Scotch whisky making is a craft with two things at its heart – taste and quality. Scotch whisky’s unrivalled quality owes itself to the fact that the art of whisky production developed in Scotland hundreds of years ago. The purity of Scottish water, the fresh air and even the country’s damp climate are perfect for whisky production, giving Scotch whisky a complexity in flavour that other countries are unable to replicate. Scotland has an unparalleled variety of whisky to offer. The multitudes of different distilleries across the country all produce their own unique flavours, and each distillery’s various products can vary significantly between themselves. Younger whiskies tend to have more distillery character, whereas an older whisky’s taste is influenced more by the cask in which it aged.
In the same way that the art of whisky making has improved over time, whisky matures in the barrel as time goes on to improve in taste and become a more valuable product. The spirit draws out the naturally occurring oils in the wood as it matures, and therefore, the choice of wood for the barrel affects the flavour profile of the finished whisky. The wood, usually oak, is also porous to allow air to permeate the cask and infuse with the whisky to eliminate rougher flavours and produce a more mellow-tasting spirit. The improvement in taste is a significant factor in the increase in price with an older whisky. However, another influence on the higher price is the fact that the older a whisky is, the rarer it is. As whisky ages in the barrel, a portion of it disappears due to the natural evaporation of the liquid, and this is known as the ‘Angels Share’. The longer whisky ages, the more of it disappears. The less that is left once the angels have had their share, the rarer and sought after the whisky generally is!
Single Malt Scotch whiskies is divided into five groups according to which region of Scotland the producing distillery is located. The five regions are Highland, Lowland, Islay, Speyside and Campbeltown, and each region’s whiskies have their own distinct characteristics. The Highlands are Scotland’s biggest whisky region and boasts lots of different styles and flavours due to its sheer geographical size. It offers an array of styles and tastes that is unmatched worldwide, and the rolling landscapes of the Scottish Highlands reflect back in the variation of its whiskies. Due to the region’s vast size, it’s divided into four sub-regions of the compass points, each with distinct flavours. However, despite variations depending on the distillery’s location within the Highlands region, whiskies from the Highlands are well known to be robust and full-bodied, with a beautiful depth to their flavour.
No one knows exactly what element it is that makes whisky from the Highlands so special, but it is often thought to be the purity of the water used in production. The water in the Highlands is some of the purest in Scotland, as it runs through the volcanic rock in the mountains. Even in the modern day, distilleries throughout Scotland stick to the age-old tradition of using the pure, local spring water throughout the production process. Also unique to the production of Scotch is the use of peat, which gives the whisky a smoky flavour when it is used in the kiln while the malt is drying. These traditional production elements that the Scotch industry has perfected over time work together to give the distinctive, special spirit that is still enjoyed worldwide today.