If you have ever wanted to look to buy whisky from a whisky shop or an online whisky exchange you will have noticed that whiskies are categorised by regions. So, what makes an Speyside whisky different from a Highland whisky? This is the third in a number of articles exploring the Scotch whisky production regions. I have examined the Lowland region and the Highlands. An area within the Highlands is Speyside. To understand the different regions is to appreciate the uniqueness of Scotch whisky.
Speyside is an area within the Scottish Highlands in the area around the River Spey in Moray in northeastern Scotland. Due to the high concentration of distilleries in the region it is classed as its own whisky producing region, although some whiskies from this region are marketed as Highland. There are, however, some similarities between Speyside and Highland malts. There are around 60 distilleries in the area and two of the most famous single malts – Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are from here.
History of Speyside Whisky Production
The history of Speyside whisky production is similar to the history of the Highland region. The first legal license to distill whisky in Scotland was granted to the Glenlivet in 1824. Probably because the abundant arable land which was easy to manage (as opposed to the mountains to the west). Now Speyside has some of the best and largest whisky distilleries in Scotland.
Most whiskies distilled in Speyside use only minimally peated barley. To the taste, they only have a hint of smokiness. The malts tend to be light with honey overtones and some distilleries produce malts which are heavier. Generally Speyside whiskies can be divided into two styles: One is light, grassy and at the other end of the spectrum are rich, sweet, sherry-like whiskies.
I will focus on a few of the best distilleries in Speyside as there are too many to go into detail.
Glenfiddich. Started in 1886 by William Grant the distillery has remained independent and family-owned. It was built by him and his nine children and the same warehouses are wine hong kong used today. It is located near the town of Dufftown – right in the heart of Speyside. It is really a giant in whisky production with around 10,000,000 litres of alcohol being produced annually. All the whisky is matured in it’s own onsite warehouses, and is bottled onsite also. They produce a number of malts with the youngest at 12 years old and going up to 21 years old. It is the main whisky used in the Grant’s blend – which uses a similar triangle shape bottle to the classic 12 year old single malt.
The Macallan. Founded in 1824 this is regarded as a classic single malt whisky. It has changed owner and names over the centuries (originally was called the Elchies distillery). It has only gained popularity as a single malt in recent years. It wasn’t until 1970 that it was sold as a single malt. It is now reportedly the world 3rd most popular single malt. The single malt is only ever matured in ex-sherry casks from Jerez in Spain. This gives it a sweet distinctive taste.
The Glenlivet. Situated near the town of Tomintoul The Glenlivet distillery is the first legal Scottish distillery. It is situated on what was once a farm distillery called Upper Drummin. Because the neighbouring distilleries were running without a license they became angry that the owner was running Glenlivet legally, and also becoming very successful. So George Smith, the owner, had to resort to carryng a pair pistols for protection. It is a very smooth and light Speyside malt. It is the second most popular single malt in the world and the top seller in the US.