Where Malt Whisky is Made
There are discernable differences between whiskies made in one region and those made in another. Traditionally there were four distilling regions:
Lowland, , Islay and Campbeltown
Lowlands typically have a dry finish, which makes them excellent aperitifs. The dryness comes from the malt itself, not from peat (Lowlands tend to use unpeated malt), and this also lends a certain sweet fruitiness to the flavour and mouthfeel. Their aromatic intensity is low, and tends to be grassy or herbal, with grainy and floral notes. It used to be said that they leant a brandy-like flavour to a blended whisky.
Campbeltowns are traditionally full-flavoured and full-bodied whiskies, famous for their depth of flavour and for their slightly salty tang in the finish. They were referred to as "'The Hector of the West', the deepest voice in the choir". The overall impression is often compared to 'sea mist'.
Speysides are essentially sweet whiskies. They have little peaty character (although some have a whiff of smoke) and their salient characteristic is estery - typically, this aroma is compared to pear-drops or solvent (nail varnish remover, particularly). They can be highly perfumed: scents of carnations, roses, violets, apples, bananas, cream soda and lemonade have all been discovered in Speyside malts.
They take maturation in sherry-wood well and can be rich and full bodied, medium and light-bodied.
The Island of Islay (pronounced 'Eye-la')
Islay Malts' Characteristics
Islay whiskies generally reverse the characteristics of Speysides, tending to be dry and peaty; behind the smoke, however, can be gentle mossy scents, and some spice. The southern Islay distilleries produce powerfully phenolic whiskies, with aromas redolent of tar, smoke, iodine and carbolic.