|Every Scottish distillery produces
a whisky with a unique taste, color, body, and aroma. When the whisky
of a single distillery is bottled and sold, it is referred to as "single
malt." When whiskies from more than one distillery are skillfully
mixed and balanced, the resulting liquor is called "blended whisky."
Both types of whisky have their devotees.
Since the 1870s, most of the whisky sold and drunk throughout the
world has been blended, but in the 1960s, single malts began to
make a comeback when William Grant & Sons started to promote
the product from their Glenfiddich Distillery as a single malt.
Other distilleries soon followed suit, and recent years have seen
a rebirth of interest in single malts.
Although each Scottish single malt has its own taste, many also
share regional characteristics. Historically, there were four distilling
regions: Highland, Lowland, Islay, and Campbeltown. The Highland
whisky region has been subdivided into Central, North, East, and
West Highland and Speyside. The last area, on the banks of the River
Spey in northern Scotland, is home to more than half of the malt
whisky distilleries in Scotland. The Speyside community of Dufftown,
"The Malt Whisky Capital of the World," boasts seven distilleries.
An entire language has evolved to describe malt whiskies, which
can be peaty, fragrant, nutty, spicy, peppery, smoky, toffee-like,
malty, grassy, light-bodied, medium-bodied, or hefty, or have citric
or medicinal notes. Distinctive flavors come from a number of factors,
including the water and barley used, the fuel used to heat the drying
kiln (especially peat), and the wooden barrels in which the whisky
Many whisky distilleries now welcome visitors, who follow the "Whisky
Trail" from the Scottish Borders to Scotland's Highlands and
Credit: The Smithsonian Institution thanks William Grant
& Sons for their assistance and support with this presentation.