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5 Whisky Regions Every
Whisky Lover Needs
to Visit in Scotland

ballantines scotch whisky mashing distillery 2

Nothing beats a holiday based on something you love. If you’re a whisky fan, you probably have a dream distillery visit in mind but for a truly mind-opening whisky experience, it’s worth branching out and exploring the area around where your favourite whisky is expertly crafted.

Scotch whisky can only be called such if it is manufactured and aged in Scotland and there are five Scotch whisky regions – Campbeltown, Highlands, Islay, Lowlands, and Speyside. Each offers a different perspective on Scotch whisky as well as a wonderful destination for a getaway.

On visiting any of the scotch regions, you’ll find the spots that gave rise to all your favourite bottles and be immersed in history. For instance, the story of Ballantine’s Scotch whisky began in Edinburgh in 1827 and it is now blended and bottled in Dumbarton.

If you’re planning a trip to Scotland and want an authentic whisky-tasting adventure, a visit to each of the regions is a must. Our guide to the 5 whisky regions of Scotland will give you some useful information before you set off.

What are the 5 whisky-producing regions of Scotland?

There are five major whisky regions of Scotland, Speyside, Lowlands, Highlands, Campbeltown and Islay. Each area has different qualities that leave their marks on the whiskies that are produced there.

Speyside

Speyside is arguably the most well-known whisky region as it is home to more than half of all distilleries in Scotland. It is situated in the lower northeast corner of the Highlands and lies between Inverness and Aberdeen. It has a rich and varied landscape, with the River Spey, which the region is named after, flowing through it. Many Speyside distilleries use water from the River Spey in some form in the production of their whiskies.

Highlands

The Highlands cover the largest area of all the Scotch whisky regions, spanning from the northwest of Glasgow to the Northern islands. At the heart of the region, you’ll find Loch Ness but across its entirety, you’ll also find plenty of picturesque scenery including rolling hills, green glens, and crystal-clear lakes. And that’s without taking the manmade structures of castles and cathedrals into consideration.

There are many Highland distilleries but as they are spread further apart than the distilleries found in other regions, the taste profiles of their Scotch whiskies can vary quite significantly.

Islay

A small island off the southern coast of Scotland, Islay has just 8 distilleries and is the smallest region in terms of area coverage. As an island, it boasts stunning shorelines but the land itself is dominated by Sphagnum peat, which contributes to the whiskies distilled here.

Lowlands

The Lowlands Scotch whisky region can be found in the southernmost part of Scotland and is near the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, making it an easy place for whisky enthusiasts to visit. Much of this area, which is characterised by a structure of sedimentary rocks with coal deposits and fertile greenery, lies within the basins of the River Forth and the River Clyde.

The region is known for its preference for triple distillation and whiskies which are more delicate, sweet and floral than other varieties.

Campbeltown

Campbeltown may be a well-known whisky region but in terms of its geography, it isn’t all that large. In fact, it is a town of approximately just 4,500 people. It lies by Campbeltown Loch, in a deep bay sheltered by Davaar Island, on the Kintyre peninsula. Aside from being famous for its Scotch whisky production, it is also highly regarded as a fishing port.

Whiskies made in Campbeltown are recognised for smoky, briny and salty flavours as well as notes of fruit, toffee and vanilla.

What is the difference between Islay and Speyside?

Apart from the geographical differences, Islay and Speyside whisky are the easiest to tell apart. While a Speyside whisky tour would certainly be enjoyable for anyone who likes the occasional sip of whisky, an Islay tour can be a lot more divisive! 

 

Unlike the smooth and sweet sensations of an iconic Speyside scotch, Islay whisky typically leans into the peatier side of the whisky flavour wheel. If there is a taste of smoke and the sea, odds are you’re sipping an Islay. The intensity is due to the fact there’s relatively little land in the Islay area, which also means there are only a handful of distilleries based here. To create a true Islay whisky, the earth for barley to grow in has to be both peaty and fertile, and this isn’t common.

What is the difference between Speyside and Highland scotch?

While Speyside wins in terms of numbers of distilleries, the Highland regions take the lead in terms of variety. The overall region covers so much of the country it makes sense that distillers so far apart would produce very different styles of whisky. And since the Highlands make up the bulk of Scotland’s landmass, it’s worth visiting at at least one of the distilleries across the region on your journey.  

 

You won’t find a common unifying flavour note across Highland whiskies. Some have heavy, peaty notes while others verge on being desserts, with hints of vanilla and fruits. It’s a good idea to break down the region into North, South, East or West Highland and do some tasting until you discover which area’s flavours and aromas you most enjoy. 

SIPS OF SCOTLAND

So, Scotland has the scenery, and it definitely has the Scotch thanks to its 5 world-renowned whisky regions but its wonderful offerings don’t stop there. It’s also known for a variety of produce including raspberries, strawberries, apples, honey, dairy, oats, and marmalade. Therefore, why not combines all of these Scottish delights with some delicious whisky cocktails?

A Sunny Scotland, for instance, is a whisky raspberry cocktail which is sweet, refreshing and perfect for summer. For a creamy classic, you can’t go far wrong with an Atholl Brose, which combines 12 year old scotch with honey, oats and cream. Or, if you love the citrus kick from marmalade but want to forego the stickiness, an orange twist is likely to be ideal. It’s like an Old Fashioned with an added punch of zest thanks to a delightful mix of orange bitters and Ballantine’s 23 year scotch.

Take a trip and dive in

Whether you’re new to drinking whisky or a scotch aficionado, undertaking a whisky tasting of a variety of whiskies from a range of distilleries is worth it during any jaunt to the Scottish whisky regions. Our Ballantine’s blend is the result of over 50 different top-quality grains sourced from across the entire country, so you’re guaranteed a rich, fascinating flavour with every sip.

For more ways to enjoy whisky, take a look at our whisky cocktail recipes, including whisky sour variations and apple whisky drinks.

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