Scotland’s Scotch Trail
Scotch Whisky remains one of the world’s leading spirit drinks with many regarding it as the world’s most ‘noble’ spirit. The first written mention of Scotch Whisky in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495 has been inseparably woven into Scotland’s history, culture and customs.
Before you decide on your specific Scotch whisky tour, some knowledge of the regions of Scotland is important.
Is it Spelled Whisky or Whiskey?
Whisky may mean Scotch whisky to most of us; however, it is often wrongly substituted by the spelling ‘whiskey’. According to industry accounts, Scotch whisky globally is the largest selling by far; however, there are many countries that distil their own spirits such as in Ireland, Canada, United States, Japan, and India, which are also known as whiskey.
Scotch Whisky is always spelt without an ‘e’, whether it’s Single Malt Whisky or Blended Scotch Whisky. Typically, when ordering, it is generally shortened to a “Scotch”.
Irish Whiskey distillers have inserted an ‘e’ to their spelling to distinguish their product from Scotch Whisky. In the United States, distillers have generally taken-up the insertion of an ‘e’ for both Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys.
Canadian Whisky and Indian Whisky are also generally spelt without an ‘e’. In the case of both Canadian and Indian Whiskies, it is thought that distillers embraced the spelling when they were part of the British Commonwealth.
Getting to know the Scotch Whisky Regions
Scotch Whisky is like wine, in that the location of where it’s produced makes an enormous difference to how it tastes, looks and smells, even though it’s produced in the same country. Scotch is produced all over Scotland and can be broken down into 6 regions; Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islay and Islands.
The Highlands is by far Scotland’s largest whisky producing area, with distilleries in this area producing 25% of Scotland’s Whisky. Geographically, if you roughly drew a line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, everything above that would be the Highlands, excluding the Speyside region.
With over 30 distilleries in the Highlands, the most notable names include:
Even though the Speyside region, located in the fertile valley of northeast Scotland surrounding the River Spey, is located near the Highlands, its is characterized as its own specific region. In fact, it was once considered a part of the Highlands, however since almost 50% of Scotland’s distilleries are located in this area, it has been officially recognized as its own region.
Notable names in Speyside Whisky include:
- Glenfiddich (the World’s Best-Selling single malt whisky)
- Glen Grant
More than 60% of Scotland’s entire single malt production is from the active distilleries of Speyside.
The Lowlands region covers the south of Scotland up to the north of Edinburgh and Glasgow where it meets the border on the Highlands, and anything south of this is to the border with England is considered the ‘Lowlands’.
Notable Lowlands Whisky Brands:
Campbeltown is part of mainland Scotland and found on the Mull of Kintyre some 240 kilometres from Glasgow and south of Islay. Once a thriving whisky hotspot and considered the whisky capital of Scotland there remains just three distilleries.
Notable names Campbeltown Whisky:
- Glen Scotia
The Scottish island of Islay (pronounced eye-luh) is located to the west of the mainland and makes up the smallest Whisky region in terms of area coverage in Scotland. Even though it’s a relatively small island of only 40 kilometers long, Islay is home to eight distilleries, three of which are well known around the world.
Notable Islay Whisky Brands:
Of the nearly 800 islands off Scotland’s coastline, just a handful are inhabited. Orkney for example, has 2 whisky distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park, which remains one of the legends of the whisky world. Talisker, located on the Isle of Skye, is also a whisky known around the world.
As avid admirers of Scotch whisky, as well as of travelling, we set out on our own whisky trail adventure as a way to discover the natural beauty of the Scottish countryside and picturesque islands. During our travels, we witnessed some astonishingly incredible scenery – rolling heather and peat-covered hills, which made for a really extraordinary and memorable experience.