Whisky Regions
Speyside
Speyside used to be considered part of the Highlands but it has been recognised as its own region since 2014 and includes the area between the Highlands and Aberdeenshire. While it’s much smaller geographically than either the Highlands and Lowlands regions, it still manages to have the largest number of whisky distilleries in Scotland with around 50 active currently.
Here’s everything you need to know about Speyside whisky.
History

Speyside takes its name as a region from the River Spey, which runs through it, and many of the distilleries take their water from it. Roughly 50% of all of Scottish whisky is produced here, partly because of the river and its low levels of mineral content, but also because it is a relatively dry and warm region with a large barley supply.

Legal production began here in 1824 when the Glenlivet Distillery received a license a year after the Excise Act came into effect. Rumour has it that its owners had to carry weapons to protect themselves from the less legal distillers in the area.

For many years Speyside whiskies referred to themselves as Highlands whiskies and this practice still continues with some distilleries, including the legendary Macallan. In 2009, the Scotch Whisky Regulations clarified which were Highlands and which were Speyside.

Speyside Whiskies

Speyside whiskies come in many forms but there are two main varieties including light, sweet, grassy and honeyed single malts and more full bodied sherried whiskies. Glenfiddich, The Macallan and The Glenlivet make up a third of the entire single malt market between them, highlighting the dominance of Speyside whiskies.

Some of the main distilleries in Speyside include:
The BenRiach Distillery - Founded in 1898 on the outskirts of Elgin, this forward-thinking distillery uses water from rocks found underneath its structure which results in a high mineral content. Its eclectic cask portfolio can be classified into three renowned styles of distilled spirit: classic, peated or triple distilled.
The Macallan Distillery - Founded in 1824 in Craigellachie, Moray, The Macallan is one of the most prestigious names in Scotch whisky and has broken records in recent years with rare bottles selling for more than £1m each. With a £140m new distillery and visitor centre opening in 2019 and its whiskies always highly valued, this is a brand on top of its game.
Glenfiddich Distillery - The world’s best-selling single malt whisky, Glenfiddich produced its first whiskies on Christmas Day 1887. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, even coming through some of the tougher times in the whisky market, like the 1920s when Prohibition in the USA badly affected other distilleries. Instead, Glenfiddich managed to continue growing. Today it’s internationally renowned and popular.
The Glenlivet Distillery - The first person to apply for and receive a license to distil whisky legally was George Smith of The Glenlivet Distillery in 1824, having previously run an illegal still on the site. Today, The Glenlivet is the world’s second-best selling single malt whisky after Glenfiddich and is the most popular in the USA.
The Glenrothes Distillery - Founded in 1879, beside the Burn of Rothes by James Stuart & Co who also ran The Macallan, The Glenrothes has survived several fires and explosions including one in 1922 that destroyed 200,000 gallons of spirits. Despite these setbacks, the distillery has built up a reputation for quality with a floral, sweet and spicy flavour profile.
The Linkwood Distillery - The history of The Linkwood Distillery can be traced back to 1821 when it was founded by Peter Brown. Today it is recognised by whisky connoisseurs worldwide for its distilled single malt. Two things that set this distillery apart is its distinctive Pagoda roof and it’s also one of the few distilleries that has two different still houses.
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