A beginner’s guide to Scotch whisky regions

by Sam Rourke
Photo of Scottish whisky region
Ever wondered why one whisky tastes so different from another?
It’s due to where it was distilled.
Scotch is a complex drink and – although it’s all technically made in the same country – its flavour and characteristics will differ greatly depending on the region in which it was produced. For anyone new to this delicious tipple, here we’ve created a simple beginner’s guide to the Scottish whisky regions, and the distinctive tastes and aromas that you can expect from each.

5 Scottish whisky regions that you need to know

1. Speyside

Map of Scotch whisky regions
Speyside is located in the north east of Scotland, alongside the River Spey.
It’s home to more than half of Scotland’s distilleries, accounting for approximately 60% of the county’s single malt production. And its most famous and successful distilleries – including Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and The Macallan – are now best-sellers all over the world.
Whiskies from this region are known for being sweet and fruity, with very little peat. And typical flavours include apple, vanilla, oak, nutmeg and dried fruit. Perfect for ‘whisky beginners’.

 2. Lowlands

This is one of the biggest Scotch whisky regions. Located just above England, it covers the entire south of Scotland (up to Glasgow and Edinburgh), yet currently has less than five distilleries.
Lowland whiskies tend to be very soft, smooth and gentle, with zero peatiness. They’re typically triple-distilled single malts, with flavours such as toffee, ginger and cinnamon. And, as the distilleries are located inland, there’s very little salinity within the liquor. A great entry-level choice.

3. Highlands

Highlands is Scotland’s largest whisky-producing region. Just as the name suggests, it includes everywhere in the north of the country (excluding Speyside) and features over 25 distilleries.
These distilleries are spread over a large area. And as a result, the whiskies vary greatly in terms of their flavour. This is a diverse Scotch region, with something to suit everyone, and it’s very difficult to put a certain style on the liquors produced here. You’ll find some are full-bodied, sweet and rich in character. Some are subtle and oaky. Whilst others are light and fruity, with a peaty punch.

Scotch region were whisky is distilled

4. Campbeltown

Campbeltown is part of mainland Scotland, found at the tip of the peninsula between Arran, Islay and Northern Island. It was once a thriving whisky hotspot, boasting over 34 successful and much-loved distilleries. But now it has just three to its name: Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank.
These distilleries are renowned for dry whiskies, with a unique and pungent taste. Expect saltiness, smokiness and sweetness, and flavours of vanilla, dried fruit and toffee – all at once. The spirits produced in this tiny Scotch region are certainly for those with an acquired taste.

5. Islay

Last but not least is the Island of Islay (pronounced eye-luh). This is located to the west of the mainland and, in terms of area coverage, it’s the smallest of all five Scottish whisky regions. Yet it’s still home to eight distilleries, three of which are world-famous, including Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin.
Islay is acclaimed for its heavily-peated single malts. Here, the distilleries focus on smoky whiskies – that are super strong and intensely flavoured with salt, peat, seaweed, brine, and apple. 

Whisky made in one of the five Scotch regions

Taste your way through the Scotch whisky regions

The taste of a whisky is largely determined by the Scottish whisky region in which it was made. And to decide on your favourite, it’s a matter of trial and error. It makes sense to sample a little tipple from each area and, in our opinion, our whisky tasting sets are the perfect way to do that.
Each set has a selection of single malts and grains from the five different regions, including whiskies that are from today’s most successful distilleries and distilleries that are now closed. These are supplied in 30ml measures – just enough to appreciate and enjoy the delectable flavours of each – and come with a series of tasting cards, with further information about the distillery and its region.
So, why not treat yourself?
Take a look through our full online collection today, place your order and start to taste your way through the world-renowned Scotch regions. And if you have any questions about our products, feel free to get in touch. We’re always on hand and happy to assist in any way that we can. Either give us a call on 01743 247220 or send an online message and we’ll respond as soon as possible.