish, and Glenfarclas are just a few of the distilleries producing beautiful whisky from this vast area. Produces whiskies of many various styles depending on where they are produced
- Tasting note: Subtle, light, vanilla
The southernmost whisky-producing region in Scotland, home to only a few distilleries today including the beloved Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie, and Bladnoch, as well as some notable grains (and other new innovations!) from Girvan. These are lighter-style whiskies that lack significant peat influence and are often on the dryer-side.
- Tasting note: Malty, floral, light
The elusive Campbeltown whiskies! On the Kintyre peninsula on the West of Scotland once had over 30 distilleries, however today only three distilleries remain operating. Cambeltown whiskies are traditionally full bodies and heavily flavored with a slight saltiness on the finish and some peat influence
- Tasting note: Floral. Tropical fruits. Lightly peated, salty
Islay whisky is strong with sea influence and are distinctively peaty. When you look at the Islay region it has a very signature style. A style of intense and Smokey Scotch whisky, tend to be heavy in flavor but it only has 9 active distilleries. The island of Islay on the West coast of Scotland is renowned for its unique style of whisky often described as peaty and smoky. Islay whiskies tend to be heavy in flavor
- Tasting note: Salty, brine, smoky, powerful
Technically an unclassified sub-region of the Highlands. The Islands include all of the whisky producing islands such as Skye, Jura, Orkney and Arran, are just some of the producers on Scotland’s beautiful island landscapes. Does not include Islay. Island whiskies can vary broadly in terms of flavor depending on where they are produced.
- Tasting note: Subtle peat, dry salty, heather honey, sea brine and gentle smoke.
In each of these 6 regions you will find some similarities within the specific region. But there are many different characteristics that must be considered such as age, barrel selection or selections, single cask, maturation process, to name just few key ones.