ON ALMOST EVERY ‘whisky map’ of Scotland there is a small area in the north east which boasts such a concentration of distilleries that it is marked with an inset square and treated in detail away from the main cartography. This area is officially designated as the Speyside malt whisky-producing region, centred on the towns and villages of Elgin, Rothes, Keith and Dufftown, and including the famous distilling centre of Glenlivet.
The Hebridean ‘whisky island’ of Islay is home to eight distilleries, yet the Islay ‘brand’ is itself very strong, conjuring up stylistic images in the minds of consumers. Arguably Speyside does not do the same, perhaps partly because of the sheer number of distilleries and the variety of single malt styles. The light-bodied aperitif Glen Grant The Major’s Reserve has little in common with the sherry monster that is Aberlour A’bunadh, for example.