Craft & Heritage

Discover scotch

The regional distinctions of Scotland's famous malts and blends

Issue: 2

cotland’s long and colourful whisky producing history has made scotch and whisky almost synonymous for many spirits lovers. In case you've ever wondered when to refer to your favourite malt or blend as scotch, the Alexander & James team has a few pointers on the subject.

Scotch or not?

Scotch whisky, or just 'scotch', is whisky that has been wholly matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years by licensed distillers. Scotch whisky can be blended or a single malt and in recent years single malt whisky has attracted faithful followers. There are more than 90 single malt whisky distilleries operating in Scotland alone, and much like French wine, single malts are typically characterised by region.

Discover scotch

From the smoky malts of Lagavulin to floral character of Cardhu, single malt scotch varies greatly across region. Typically, malts of the same region share similar aromas and flavours. Single malt scotch is classified by the following regions:

  • Islay and Skye: peaty and maritime. Single malts like Talisker, with its slight smokiness and spice come from Skye. Islay malts offer much more smoke. Delicious examples of the Islay smokiness are Lagavulin and Caol Ila.
  • Speyside: fruity and delicate. Some of the most complex, smooth and balanced malts like Cragganmore and Cardhu hail from the Speyside region.
  • Highlands: smooth and floral. Great for newcomers to scotch, light and delicate malts like Dalwhinnie are produced in this wild region.
  • Lowlands: light and fresh. Few distilleries remain in the lowlands, but the light, fresh style of Glenkinchie makes for a great aperatif.

Each distiller influences the flavour of their spirit at every stage of the process, resulting in unique single malt whiskies with shared qualities.

    More scotch facts to whet your palate

  • Scotch whisky typically has a stronger taste the further west it is made in Scotland. West coast malts tend to have a smoky, peaty, maritime flavour.
  • Scotch tends to be smokier in flavour than other whiskies, due to the malt often being dried in peat-fired kilns.
  • Pioneers of Japanese whisky spent time in Scotland in the early 20th century, where they learned tricks of the trade and took them home to imitate scotch.
  • There’s an intellectual aspect to single malt whisky, which appeals to newcomers. You need to dig deep to discover the aromas and flavours that make them what they are. Plus, you need to add descriptions like "chewy dram" and "vibrant mouthfeel" to your vocabulary.
  • Johnnie Walker is the world’s leading producer of blended scotch whisky.

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