Unlike some of the world’s other renowned beverages, such as French wines, there is not a huge amount of agreement regarding Scotland’s whisky-producing regions, their boundaries and their characteristics. Case in point: the ‘Highland’ region originally referred to anything that wasn’t from the Lowlands; it derives from a legal distinction in the 19th century, by which Highland and Lowland distilleries were taxed at different rates. Highlanders were offered a lower tax rate, in an effort to encourage them to licence their stills rather than take their chances in the hidden glens, where they could be easily overlooked by the taxman. Today, the fame of whiskies produced in certain places, such as Islay, Speyside or Campbeltown, has led to some of these being considered regions in their own right - some consider Speyside, or the ‘Islands’ (excluding Islay) to be sub-categories of the Highlands, while others see them as being distinct.
For our purposes, we shall consider the Highlands to exclude Speyside and the Islands. As a geographical label of convenience, it is difficult to define a single ‘Highland style’, but in general they are more full-bodied, lively, spicy and malty than the richer Speysides or gentle Lowlands. The central Highlands, around Perthshire, produce a sweet and honeyed style; the eastern drams are malty and full, while the northern distilleries are often lighter in body but full of spicy character.