The Highlands is Scotland’s largest whisky region. Boasting a huge range of characters, from rich and deep to citrusy and floral, the Highlands offer a libra ry of flavour sensations and, naturally, some of whisky’s most historical and famous names.
Stretching from the outer suburbs of Glasgow to the Pentland Firth and from the Atlantic east coast to the rural west, the Highlands of Scotland vast is home to a variety of distillery styles, all with their own unique and celebrated character.
Geography of the Highland Malt Whisky Producing Areas
Anything that's located north of the (imaginary) line between Glasgow and Edinburgh is considered to be part of the Highlands of Scotland.
The sub-division of the Highlands whisky producing areas is pretty easy to follow. The area north of Speyside - which is a separate, standalone whisky region - is called the Northern Highlands while the area to the east of Speyside is called the Eastern Highlands. The Western Highlands can be found west of Speyside while the Southern Highlands are located to its south. Only 8% of Scotch is kept as single malt, the other 92% is used for blending.
Character of Highland Malt Whisky
Northern Highland Malt Whisky
The character of a general Northern Highland Malt Whisky is loud, sweet and malty. Including the Dalmore, Glen Ord and Old Pulteney, the whiskies from this region are
fragrant with plenty of complexity, with a dry sweetness on the palate. However, there's increasingly some variety in the Northern Highlands whiskies, especially with more and more distillers using modern production techniques.
Some distilleries are finishing part of their whisky in exotic casks. Others heavily peat some of their malted barley to offer variants on their classic bottlings that have not been seen before.
Eastern Highlands Malt Whisky
Sadly, over half of the distilleries in the Eastern Highlands have been closed over the last few decades. Today, only Fettercairn, Glencadam, Glen Garioch and (Royal) Lochnagar are still in active use.
The typical traits of Eastern Highland malts: is a reasonably fruity character with elements of malt and oil.
Southern Highland Malt Whisky
Including the distilleries of Blair Athol and Aberfeldy, Midlands whiskies are considered by many a mixture of Highland and Lowland characteristics.
Where to Start with Highland Malt Whisky
With a range of offerings from areas differing markedly in style, it can be hard to know where to start with Highland malt whisky. Below are some of our personal recommendations from the offerings of this varied, historic and interesting Scottish region: