There is nowhere more prominently associated with whisky than Scotland. Whether it was the first country to distil barley spirit or not, nowhere has more variety of expressions of single malt whisky than this wonderful country. However, we must also remember the importance of blended whisky to Scotland, with over 90% of whisky by volume made being blended. Single malt distilleries rely on blenders much to the same extent that blenders rely on them. Interest in single malt whiskies has been increasing since the 1970s, with current day consumers moving away from the alcohol their parents drank.
For the purposes of whisky, Scotland is split into five regions: Speyside, the Highlands, the Lowlands, the Islands, Islay and Campbeltown. The boundary lines are rarely geographic – apart from Islay – and are mainly historic political lines that have scant meaning anymore. There are a few anomalies: Speyside is technically in the Highlands, and the Isle of Arran is technically part of the Highlands region, although it is classed as an island because, well, it is an island.
Generalising styles by region is helpful, but not particularly accurate. As you will find, two distilleries can be located next to one another but produce widely different styles. Not to be mistaken, though; terrior plays a hugely important part in making the whisky produced by a distillery fundamentally theirs. This comes across in the use of peat, the water, and the location of the warehouse. However, the peculiarities of production are so influential that two distilleries could operate identical to one another, but a slight bend in the lyne arm of one still compared to the other can fundamentally alter the final whisky.
It is for these reasons that Scotland is a fascinating country, whose whiskies expression the character of the country in a way no other product or art form could be.