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Speyside

The Speyside sub-region of the Scottish Highlands is home to over half of all Scotland’s working distilleries, including some of the most famous whisky names in the world. This significant concentration of producers means there is a wide variety among the styles, flavours, and characters of Speyside malts, making them appealing to a broad range of whisky beginners, connoisseurs, and specialists alike. 

Traditionally robust in character with hints of peat, Speyside whiskies have evolved in recent years to include lighter, sweeter flavours, distinguishing them from their Islay and Highland contemporaries. As a result of the region’s location and the low mineral content of the water, most Speyside whiskies are low in peat, with some being totally unpeated. However, some producers still maintain a slight hint of smoke in their expressions, keeping an air of similarity with the country’s most popular styles. 

Read more about the Speyside region and its whiskies here, or discover their distinct flavours for yourself by placing an order for your next Speyside dram with the House of Whisky today.

Geographically, Speyside is a region within the Highlands of Scotland. However, in whisky, it is a distinguished sub-region due to a large concentration of distilleries in this area and the similarities in styles between them. 

Historically, there has been some debate about the distinction between Highland and Speyside distilleries, with some Speyside distilleries, including Macallan, still labelling themselves as Highland malts on their packaging. 

To prevent any further confusion, the Scotch Whisky Regulations defined the Speyside region in 2009. Under the new regulations, several distilleries thought to be Speyside distilleries, including Glendronach, Ardmore, Macduff, and more, officially became classed as Highland. 

The Malt Whisky Trail is a self-guided heritage trail made up of nine locations throughout the Speyside region, specifically designed to provide you with the best possible combination of walking and whisky. The trail follows marked routes between distilleries and takes participants along the fast-flowing River Spey, through woodlands, farmlands, moorlands, and heather-rich glens, allowing walkers to experience the best views Speyside has to offer. 

On the trail, you can visit and tour the various Speyside distilleries, learning about the processes and sampling the malts that made Scotch the famous spirit it is today. The trail includes stops at eight distilleries, as well as the Speyside Cooperage. The distilleries on the trail are Benromach, Glen Grant, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glen Moray, and Strathisla.

Speyside whiskies generally boast sophisticated, classic flavours that make them appealing to a broad range of Scotch drinkers. Their whiskies are beautifully balanced, with sweet notes, floral aromas, and the occasional smokey character. The expressions that are aged in sherry casks also add notes of spice and nuts, adding even more complexity to these already exceptional malts. 

The most general underlying flavours in Speyside drams include:

  • Apple. 
  • Dried Fruit.
  • Pear. 
  • Nutmeg. 
  • Vanilla. 
  • Honey.
  • Malt. 
  • Oak.

Some more specific flavour profiles of Speyside’s drams include:

Whiskies from Glenlivet and Glen Spey tend to be crisp and fragrant with a clean aftertaste. Their most prominent flavour notes include ripe green fruits, floral aromas, and a touch of sweetness.

The Glendullan and Glen Elgin distilleries largely produce medium-bodied whiskies with softer, more overripe fruit flavours, reminiscent of a bowl of fruit or a baked fruit pie. Wood spice is also more pronounced in these whiskies, with the baking spice aromas and hints of vanilla offsetting each other to create a sweet, balanced flavour. 

Whiskies in this category have rich, rounded fruit flavours emphasised by a nutty, dried fruit character, pronounced sherry notes, and a substantial oily mouthfeel. Sherry has an unmistakable influence on some of these whiskies, with distilleries like Macallan and Aberlour producing expressions matured solely in sherry casks. In contrast, distilleries such as Balvenie and Glenfiddich finish some of their expressions in sherry casks. 

Although peat is found in Speyside, smokey, peaty whiskies are more typically found in the Islay and Western Highlands region. Speyside peat tends to be drier and earthier rather than the briny maritime peat on the Islands, giving peated whiskies from this region more floral notes than their counterparts. Some whiskies using this peat to their advantage to create smokey Speyside expressions include BenRiach and Benromach’s Peat Smoke.

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