Introduction to Scottish whisky
Whisky has been produced in Scotland for hundreds of years, known as the “water of life” in Gaelic - this uisge beatha is synonymous with the country and is world renowned for producing the best drams in the world. But what makes scotch whisky so special?
This “water of life” came from religious beginnings, with the country’s early monks and friars experimenting with winemaking techniques from Europe. Unfortunately grapes were not successful in the local climate, so they needed to find an alternative which was secured through use of grain.
From its religious beginnings in the 11th century, the country embraced this fiery spirit and it soon became a trailblazer from royal patronage, use in early gunpowder, battles over excises taxes and government rules on what makes whisky a whisky - its history is as varied as the differences we find today in the 140 plus distilleries Scotland is home to.
With the greatest concentration of distilleries in the world, it can be confusing to appreciate how one country can sustain so many. This is where the true beauty of whisky comes to life. This unique “life water” is a product of its makers, as well as its surroundings, the unique blend of knowledge, craftsmanship, geography, local environment and raw materials creates a distinction for each and every bottle produced.
Scotland is famous for single malt whisky. The unique blend of heritage and nature have created difference in flavours and tasting profiles that can be explored across the countries five whisky regions. Each region brings something different into the spirits of its area and is a great way to start your introduction into whisky, tasting the differences and finding your favourites.
From a gentler landscape than some of its neighbours, Lowland whisky is similar in character to whiskeys from Ireland. Mellow and malty, with a hint of citrus coming through, bottles from this region are great for a beginner’s palette. Also well known for some cracking grain and blended whiskies.
Lowlands famous neighbour, this region was once known as the whisky producing capital of the world but now focuses more on smaller output through some of the oldest distilleries. More full bodied tone, their zesty and fruity notes are highlighted by this regions unique pinch of salt tasting notes.
Speyside may be small, but it makes up for it in its whisky production with nearly 60% of Scottish production located here. As well as distilleries, the area is well known for fruit growing which shows itself in the notable apple, pear tones found in many of its bottles. Famous also for its use of sherry casks for maturing the whisky, it adds notes of spice and vanilla to its fruitiness.
Covering all of Scotlands 900 islands except Islay, this region sees the greatest differences from one side of the region to the other. From saltiness from coastal distilleries to tastes of the landscape with peat, heather and honey coming from those in the moorlands the range across this region is incredible.
The island home of peaty, smoky and malty whiskies. With nine distilleries across the island, it has crafted an expert approach to understanding just how much the landscape can influence the difference in its drams. With different areas providing distinct differences in peatiness and smokiness in its bottles, this small island delivers both some of the most varied and intense whiskies you will find.