Scotland and whisky regions

ScotlandSpeysideHighlandsHighlands (North)Highlands (North)Highlands (West)Orkney (Highlands)Skye (Highlands)Highlands (Midlands)Highlands (East)LowlandsLowlandsCampbeltownIslay

And what about the Midlands? Or islands like Arran, Mull,
Orkney and Skye? Well, these five area's were just the five
'main' regions, and not everybody agrees on the borders.
For example, some people treat all the islands around the
mainland of Scotland as a separate malt whisky region all
by itself - with the exception of Islay of course...

That being said, I must admit that I didn't question
those old romantic stories for a long time, In fact, I
even added a nifty Mega Malt Map to this site at
one point. This interactive whisky distillery map
allows visitors to locate neighbouring distilleries
for a particular single malt whisky they enjoyed.

Just like the satellite image at the right suggests, large
parts of Scotland are rough and rugged. Hardly perfect
conditions for agriculture, which makes it all the more
surprising that so much whisky is produced in such a
small part of the world. After the most recent 'boom'
in (malt) whisky, Scotland can't produce all the barley
that's required anymore, so this core ingredient has to
be shipped in from countries like France and Russia.

I have come to believe that factors like age and
wood management are at least as important as
'regional' factors in Scotland, but these aspects
shouldn't be overlooked either. That's why I've
added five pages with a little more information
about the 5 main whisky regions of Scotland
to the Malt Madness site. Each page contains
a full overview of all distilleries in that region;

Linkwood 1939 Scotch whisky

Mind you - they still produce and bottle some great whiskies in Scotland, but these days those great whiskies are becoming the exception to the rule. During the 1990's, about 80% of the single malt whiskies that I bought were good to great, while the remaining 20% were poor to horrible. These days, there are less truly bad whiskies it seems - but also far less great whiskies.

Convalmore malt whisky from Scotland

If the malt whisky distillery was still operational in the 1970's or 1980's there's a decent chance that there are still some old casks lying around in a whisky warehouse somewhere. If there's a fair chance new bottlings from a particular distillery will be released in the future, it's included on the main Distillery Data page.

I've tried to collect as much useful information as possible on these pages. However, whether specific information is actually useful or not depends on one's prior knowledge. Because most of the visitors of Malt Madness have a keen interest in malt whisky (at least I hope so ;-), I don't always explain stuff that is considered 'general knowledge' in circles of malt whisky anoraks. 

So, bottles of malt whisky that were distilled before the 1990's may be quite expensive because they're older, but you usually get a far better class of malt whisky as well. Besides, you can't keep whisky in a cask forever, so these whiskies are running out.

If you happen to be a relative novice in the malt whisky world, it
might be wise to read the Beginner's Guide to Single Malt Whisky before you venture deeper into the hidden depths of Malt Madness. Chapters of particular interest to novices in maltland would be those about the history of Scotch whisky, the vocabulary that is used in the whisky world and the important process of maturation in oak casks.

  • Speyside - the region where most malt whisky distilleries are located.
  • Highlands - effectively, all the areas surrounding the Speyside region.
  • Lowlands - located south of the line between Glasgow & Edinburgh.
  • Islay - a small island off the west coast of the Scottish mainland..
  • Campbeltown - the whisky producing area on the Kintyre peninsula.

If you're interested in more practical applications of this theoretical 'knowledge'
about whisky (i.e. questions like: 'what malt whisky should I invest in next?' or
'if I enjoy this particular whisky, what other whiskies might I like?'), check out
the Liquid Log (tasting reports from 1997 onwards) or the mAlmanac (sort of
rudimentary shopping guide to single malt whisky).

However, if you want to delve a little deeper into the regions of Scotland and
their significance for the style of the whisky that is produced there, visit the
pages that are dedicated to the different malt whisky regions in Scotland;

If you prefer to focus on the individual distilleries, you can click on the name
of the distillery at the left or on the main Distillery Data page to find more
details about that distillery. The profiles contain background information
about stuff like the history and equipment of a certain distillery, as well as
tasting notes for a number of expressions.
 
Alternatively, you can take a look at the interactive malt whisky map.
It allows you to quickly compare the locations and a few other details on
all malt and grain whisky distilleries in Scotland. From there, you can
jump directly to the distillery profile that you want.
 
So, you can reach the various distillery profiles in this site section via
different 'routes' - just choose the way that best suits your preferences.
Choose a distillery from the list at the left - or click on the map below to
jump to the larger interactive Scotch whisky map.

Scotland and whisky regionsInteractive whisky distillery mapScotland - whisky distillery informationScotch whisky bottlersScotch malt whisky brandsNew distillery projects
Single grain whisky distilleries

Overview
 
Speyside
Highlands
Lowlands
Islay
Campbeltown

That fact that they still call the whisky that is produced
from French or Russian barley 'Scotch' whisky proves
that the stories about 'terroir' deserve re-evaluation.
The region where a whisky was produced isn't as big
a factor as it was in the past; with the knowledge
and technology of today, a 'Speyside' distillery can
produce a peaty 'Islay' type malt whisky just as
easily as the regular 'Speyside' type whisky that
has traditionally been produced in the area.

1) Speyside - where most malt whisky distilleries are located.
2) Highlands - effectively, all the areas surrounding the Speyside region.
3) Lowlands - located south of the imaginary line between Glasgow & Edinburgh.
4) Islay - a small, rugged island off the west coast of the mainland, near Glasgow.
5) Campbeltown - the whisky producing area around the town on the Kintyre peninsula.

Glenisla 1977 Scotch whisky by Signatory
Ardbeg 1977 from the Islay region

There are hundreds of silent distilleries in Scotland as well, many of
which have been demolished over the years. Even in recent years,
during an explosion in demand for malt whisky, many of the large
whisky producing corporations like Diageo, William Grant and Pernod
Ricard and kept closing down old distilleries as soon as they built a
new distillery somewhere else that could produce whisky cheaper.
 
And meanwhile, the Scotch Whisky Association (a lobby group for
the large whisky producers in Scotland) keeps pushing for changes
in regulations that benefit the producers and generally screw over
the unwitting whisky consumers. So, perhaps the punters shouldn't
get carried away too much by the enthusiastic stories about tradition
from brand ambassadors - they are basically entertainers that are
much more interested in pushing the new product of their employer
that the long and rich tradition of whisky production in Scotland.
 
Besides - the time that they only knew how to make good whisky in
Scotland is long gone. These days, the average quality of whisky that
is made in Japan, Taiwan or India is higher than that of Scotch whisky.

So, keep in mind that this division into five main regions
is fairly arbitrary - and it doesn't always make perfect
sense. For example, the Speyside area is part of the
Highlands, but since more than half of all distilleries in
Scotland are located there (including big
names like Macallan and Glenlivet), it's
usually treated as a separate region.

And with good reason too... There are
around 100 active malt whisky distilleries
left in Scotland, and more than fifty of
those are located in Speyside.

Map of Scotland

 



















 

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Aberfeldy
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Highland Park
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