Whisky Regions

The Highlands

Out of all of the whisky-producing regions of Scotland, the Highlands is the biggest in terms of production and has 30 distilleries.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Highlands Scotch Whisky region.


The distinction between Highlands whiskies and Lowlands whiskies dates back to the Wash Act of 1784 when taxes were raised to bring in much-needed revenue to pay for the Napoleonic War. These taxes worked differently north and south of the geographic line, with Lowlands duty set at 2.10 pounds sterling per gallon of capacity per year while it was just 1.1 pounds in the Highlands.

Meanwhile, because much of the whisky produced in the Highlands (especially the less legal whiskies) was consumed locally, it escaped many of the tax increases that all-but bankrupted the industry in the Lowlands and resulted in lower quality whisky being produced. This meant that Highlands whisky gained a reputation as the better quality produce and grew in popularity.

Highlands Whiskies

Because the landscape of the Highlands is so varied, the whiskies that come from it are equally varied and the region is normally split up into four geographic sub-regions when we talk about their flavours and characteristics.

  • Northern Highlands – These are normally full-bodied, sweet and rich with fruity and nutty flavours.
  • Southern Highlands – These are generally lighter and fruitier, more like those traditionally produced in the Lowlands.
  • Eastern Highlands – Whiskies produced here are also fruity but more full-bodied than those from the South.
  • Western Highlands – There’s more than a touch of sea air about whiskies from the West with a peaty smoky edge.
Some of the main distilleries in the Highlands include:
Ardmore Distillery - This Victorian distillery was built in 1898 by Adam Teacher and its use of Peat Smoke is what gives its single malts a USP. Today the distillery falls under the renowned Beam Suntory umbrella.
Ben Nevis Distillery - Founded in 1825, the Ben Nevis distillery sits nestled at the base of its namesake and this impressive mountain is also where it sources its water. On the outskirts of Inverness-shire, this is a classic example of the dry and intense flavour profile that is expected from whiskies from the Western Highlands.
Glen Garioch Distillery - The oldest and most easterly distillery in the Highlands, Glen Garioch, (pronounced Glen Geerie) dates back to 1797 and boasts a colourful past. Glen Garioch is an award-winning distillery and ownership has changed hands multiple times during its history. It is also known for being the first distillery to use North Sea Gas Fired Stills.
The Dalmore Distillery - A good representative of the Northern Highland single malts with its full-bodied flavour of cereal sweetness and richness, The Dalmore was established in 1839. However, it only took on its iconic Royal Stag emblem after it was bought by the Mackenzie clan (who had earned it when their chief saved King Alexander III from a stag in 1263). For many years, the only single malt they produced was a 12-year-old expression but there’s now a much bigger range.
Royal Brackla Distillery - Founded in 1812, Royal Brackla is one of the few distilleries to be granted a royal warrant. The distillery was mothballed in 1985 but happily brought back to life in 1991 and today produces single malts with that full-bodied fruity flavour of the Northern Highlands.
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