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The Speyside region is located in Morayshire in the North East of the Scottish Highlands and takes its name from the River Spey that runs through the heart of the area and out into the North Sea. The Spey is the fastest flowing river in the UK so please don’t be tempted to go swimming if you do visit the area on a Scotch pilgrimage! Speyside contains roughly about half of all the operational whisky distilleries in Scotland, hence the separate categorisation to the rest of the Highlands. We say roughly half the distilleries as there is some fierce debate as to which distilleries fall within the boundaries of the region due to different perceptions of Speyside’s borders.
Speyside malts are quite diverse due to the amount of whisky produced in the area but there are two styles that are more prominent than others. There are many lighter styles of single malt produced here that are considered to be easier drinking than the more robust offerings found elsewhere. These honeyed drams are very popular and are produced by distilleries like Glen Grant, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. On the other hand, distilleries like Macallan and Glenfarclas are renowned for their seductively deep and complex single malts that are matured in sherry casks to give them an extra sweetness. One thing they all have in common is the virtual exclusion of peat in the whisky, only using barley that is so minimally peated it is undetectable on the palate. The one exception to this rule is the Benriach distillery who produce several lines of peated whisky alongside their more traditional classic Speyside range.
Speyside holds many claims to fame, such as having the only working Cooperage in the whole of the UK! If you are lucky enough to visit the cooperage based in Craigellachie, you will see how whisky barrels were made in times long gone by, as these time honoured techniques are still employed to make the casks today. Speyside is also the home of Scotland’s highest village, named Tomintoul, which is 345 metres above sea level. The Tomintoul distillery produces a very light whisky known by the moniker ‘The Gentle Dram’ and produces a good deal of malt used in blended whisky. This isn’t the highest distillery in Scotland though, that honour falls to Dalwhinnie. It‘s also home to the Glenfiddich distillery, which boasts the largest production capacity of any distillery in addition to being the most purchased single malt in the whole world!