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As you move south through Scotland, towards the English border where wars have been fought over territory and sovereignty for hundreds of years, you begin to notice some dramatic differences not only in lifestyle, attitude and landscape, but also in the production of scotch whisky. The Lowland region of Scotland is the second most industrious whisky region, due to the enormous number of distilleries which can be found here. In the past, the Lowlands were synonymous with high quality, single malt whiskies, but while a couple of excellent single malt producers still remain in the area, today the majority of whiskies of this region are very different.
The Lowland region is now primarily associated with blended whiskies, and grain whiskies which appeal to a wide international audience. While in the past, the Lowlands were thought of as a poor-quality whisky region, with a negative reputation in the 18th and 19th centuries, today, quality is back up to where it should be thanks to stringent new laws and regulations overseeing the production of the distinctive drinks which are distilled here.
Of the surviving single malt distilleries in the Lowlands, quality is exceptionally high. This is a region with a lot to prove, and it has significant competition with its northern neighbour in the Highlands. As such, Lowland single malt whisky is ferociously traditional, and uses every trick in the book to achieve exceptionally smoothness, typified by grassy, creamy whisky which is packed full of complex flavors of toffee and honeysuckle.
When people think of fine whisky, their minds typically turn to Scotland. This wild at windy country, battered by the north sea and dotted with mountains, lochs and moors, has been the home of high-quality whisky for over six hundred years. During this time, it has forged a reputation over these centuries which has proven difficult to beat, and which has influenced the rest of the world, from America to Japan and beyond.
The term Scotch refers to either malt or grain whisky, which must be made in one of Scotland’s specified whisky regions, with practices and techniques strictly controlled by a series of stringent regulations. One such regulation is that Scotch must be aged for a minimum of three years, and that the age of the whisky must be clearly printed on the bottle. The quality and style of whisky varies quite significantly from place to place, with certain regions producing light and grassy whisky styles, and others using time-honored practices such as burning peat (a type of moorland soil) during the fermentation to imbue a smoky, earthy character.
There are five categories of Scotch, and each has its own set of distinctive characteristics and typical flavors and aromas. These are single malt Scotch (often referred to as the connoisseur's choice), blended malt Scotch, single grain Scotch, blended grain Scotch and blended Scotch whisky.