Scotch on the Rocks

Scotland’s Whisky Landscape
Scotland is an inventive country. The steam engine, telephone and the bicycle are all Scottish inventions. Even so, one innovation more than any other has become a global icon: fine Scotch whisky. Here is Hackett’s guide to Scotch, with Scotland’s five distilling regions and must-try drams mapped out. Don’t try them all at once now, will you?

1 / Speyside

Speyside is Scotch whisky’s heartland, with some of the oldest and most recognisable distilleries in Scotland to its name. The little village of Dufftown is a site of pilgrimage for whisky lovers, home to Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. Elsewhere, you’ll find The Macallan, The Glenlivet and Glenfarclas, among almost 60 others. The Macallan’s 12-Year-Old Sherry Oak Cask, and Glenfiddich’s 15-Year-Old Solara Reserve are both great start points to explore Speyside whisky.

2 / Highlands

Unsurprisingly, the Highlands produce some of the most robust whiskies in all of Scotland, known for their powerful malts and high proofs. With over 25 distilleries in the region, including Dalmore, Ardmore and Glenmorangie, try Highland Scotch if you’re into big flavours. Start with Oban’s limited edition 18-Year-Old for a strong, smooth dram, which opens up just so with a dash of water. The Dalmore’s Port Wood Reserve is also distinctive and flavoursome.

3 / Lowlands

The Lowlands are known for blended whiskies, and for Scotch distilled with a light, smooth flavour. Auchentoshan is the last distillery in the region to triple-distill all its production, and its Three Wood and Virgin Oak whiskies are both worth a try. For something a little different, you could also try Glenkinchie, whose distillery is just 15 miles from Edinburgh. Its Distillers Edition whiskies are finished in Amontillado Sherry casks for a fruity, rounded profile.

4 / Islay

Islay is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, steeped in distilling tradition. Despite being a ‘big’ island compared with its neighbours, it’s still only 20 miles wide, but it is home to no less than seven distilleries – you can even walk between them if you put your mind to it. Highlights include Ardbeg, known for its complex single malts and Bruichladdich, which makes a series of small batch whiskies under the name of Octomore, which are the most heavily peated whiskies in the world.

5 / Campbeltown

The fifth and final Scotch distilling region is Campbeltown, a picturesque part of mainland Scotland located at the foot of the Mull of Kintyre. It is home to just three distilleries, but between them they pack a punch. The Glengyle distillery was restored from a ruin in 2000, and today distills cask strength whiskies under the Kilkerran brand. Springbank was founded in 1828, and is still family-owned, while the Glen Scotia distillery is known for its powerful Double Wood and 15-Year-Old whiskies, both distilled with a dry, aromatic, distinctive flavour that reflects Campbeltown’s historic whisky style.