Scotland: the country with the highest number of distilleries
Scotland accounts for the largest number of distilleries in the world. With over 97 operating malt distilleries, it offers a broad range of personalities and thoroughly unique flavours.
The question of production regions arose in the early 1980s, when the range of single malts on offer increased significantly.
Five main regions are commonly recognised - the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, the islands and Islay - but this classification is not set in stone and only applies to malt distilleries.
Once the main whisky-producing region, the Lowlands have seen their number of distilleries rapidly decline, dropping from eight distilleries in 1980 to just two in 2000. The Bladnoch distillery located at the southern-most tip of the Lowlands recently reopened its doors, as did Aisla Bay, increasing the number of working distilleries to four.
The whiskies of the Lowlands, Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie are renowned for the delicacy and freshness of their aromas, often characterised by herbaceous and floral notes.
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Auchentoshan distillery in the Lowlands
Scotland’s largest region, the Highlands stretch down to the south from Dundee to Campbeltown and all the way up to the northern town of Thurso. The twenty-six distilleries scattered from north to south and east to west, include some of the finest jewels of the whisky industry: Dalmore, Oban, Aberfeldy andGlenmorangie.
Most Highland whiskies are characterised by notes of salt, broom, spices and sometimes peat, with each individual distillery and ageing process adding its own specific flavours.
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Dalmore distillery in the Highlands
The ‘golden triangle’ of whisky, Speyside stretches from the city of Inverness (West) to Keith (East), just south of the town of Grantown on Spey, and boasts the highest number of distilleries (forty-eight), including the famous Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet,and Aberlour.
Speyside whiskies are known for their fruity notes (white-fleshed fruit, red berries) and their rounded, mellow character.
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Glenfiddich distillery in Speyside
Campbeltown and the islands
Located off the western coast of Scotland, the islands include Orkney
(2 distilleries), Skye (1), Mull (1), Jura (1), Arran (1) and the Campbeltown peninsula (3). They have an inherently maritime character with vegetal (heather) and woody notes.
Talisker is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, and is characterised by a volcanic temperament, infused with smoky notes and spices (pepper).
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The Isle of Arran
The Isle of Islay
Located off the south-western coast of Scotland, of all the islands Islay is the most exposed to high winds and storms. The island is probably home to Scotland’s highest number of distilleries per square metre.
No less than seven distilleries have chosen to set up shop here: Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich, as well as Port Ellen, which closed in 1983, and a newcomer, Kilchoman, which opened in 2005.
These malts are among the smokiest, earthiest and most iodised in Scotland.
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The Isle of Islay and the Ardbeg distillery