We often talk about the 6 whisky regions within Scotland and the whisky styles and flavour profiles generally associated with them. However with the recent boom in whisky production, new methods of maturation and new distilleries, are these regions still relevant today? We believe that in some ways they are...
The 5 original Scotch whisky regions, Highland, Speyside, Lowland, Campbeltown and Islay were first referenced back in 1909 and became legally protected by Scots law in 2009, although a whisky does not legally need to state which region it is from. The sixth region, "Island" is not formally recognised but is used unofficially to help categorise whiskies from distilleries on the Scottish islands.
There has been a lot of debate as to whether the whisky regions are still relevant today. We believe that in some ways, they are...
Previously a distillery would produce a very distinctive flavour based, amongst other things, on the raw materials; peat, barley and water found in that region. It was then easy to class all distilleries in the same region as having a fairly similar base flavour for example sweet from Speyside, smoke from Islay etc.
However with new production methods, experimentation with maturation and the ease of transportation of raw materials, the flavours produced by a distillery are much wider and more varied than previously possible and therefore the regional flavour boundaries are blurring and expanding.
So how in these modern times can the whisky regions still be of use?
At the start of your whisky journey, the range of flavours and different distilleries to choose from can be very daunting but looking to the traditional regions can still be helpful to you.
Most distilleries, other than very new distilleries, still retain elements of the regional flavour profile in their core products with their special editions potentially exploring a new style or technique.
The whisky regions are still extensively used to categorise whiskies, for example in our own shop we display products together in regions as this remains the simplest way to find a particular brand or product.
And also, quite obviously, knowing which region a distillery is from will help you locate where it is physically located in Scotland - we're not a huge country but we do have a lot of distilleries!
So although we are living in an exciting time for whisky production, knowing your whisky regions is still very useful.
So what are the flavour profiles for these 'traditional" Scotch whisky regions?