Guide to Whisky
Guide to Whisky
Do you know the difference between whiskey and whisky? Well, true single malt Scotch whisky has no ‘e’, whereas whiskies from the US are Ireland are far more likely to be spelt ‘whiskey’.
The reason behind the difference in the spelling is that the word whisky comes from ‘uisge beatha’, which is Gaelic for ‘water of life’. Despite whisky being the country’s number one export these days, that wasn’t always the case. The US insisted on including the ‘e’ to ensure that consumers knew the difference between the two producers.
However, that’s all changed for the better as Scotland is now the world’s finest producer of whisky and it has even become the national drink. If you’re visiting, it’s well worth exploring the main regions – you can even follow the Malt Whisky Trail, the only one of its kind in the world.
What better way to find out more about Scotch whisky than by hiring a campervan and spending a week or so touring the country’s finest distilleries? You can find out more about the trail and the eight Highlands distilleries on it here.
However, the Highlands is not the only area producing fine whisky. There are five main whisky production regions in Scotland: Highlands (including Speyside), Islands, Islay, Lowlands an Campbeltown. Although every single whisky will taste slightly different, each region tends to have its own characteristics, from light and mellow to deep and smoky.
Despite covering quite a large area, the Lowlands is home to just three working distilleries: Aisla Bay, Auchentoshan and Bladnoch The whiskies distilled here tend to have very malty and grassy undertones, and remain lighter than others.
Further north is the Highlands, probably the region with the biggest varieties of whisky; particularly because it is also home to Speyside, which is often named as a standalone region due to the strong characteristics and number of distilleries. Some examples of whiskies from the Highlands include Glenmorangie, Talisker, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet.
Islay, known as Whisky Island, is a small island in the Inner Hebrides. There eight distilleries on the island, which products some of Scotland’s most distinct malts. Islay whisky tends to be very smoky and heavily peated.
Campbeltown has just 10% of the distilleries that it used to because of US Prohibition. Springbank, Glen Gyle and Glen Scotia are the three remaining, although only two are still producing whisky. You should expect a dry, full bodied whisky with little peat and salt.
Again, the islands are technically part of the Highlands, so this area is not recognised by the Scotch Whisky Associated, but many people still refer to it as a standalone region. The proximity to the sea plays a big part in the flavour of the whisky, but each distillery has a distinctive flavour, some much smokier than others.