Updated: Feb 9
If Scotland were to be distilled and poured into a bottle, the result would be whisky. For years, whisky has played an important role in Scottish culture, with its name deriving from the Gaelic saying ‘uisge beatha’, which translates loosely to 'water of life'.
A drink rich with history, craftsmanship and culture, it does a good job of getting you a wee bit merry. But, if you have ever wondered why certain Scotch whiskies taste so different, it's because where it is produced makes a huge difference in how it looks, smells and tastes.
Coastal distilleries will produce whiskies that taste nothing like an inland whisky and a single malt from one of the island’s distilleries will be different from one from the heavily condensed area of Speyside.
Taking Scotland’s five largest whisky regions, drinks retailer The Bottle Club can reveal which whisky is most popular, and what tastes and smells you can expect to tickle your taste buds.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label- Speyside
The highly complex tipple, Johnnie Walker Blue is created from some exceptionally rare whiskies. In 1819 John Walker sold the family's farm and set up his own grocery store. Frustrated by the quality inconsistencies of Malt Whiskies available at the time, his store soon saw a new addition to its shelves- his own blended whisky.
Originally it was produced in Kilmarnock however, as Walker's bottling plant there closed in 2012, production switched to Diageo's bottling facilities located in Speyside. The region is known for its wide range of whiskies displaying different characters, famously for sweet single malts with either very little peat or no peat present at all.
Smell: A perfume and waxy smell, which is floral and sweet. Not much peat but a tad of smoke. Hints of cherry, raisins, and spiced cinnamon.
Taste: On the palette, you will get a velvety combination of vanilla, honey and rose petals, before broadening out to include a zesty orange flavour with notes of hazelnut, sherry and dark chocolate.
You can order a 70cl bottle of limited edition Johnnie Walker Blue Whisky for £129.99 here
The Famous Grouse Whisky- Highlands
The Highlands is Scotland's largest whisky-producing area with over 25 distilleries, covering anywhere from the north of Glasgow to Thurso. Typical Highland flavours include; fruit cake, malt, oak, heather, dried fruit and smoke, making The Famous Grouse Whisky a typically northern favourite.
Without a doubt, one of the world’s most popular blend, this Highlands take pride in this best-selling Scotch Whisky, a nicely balanced, malty blend first made in 1896. Whilst its spiritual home is at The Glenturret Distillery, the blend is, as you might expect, a closely kept secret.
Smell: A crisp aroma of toffee apples, hints of dried flowers and biscuity barley. Carrying a woody, sherry-cask maturation, you will get a sea spray-like crispness and citrus hints.
Taste: On the palate, you will get a sharp, slightly harsh flavour of vanilla with an almost tequila-like taste lingering around giving a warm after-taste. With a biscuit-laden taste with a core of thick, creamy malt and just a hint of spice.
You can order a 70cl bottle of The Famous Grouse Whisky for £15.99 here
Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Malt Whisky- Islay
Known for its peaty single malts, the Scottish island of Islay is located to the west of the mainland and is one of the smallest Whisky regions in Scotland. Despite being a small island, Islay is currently home to 8 distilleries, 3 of which are World famous, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. Typically Islay flavours are seaweed, brine, carbolic soap, apple, smoke and kippers
Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Malt Whisky tops the list as one of the most richly, full-bodied peated whiskies and the only single malt Scotch whisky to be awarded the Royal Warrant by HRH Prince of Wales. The original Laphroaig, distilled the same way today to when it was invented 75 years ago, with the malted barley dried over a peat fire. The smoke from this peat, found only on Islay, gives Laphroaig its particularly rich flavour.
Smell: Huge smoke, seaweedy, "medicinal", with a hint of sweetness.
Taste: A rich flavour with hints of salt and layers of peatiness which is guaranteed to nicely linger. When enjoying the Laphroaig 10 Year Old, you will first notice the bold, smoky taste, followed by a hint of seaweed and a surprising sweetness.
You can order a 70cl bottle of Laphroaig 10 Year Old Malt Whisky at £34.99 here.
Glenkinchie 12 Year Old Malt Whisky- Lowlands
The Lowlands is the second biggest whisky region in terms of the area it covers, even though it's currently only home to fewer than five distilleries. Lowlands whiskies tend to be light and gentle with no peatiness and unlike any other region, they were once all triple distilled. In the Lowlands, you will get typical flavours including; grass, honeysuckle, cream, toffee, toast and cinnamon.
Matured for 12 years, this Glenkinchie Whisky shows off the characteristic lightness and grassy elements that Lowland whiskies are known for. Particularly an ideal aperitif, or at the start of a meal due to it's fragrant, light and appetising body and taste.
Smell: A good grassy/hay-like dryness and smell to it, like the straw-like colour of the whisky itself, along with hints of nuts and spices.
Taste: A floral whisky with a fresh, creamy taste. A really smooth delivery, especially after adding a drop of water. The mid-palate is crisp and then the flavour settles into a tightly focused bundle of butter icing, lemon cheesecake and freesias
You can order a 70cl bottle of Glenkinchie 12-Year-Old Malt Whisky for £39.90 here
Game of Thrones House Greyjoy - Talisker Select Reserve Malt Whisky- Islands
To celebrate the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, Diageo collaborated with HBO to release a limited edition collection of eight single malt Scotch whiskies inspired by each of the Houses of Westeros and the Night's Watch.
The Islands are not recognised by the Scotch Whisky Association but are easily grouped for geographic reasons. Typically, flavours on the Islands will vary from smoke, brine, oil, black pepper and honey.
This whisky was a special limited edition, released to celebrate the last Game of Thrones Season. Set on the Isle of Skye, much like the Iron Islands the Greyjoy whisky represents their pirating character, along with the Golden copper colour of the liquid provided by the use of heavily charred, ex-Bourbon, American Oak casks.
Smell: Quintessentially Talisker with the signature notes of dry peppery smoke and dark chocolate. Talisker Select Reserve smells of dry Sichuan peppery smoke and dark chocolate on the nose.
Taste: On the palate, the flavour explodes with salted caramel and chilli flakes with an underlying peppery smoke. The long, complex finish is layers of fruit cake and the dry spice of the pepper continues with a lasting hint of leather.
You can order a 70cl bottle of Game of Thrones House Greyjoy - Talisker Select Reserve Malt Whisky for £43.99 here.