Scotland splits into 4 main areas: Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay. Additionally there a numerous Islands, some of which sport their own unique cultures; Skye and Jura are but two which notoriously spring to mind. So let me give a breakdown of what’s in store should you choose to visit these places…
Lowland (inc. campletown): As the name suggests, the lowlands are the flat part of Scotland. Running along this theme, you can expect to taste a lighter, more refreshing whiskey, perhaps slightly crisp to the tongue. I would place Lowland whiskies separate to the others and perhaps more akin to an Irish whiskey. Though by no means a bad taste, lowland whisky’s do lack a certain punch and strength which one would expect from whisky. Perhaps not the best accompaniment to a stogie… or even Sumo for that matter. That said, Auchentoshan would be a good place to endeavour.
Highland: Being the largest region in Scotland, Highland whiskies vary quite considerably. Some are spicy, some more fruity and sweet to taste. You also tend to get far more combined Malts from this region (the Famous Grouse for example). That said, to generalise you can expect a stronger malt and smoky taste compared with their lowland counterparts but still less so than other regions. They also tend to kick you in the jaw first and then leave an after-burn. For a fruity number, GlenMorangie comes to mind. Should you care to seek something more akin to and Islay or Speyside – my personal recommendation would be Dalwhinnie 15 year.
Speyside: Though attached to the Highlands, Speyside is considered separate on account of the minerals based around the river. Indeed, most distilleries come from this region. With a Speyside whisky you can expect a very rich flavour. Probably the best whisky to be introduced to and considered good all round for body and jaw-kicking ability. A great accompaniment to a stogie and best choice for those who aren’t so keen on a strong “smoke” taste. If you care to seek truth in what I say, you shalln’t be disappointed with a Macallen or Tamnavulin.
Islay: To sort the real men from the boys, one would visit Islay. The strongest of smokes with distinctive peat and an almost salty taste. Indeed you may find that this is a stronger smoke than a stogie and almost certainly will leave an aftertaste lingering until the morning! Bowmore would be an all-round favourite from this island and is one of the oldest whisky’s from Scotland. Of course Laphroaig springs to mind, and my personal favourite – Ardbeg.
Island Whisky: These whiskies vary considerably in taste and are quite unique and distinctive in their own. If you want the smoke, Talisker from Skye is good. Orkney whisky is more similar to those from the Highlinds, and Arran produces refreshment that comes with the wind (in a higher degree than a lowland whisky). Personal favourite of this category would be Jura whisky – but that may be a bias view, considering that my brother is a Laird of those lands!