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 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.