The variety in character and style in Speyside is huge.
There are no simple 'giveaways' like the peat and smoke
in Islay malts. Speyside malts usually do have plenty of
nose - but please note this isn't neccesarily a good thing.
And there's at least as much variety in 'quality' as there
is in 'personality' in Speysiders. All in all - I wonder if the
subdivision of Speyside into smaller area's is very useful.
I've found huge differences between 'neighbouring' malts
and striking similarities between malts from different area's.

Over 50% of all malt whisky distilleries in Scotland are located in the central 'Speyside' region alone.
The Speyside region itself stretches from Inverness in the West (usually considered part of the
Northern Highlands, except by Michael Jackson) to the watershed of the river Deveron in the
East, and is less than 100 miles wide. Yet, it's divided further into eight smaller districts;

Based on my experiences so far, the Strathisla area seems to produce decent malts with interesting
noses but unsatisfying palates. Maybe a slightly 'piney' character I've found is a regional influence?

The 'Rothes' district lies directly north of the Speyside heartland, so it's no surprise the malts I've
tried so far are very similar to the 'real' Speyside malts. The official bottlings of Glen Rothes can be
excellent at a younger age while Glen Grant and Caperdonich seem to need quite some time (and
maybe a sherry cask) to reach their prime. Don't bother with
underachievers Glen Spey or Speyburn.

Just south of the central Speyside area, around the rivers Livet' & 'Avon we find the 'Livet' district.
The Glenlivets, Tomintouls and Tamnavulins I've tried were mostly clean and fresh at a young age.
Braes of Glenlivet (a.k.a. Braeval) seemed to have used more sherry casks (or at least fresh Oloroso
casks) than the other distilleries in the area - and some single cask bottlings are simply staggering!

It's hard to say anything 'definitive' about this Eastern part of Speyside, because two out of the
four distilleries in the area (Banff and Glenglassaugh) have been
closed down and I haven't tried
that many expressions from the remaining two active distilleries (Glens Deveron & Dronach) either.
The Glendronachs were big and sherried while Glen Deveron and Banff appeared much lighter in style.

Directly East of the Speyside heartland lies the Dufftown district.
It's home to malts that are generally quite soft and sweet when they enter their teenage
years, gaining more power and character as they grow older. Balvenie, Dufftown and Mortlach
are my current favorites. Especially during springtime and summer, they make for a great after
dinner dram - or two. During the
1990's I wasn't a very big fan of Glenfiddich, but now we're
a few years into the 'noughties' the quality of the average 'Fiddich' seems to be rising again.

A lot of the 'big names' in maltland are produced in the heart of the Speyside region.
Macallan, Aberlour and Glenfarclas usually bottle classic, sherried malts with lots of character.
These malts give the expressive Northern Highlanders a run for their money; older versions are
almost guaranteed to pass my '80 points / Recommendable Malt!' benchmark. That being said,
I should point out that the sherried character of these whiskies has little to do with the fact that
they were born in the Speyside region; it's the result of the type of cask(s) used for
maturation.

Speyside (Central) 

Dufftown 

Balvenie
Convalmore
Dufftown
Glendullan
Glenfiddich
Mortlach
Pittyvaich

Lossie 

Around the town of Elgin, no more than twenty miles north of the centre of Speyside, a number
of 'Lossie' distilleries produce very diverse malts. Longmorn and Linkwood can almost compete with
the classic sherried Speysiders, and Miltonduff and Glen Moray give it a nice try as well. Based on
my experiences so far average bottlings from Benriach, Coleburn and Glen Elgin are not quite as
impressive, but still very drinkable. But then again, there's Loch Dhu;
the worst malt in the world.
Many people seemed to agree with that assessment and the brand Loch Dhu (which was distilled
at the Mannochmore distillery) was discontinued around the year 2000. I won't shed any tears...
According to Michael Jackson, Glenburgie (that also produced the 'Glencraig' malt with a Lomond
still) belongs in the 'Findhorn' area, but it's actually located closer to many 'Lossie' distilleries.

Benriach
Coleburn
Glen Elgin
Glenlossie
Glen Moray
Linkwood
Longmorn
Mannochmore
Miltonduff
Mosstowie

Deveron 

Banff
Glen Deveron
Glendronach
Glenglassaugh

Findhorn 

Michael Jackson puts Tomatin in the 'Findhorn' category, but I think that the house style is more
akin to
Northern Highlanders like Dalmore and Glen Ord. My experiences with Benromach, Glenburgie
and Dallas Dhu indicate that these Findhorn malts need at least ten years to mature sufficiently.
Well, not much news there - except for some peat monsters that goes for most single malts.

Livet 

Balmenach
Braeval
Glenlivet
Tamnavulin
Tomintoul

Rothes 

Caperdonich
Glen Grant
Glen Rothes
Glen Spey
Speyburn

Strathisla 

Glen Keith
Strathisla
Strathmill

If you want to see more of the 'original' charcter of the distillery, bottlings that are matured in
(mostly) bourbon casks should suit you better. Cragganmore offers great examples of the type
of whiskies in the 'natural' Speyside style that are usually particulary popular among wine lovers.
An Cnoc and Tamdhu are more modest malts, but great summertime drams at a great price.
And even underachievers like Allt-A-Bhainne, Cardhu and Tormore seem not quite so mediocre
when it's really hot outside and you just need a whisky to moisturize your palate now and then.

The most important part of Speyside is the central area where most distilleries are located.
The heartland of Speyside around the river 'Spey' itself is no more than 15 miles wide, but as you
can see from the list at the right it's home to some of the most famous single malts in the world.
This makes the area a perfect location for those who want to do a 'distillery tour'. When I visited
Scotland with some other maniacs in
the summer of 2003 we did just that. We visited Aberlour
and Glenfarclas, but could have stopped at over a dozen other distilleries along the way as well.

Aberlour
Allt-A-Bhainne
Ardmore
Auchroisk
Aultmore
Benrinnes
Cardhu
Cragganmore
Craigellachie
Dailuaine
Glenallachie
Glenfarclas
Glentauchers
Imperial
Inchgower
Knockando
Knockdhu
Macallan
Speyside
Tamdhu
Tormore

 Speyside Districts:  

Distilleries in the Speyside region

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