As part of our tour of the whisky regions of Scotland, we’re stopping off in the Highlands for a look around and suggesting some bottles for you to try. And don’t forget you could win a trip to one of the five regions of Scotland in our new competition

We’re back on our whistle stop tour of the five regions of Scotch whisky with a look at the most geographically large region of them all. It’s the mighty Highlands which stretches from Loch Lomond in the south west to John O’ Groats in the north east and beyond into the islands. 

Map of Scotch-Whisky

The regions of Scotland await

I’ll take the high road

In the olden days, there were only two regions, Highland and Lowland, and the line that divided them was known, logically, as the Highland Line. It ran from Greenock just north of Glasgow on the Firth of Forth to Dundee on the Firth of Tay dividing Scotland in two. Different excise laws governed the two regions. Anything above was Highland and made only from malted barley and distilled in small copper pot stills. Lowland whisky was largely made from other grains with some malted barley. Grain spirit in the Lowlands became, on the whole, an industrial product and was often rectified to make gin. Malt whisky from the Highlands in contrast became a much sought-after drink in its own right even though most of it was produced illegally. 

In 1832, this changed with the Excise Act which made it much easier to obtain a licence to distil and many landlords realised that they could commercialise the illicit distilling that was already going on on their estates. This led to a boom in distilling and distilleries were founded throughout the Highlands to take advantage of the burgeoning market in Scotland, England and eventually around the world.

whisky regions of scotland

Leaving the Highlands

Certain areas within the old Highland region began to develop their own local styles most notably on the island of Islay but also at Campbeltown and Speyside, the area around Glenlivet. The Highlands as a whisky region now refers to whatever is in the Highlands of Scotland, but doesn’t fit into one of these other categories. So that includes everything from Aberfeldy down near Perth, Old Pulteney in the far north, and peaty island whiskies like Talisker and Highland Park. Some guides list the Islands separately though it’s not recognised as such by Scotch Whisky Association. 

With such a wide geography, varied history and the different sources of fuel traditionally used to malt the barley, it is impossible to generalise about a Highland style. So the best place to explore is in the glass. Here are three to try which show the diversity of Highland Scotch whisky. 

Buy one of these three bottles and you could win a trip to the Highlands

Buy one of these three bottles from Fettercairn and you could win a trip to the Highlands

Highland Park Cask Strength – Release No.3

With its heather, smoke and honey flavour profile, Highland Park 12 year old is a great favourite here at Master of Malt. But the cask strength is even better, everything is just turned up a notch without losing its balance. 

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old – The Original 

Located just north of Inverness, Glenmorangie makes deliciously fruity, creamy whiskies. The 10 year old is just bursting with citrus flavours and while we love it neat, it’s a great mixer especially in a HIghball with a dash of orange bitters. 

Fettercairn 16 Year Old – 3rd Release: 2022  

This limited edition Fettercairn shows the sherried side of the Highlands. It was matured in Pedro Ximénez, oloroso, and bourbon casks adding dried fruit, molasses and honey to the classic tropical fruit-laden Fettercairn style.

Buy a bottle of Fettercairn 16 Year Old – 3rd Release: 2022, Fettercairn 12 Year Old or Fettercairn 22 Year Old and you will automatically be entered into a draw to win a trip to the Highlands.