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Speyside or Highland??

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Speyside or Highland??

Postby dram_time » Sat Jul 22, 2006 7:00 am

Morning all,

Could someone please explain where the regions of ‘Speyside’ ends and ‘Highlands’ starts??

There seems to be some overlap in the Inverness area, which I would call ‘Highlands’. Glen Mhor for example is stated as being a ‘Speyside’ malt on a Signatory bottling I have, but Glen Albyn, next door, is listed as a ‘highland’ malt.

Is the grouping more to do with the ‘style’ of the malt at the fringes of these two regions rather than geographic location ??. Speyside seems to encompass an area far larger than the ‘side of the Spey’

Yours un-knowingly
Dt.
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Postby kallaskander » Sat Jul 22, 2006 9:17 am

Hi there,

first of all welcome to the forum from me. The question you ask is a hard one. The assignment of a distillery to a certain region is arbitrary. The example you gave illustrates that very well. Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn were seperated by a road. They were so close that Glen Albyn today is build over with a shopping centre and Glen Mhor is the parking area for this shopping centre.
Personally I would place both distilleries in the Northern Highlands. There are other examples. The very recent Speyside Distillery placed at a tributary of the river Spey is not within the region given as Speyside on most maps. Glengoyne lies south of the Highland Line the water comes from the Highlands so it is considered a Highland distillery even so it is situated in the Lowlands. Same with Loch Lomond distillery. Auchentoshan is considered a Lowland distillery and it sure is, but the water they use comes from the Highlands and so on.
The borders of the whisky regions is artifically drawn. I am not sure if the SWA has ever said anything on this subject but if they had I would consider their definition of a whisky region as reliable.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby The Fachan » Sat Jul 22, 2006 9:37 am

Dram time,

Good question and I am sure you will get several answers. I would say its east of the River Findhorn which flows in to the sea at Nairn and west of the River Deveron which reaches the sea at Banff.
As far as southwards goes its more difficult, Kallas kander is of course right about Speyside so its maybe around the Cromdale area heading south(Balmenach Distillery) area.
Looking forward to reading other opinions.

Ian
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Speyside

Postby dram_time » Sat Jul 22, 2006 2:42 pm

Thank you for the informative replys,

Looking at a map of the river Spey, it covers a much larger area than i first thought !!! and i live quite close to it !! you could almost say that Dalwhinnie is a Speyside malt, more so than any in the Inverness district anyway.

map link...



http://www.kinrosshouse.co.uk/fishingmap.jpg


It does seem a large number of distilleries have been lumped together under a regional name that is not really correct ???

Dt
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Jul 22, 2006 4:00 pm

The Speyside designation is a little misleading, and nebulous as well. As you have noted, Dalwhinnie is at the top of the watershed, but isn't usually considered a Speysider; some others that are well outside the Spey are. Basically, you are what you say you are, within reason, as there is nothing "official" about these designations. (As someone noted, there are a couple of "highlanders" that probably ought to be classified as lowlanders, and I'd bet that, as the Lowland designation regains a bit of cachet, these might reconsider their placement.)

Sorry if this is stating the obvious, but Speyside is a region within Highland; all Speysiders are highlanders, but of course not the reverse.
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Postby Jan » Sat Jul 22, 2006 4:42 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:Basically, you are what you say you are, within reason, as there is nothing "official" about these designations.


Quite right, but that seems to about to change:

IndiaNews / Whiskynews wrote: ...The Scotch industry is keen to prevent complicated legal battles such as the one it had fought against Highland Chief Malt Whisky, made in India, and Lowlands Blended Whisky, made in Spain.
The SWA believes the best way to do this is to enshrine a series of definitions in statute, setting down exactly what is meant by Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowland and Campbeltown malts....


Read the full piece at http://www.scotchwhisky.net/news/index.php
(Scroll down to July 9th.)

So it seems the regional classifications will be made into law. Perhaps it makes sense from a legal viewpoint - I don't know...

Cheers
Jan
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Postby dram_time » Sat Jul 22, 2006 5:05 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:Sorry if this is stating the obvious, but Speyside is a region within Highland; all Speysiders are highlanders, but of course not the reverse.


that is very true, but i feel there is more kudos attached to being a 'Speysider' than a 'Highlander', that said, i prefer to drink a 'highlander', and in the end, your going to drink what you like, where ever it comes from.

jan wrote:...The Scotch industry is keen to prevent complicated legal battles such as the one it had fought against Highland Chief Malt Whisky, made in India, and Lowlands Blended Whisky, made in Spain.
The SWA believes the best way to do this is to enshrine a series of definitions in statute, setting down exactly what is meant by Speyside, Islay, Highland, Lowland and Campbeltown malts....


sounds like a load more red tape to me !!!

thanks for all the replys, will keep an eye on the regional/definition thing, will be interesting to see where some distilleries end up classified.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Jul 22, 2006 6:14 pm

dram_time wrote:that is very true, but i feel there is more kudos attached to being a 'Speysider' than a 'Highlander'....


Well, yes, and that was my intended point--the region is stretched because distilleries want the appellation on their bottles, just as many used to use the name "Glenlivet".

I think making official regional designations is one very useful thing the SWA could do. Now how do you suppose they could screw that up? Will we have endless argument over whether "Islands" is a region? Well, we do already. May I suggest:

Lowland

Campbeltown

Highland:
-Speyside
-East
-West
-North

Isles:
-Arran
-Islay
-Jura
-Mull
-Skye
-Orkney
-Shetland (when and if)

In the grand scheme of things, it's not really very important. But if the SWA drew distinct lines, then at least the answer to the question "Why is Glen Googly a Speyside (or not)?" will be "Because the SWA says the line is here." I wouldn't expect them to reclassify anyone against their will, just codify what is already general usage.
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Regions

Postby dram_time » Sun Jul 23, 2006 7:16 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:In the grand scheme of things, it's not really very important.



Your quite right once again, and these days, I don’t think it matters at all where a malt comes from. Maybe, a few hundred years ago, the regional whiskies were so very much more different as to merit some distinction, with all the factors that can influence the final out come of the product, such as water peat levels, fuel used for drying etc.. etc.. etc..

As I said, these days you can buy an Islay style malt from the Speyside region and so on…. Peat from one area can be transported to another easily, even water moves around.

That’s not to say that the regional name doesn’t give you some idea of what you are going get, because, most of the time it does. But not always !!

I like the way you have split the Highland region up, and as for the Islands, having lived on Skye for a length of time, I can imagine each Island wanting a little region of its own as you have suggested !!

Cheers.
Dt
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:21 am

Tattie: I'm not sure you could justify splitting the islands so much but leaving other areas so generic. Also , I wonder where Tullibardine would sit - do we need a Perthshire subcategory of Highland?
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Jul 24, 2006 2:14 pm

Hi there,

well, why not? Some claim there is a region called Findhorn and that about 5 distilleries can be found there. Or was it only two? Why not Orkney as there will be 3 distilleries there soon.
But seriously I find regional subcategories practical for a quick orientation whereabouts a whisky comes from. And often there are common traits in whiskies of one region like Islay and then there aren´t like Bruichladdich and Bunnhabhain.
Means to say that as long as you do not stick to common tasting characteristics if one talks about a region regional clustering of whiskies is okay with me.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Jul 24, 2006 2:27 pm

Nick Brown wrote:Tattie: I'm not sure you could justify splitting the islands so much but leaving other areas so generic. Also , I wonder where Tullibardine would sit - do we need a Perthshire subcategory of Highland?


Well, there isn't any consistent and practical way to do it, so I guess you can do it however you like! It's more about geography than flavor profile, I think. Maybe we should categorize them by elevation, or lattitude.

kk, a third Orkney? This is news to me. What do you know?
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Postby toshie » Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:57 pm

kallaskander wrote: Glengoyne lies south of the Highland Line the water comes from the Highlands so it is considered a Highland distillery even so it is situated in the Lowlands.


I think the distillery is actually in the Highlands (just) and the bonded warehouse is across the road in the Lowlands (just) The barley comes from England and the water from a reservoir miles away, so Glengoyne is a bit of a mongrel ... but delicious for all that
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Postby corbuso » Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:29 am

I would have to check, but there was legal definitions for the several regions. Definition of the limits were fixed by the Customs and Excise, since the tax imposition was for example different between the Lowlands and the Highlands in the 18th Century.
If I am not wrong, the current official (legal) regions are: Lowlands, Highlands, Campbletown and Islay. Quite often, Highlands are separeted between Speyside, Islands and Highlands, but there are no legal definitons.

The definition of the Fachan is quite good.

Regarding Glengoyne, the comment from Kallaskander is inaccurate: The warehouses are in the Lowlands, but the distillery is in the highlands. The road separating the warehouse from the distillery is the border between these two regions.
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Postby kallaskander » Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:56 am

Hi there,

yes? I´d venture to say that Glengoyne is a Lowland malt then as it spends most of the time in the Lowlands. 8)

And no, there will not be a third Orkney distillery any time soon, as Blackwood will be situated at Unst, Shetlands. One more category. Sorry, didn´t mean to rise hopes.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 25, 2006 12:19 pm

Wondered if you were thinking of Blackwood. Well, call the region "Northern Isles".
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Postby corbuso » Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:44 pm

kallaskander wrote:Hi there,

yes? I´d venture to say that Glengoyne is a Lowland malt then as it spends most of the time in the Lowlands. 8)

Greetings
kallaskander


So Caol Ila would be a Lowlander (highlander?) too, since it spends most of its time on the mainland? ;-)

Cheers
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 25, 2006 3:59 pm

corbuso wrote:
kallaskander wrote:Hi there,

yes? I´d venture to say that Glengoyne is a Lowland malt then as it spends most of the time in the Lowlands. 8)

Greetings
kallaskander


So Caol Ila would be a Lowlander (highlander?) too, since it spends most of its time on the mainland? ;-)

Cheers


Unless you lived in Heddesheim and kept the bottle for thirteen years before opening it - then it would have become a German whisky.
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Postby kallaskander » Tue Jul 25, 2006 4:35 pm

Hi there,

I started printing new labels already. :lol:

Anyway we have been into terroir the other day. What good is it to call a malt an island whisky if it matures on the mainland like Caol Ila and Talisker? There is a central maturing complex by Diageo in Speyside and there are others near Glasgow from the industry as well as from independent bottlers. What does that tell for regionalism?

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 25, 2006 4:45 pm

Everything!
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Postby kallaskander » Tue Jul 25, 2006 4:50 pm

Yep!
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Tue Jul 25, 2006 5:16 pm

kallaskander wrote:


What good is it to call a malt an island whisky if it matures on the mainland like Caol Ila and Talisker? There is a central maturing complex by Diageo in Speyside and there are others near Glasgow from the industry as well as from independent bottlers. What does that tell for regionalism?

Greetings
kallaskander


Is there any correlation between this happening and the pep been taken out of the pepper in talisker :shock: Seeing that environments can affect the aging process.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 25, 2006 5:29 pm

I don't know that the warehousing issue constitutes a change. How long has Diageo owned Talisker? I tend to think it's a matter of supply crunch--not having a sufficient number of casks of the requisite character to spread that pep around the world. I'd hate to think it was a conscious choice, since that pepperiness is what made Talisker so distinctive. But I'm only guessing, and dumber things have been done.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jul 25, 2006 5:43 pm

I guess the pepperiness in Talisker comes from taking an early first cut. Although it did disappear, it is back in the current 10yo. My guess is that it was a conscious move to "improve" the whisky to get a broader appeal and that the change has now been reversed.

But this is just a guess...
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:44 pm

I just hope so guys..... my last bottle was a huge dissapointment but I love this stuff and shall be renewing my membership shortly....
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Postby kallaskander » Wed Jul 26, 2006 8:38 am

Hi there,

well there is always the big mover of the industry to consider if a whisky changes character or shows traits it did not and should not have. Cost cutting.
The things that have happened to Springbank, Bowmore, Macallan, Edradour, Talisker as I just learned have at least part of their motivation in the lunatic attempt to bow down to the scourge of our time named cost awareness.
I am sure that we will notice more changes for the worse in some of the malts we love so much and that it will turn out eventually that the distillery manager was under pressure to work more cost efficient at the time the negative changes occured.

Greetings
kallaskander

PS "What malt you know well has changed and in what way?" would be an interesting new thread.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Wed Jul 26, 2006 8:46 am

kallaskander wrote: Hi there,

The things that have happened to Springbank...........as I just learned have at least part of their motivation in the lunatic attempt to bow down to the scourge of our time named cost awareness.

Greetings
kallaskander

I don't get it? Isn't the "fading" taste in Springbank a result of lack of old whisky used in the vatting of the various expressions? I thought Springbank's "cost cutting" was done by not implementing costly chill filtering apparatus etc. ?

I would rate Springbank as superior to Talisker any given day. It's just that much better in my mind.
Christian
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Postby kallaskander » Wed Jul 26, 2006 9:07 am

Hi there,

we have discussed the declining quality of Springbank malts here before. When I added Springbank to the list above I was under the impression of the following article

http://www.maltmadness.com/mm14.html

E-pistle #14/06 - Springbank in Decline?
Submitted on 04/04/2005 by Luca Chichizola, Italy

I have noticed myself that Springbank must have had some problems with the whisky production some years back which can be seen and tasted in expressions of Springbank malts and in Longrow. The phenomenon is tangible in other malts as well, I think.
It is my conclusion that attempts of cost management are behind that. That could mean anything along the production line from saving on the costs of barley saving on energy to using cheaper lower quality caks.
That is pure speculation from me, not proven by any facts. Just an attempt to explain the noticable backset of quality in some well known malts.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby scoobypl » Wed Jul 26, 2006 12:47 pm

this all comes down to something I tried to raise in another topic, and on which nobody could put their finger on exactly...
What is "quality" in a whisky?

1) I dare state that the "quality" of Springbank is not superior to the quality of Talisker!!! Maybe you like Springbank better than Talisker, but does that imply that its quality is better? If you can determine quality of a whisky solely by what is in your glas, then how come the industry is not hiring people who are so sure of their perception, to improve overall quality of their products? Surely no distillery is willing to produce "inferior" quality if they could avoid it?
2) I dare state that a lot of people in the industry think that there is no such thing as decline in quality of the spirit! On the contrary, most of them will say spirit got better over the last decades!!!

So, the main question is: How come a lot of us get the impression of lesser quality, whereas the industry is claiming the opposite???
Does that imply that taste and quality are two different things, that only fall in the same spot occasionally?

My thoughts on the matter are these (for You to decide if they make any sense!) :wink: :
1) The industry is striving (for any particular distillery) for the highest possible quality at the lowest possible cost... and these seem to be mutually exclusive. Another thing they aim for is the distillery profile and recognisability. Which is where "blenders" come in. In the old days, when single malt was a noble unknown, people used to drink blends.
Those blends strived for a recognisable taste and quality, in order to bind customers. (My great grandfather used to drink 'Haig' a nothing else, and I guess a lot of people were like that) (I dare to say that the users of this forum probably do not fit that profile, because they are knowledgeable, and willing / wanting to try new things.) B(l)inding customers is achieved by eradicating fluctuations in taste... Which is what the main job of the blender is. "Compose" the blend so that the customer does not find out that he used 50 different malts, because the taste is always the same.
Now: How much easier would it (blending) become if "batch" variations, or even "cask" variations would be kept to a minimum... In order to achive that (don't forget, 90% of all distilleries still get rid of 80% of their production to blends) standardisation is the clue...
- Computercontrolled malting = same malt at all time
- Computercontrolled fermentation in stainless steel tanks (so no interference from yeast, bacteria or other substances out of oregon pine washbacks) = same wash all the time
- Implementation of steamcoils for heating stills = possibility to control the cutting points to the second = Computercontrolled distillation = constant and always the same middle-cut
All the above leads to a constant quality of the New Make... with no or the least possible variations ....
- Nowadays "wood-management" is the big word, with even computercontrolled infra-red heated (instead of flame-thrower, charred) cooperage.
So even maturation (this ultimate last bastion of uncontrollable natural magic) is being scientifically "enhanced"....
What it feels like, to me, is "blending" before the blending starts... distilleries are trying for a constant quality of the product, not allowing for much variation!
So yes, the quality is better these days!!! high quality = low or no batch variation! = (unfortunately) poorer taste? Quality was deemed worse in the old days because those "erratic" old customs (stillman sleeping on the job, fire going out, and things like that) gave enormous batch variations... some batches were stunning, others probably undrinkable... which, when the good and very good batches were vatted together, gave a ritcher and/but ultimately more variable taste...mind you, they could afford passing on the "bad" batches because single malt consumption was that much lower!

Another defining thing is the very high consumtion of Single Malt these days. Take for instance Lagavulin or Springbank... They became a victim of their succes! Lagavulin 16 has been almost unavailable for a while, Springbank 25 and 30 are distant memories... Why? probably unsufficient stocks of old enough casks. If I compare Laphroaig 15 these days, with Laphroaig 15 bottled in the mid 80-ties, there is considerable difference, maybe because of changed production methods or different legal issues in some important export markets (FDA regulations for fenols are much stricter!), but that does not explain it all, i feel! Why: (and this is my assumption based on taste and nose, not necessarily a fact, mind you) The mid 80-ties vatting contained probably:
a) whisky (sometimes a lot) older than 15 years (now the 15yo is probably just that... 15yo)
b) A higher percentage of sherry-cask matured whisky.

and especially b, has changed enormously over the last 20 years. Sherry casks are much more expensive and harder to get, More stringent laws on bottling sherry, and a more available constant supplie of Bourbon-barrels that come very cheap! Older standard bottlings seem to have a much bigger sherry influence than their current siblings.

So,
a) "blending" on production level (=higher quality, poorer taste?)
b) higher consumtion of Single Malts
c) unreal prices fetched by older single malts (cfr Ardbeg 65) (which makes using them in younger vattings uninteresting!)
d) predominant use of ex-bourbon casks

are some of the reasons why whisky from today differs so much from "old style" whisky...

Although I may be completely wrong! 8) :wink:

My 2p,
P.!!!
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:04 pm

pheeeewww !!!! just about got through all that.... very interesting scoobypl and weldone to get that all down. I think a lot of what you say is very logical but how true it is I personally cannoy say. But I would agree whisky quality and taste are two very different things. I suppose people when stating the decline of quality they are talking about richness of taste which is understandable. People are not getting the pleasure they used to out of some of these big names anymore unless they buy the more expensive older expressions. But whisky today is technically of the highest quality... I too reckon it is the scarceness of older casks which were blended into the younger expressions that has caused alot of these so called declines. We might get back to that previous scenario in another 15-20 years with whisky production increasing all the time.
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Postby kallaskander » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:13 pm

Hi there,

Whoa, Nelly! I mean scoobypl. Indeed you weave together some thoughts that were started in different other threads.
What you write once again makes my think of the centipede who met the scarab. After the latter explained to the cenitpede how he walked, poor centipede could walk no more!
Meaning that production certainly gets more and more scientific and cost effective but less romantic. Romantic means that exact science has not much leeway for natural oscillation if a process is scientifically monitored and controled and stopped being an art.
I think I have to think a bit more about what scoobypl wrote but from a belly feeling I would tend to say that much of what he wrote could well be what is happening.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:32 pm

scoobypl wrote:this all comes down to something I tried to raise in another topic, and on which nobody could put their finger on exactly...
What is "quality" in a whisky?

1) I dare state that the "quality" of Springbank is not superior to the quality of Talisker!!! Maybe you like Springbank better than Talisker, but does that imply that its quality is better?

You got me wrong Scooby! I'm taking for granted that almost all single malt is of good quality........ And I never mentioned quality in my post.

I personally don't care for an elaborate theoretical dissertation on single malts - I just drink it. And you're right; I do like Springbank better than any Talisker I've tried so far. So of course, my opinion is informed by trial and error and is also purely subjective. Hence I claim that Sprinbank is - according to my preferences in taste - in a league above Talisker - although many disagree.

Christian
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:36 pm

Including me! Talisker is an absolute favorite, and I've never "gotten" Springbank. But I haven't tried any older ones, either.
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Wed Jul 26, 2006 2:54 pm

Mr Fjeld wrote:......... although many disagree.

Christian



You got that right Christian :wink:

but that's the fun of this forum, we never agree.

Enjoy your Springbank with aplomb (not a plum :wink: )

I actually have never tried any so must do soon.

Any middle of the road suggestions.
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Postby WHISKYNOSE » Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:01 pm

:D Carbuso,

About Glengoyne (regarding to DT's first question), it's like you state, the distillery is in the Highlands and the warehouses in the lowlands.
The distillery is close to the West Highland Way, from that walkingpath it's clearly seen. When you're walking overthere you cannot see the highlandline.

What i mean to say is (like some others stated already) another classification can do justice to the whiskyregions, espacially now distilleries choose to give new names to their new spirits instead off age.

For instance for a beginner it would be more clear what to look for :!:




corbuso wrote:I would have to check, but there was legal definitions for the several regions. Definition of the limits were fixed by the Customs and Excise, since the tax imposition was for example different between the Lowlands and the Highlands in the 18th Century.
If I am not wrong, the current official (legal) regions are: Lowlands, Highlands, Campbletown and Islay. Quite often, Highlands are separeted between Speyside, Islands and Highlands, but there are no legal definitons.

The definition of the Fachan is quite good.

Regarding Glengoyne, the comment from Kallaskander is inaccurate: The warehouses are in the Lowlands, but the distillery is in the highlands. The road separating the warehouse from the distillery is the border between these two regions.
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