Speyside Whisky Distilleries

Above, a map of Scotland highlighting Speyside of which there are in excess of 50 distilleries in this area alone!

Interesting facts about the Whisky Industry

  • Top four best selling single malts in the world are all produced in Speyside
  • Johnnie Walker red label is the world's top selling whisky
  • Johnnie Walker black label is the world's top selling deluxe whisky.
  • Famous Grouse is the best selling whisky within Scotland.
  • Glenmorangie is the biggest selling malt whisky in Scotland.
  • Glenfiddich is the largest selling single malt whisky.
  • The Glenlivet is recognised as one of the finest in the world.
  • J and B is the second most popular whisky in the world

Brief History of the Whisky Industry

  • Since its concept in 1494 it has survived through a turbulent history of bloodshed, illegal reform, illicit stills and smuggling and at one stage there were less than a dozen distilleries in operation.
  • Usquebaugh is the Gaelic equivalent of whisky which means water of life and it is now universally known as Scotch Whisky (which refers only to whiskies produced within Scotland) other countries produce excellent whisky in various ways but although they are very good they do not emulate the peaty traditional taste of Scotch Whisky.
  • A lot was distilled in monasteries by the monks and used for medicinal purposes to prolong life and for treatment for small pox, palsy relief from colic and when the monks were driven out of the monasteries in latter years many of them were forced to continue distilling as a living.
  • King James IV was very partial to the aqua vitae and large consignments were sent to the palace in 1505. In 1707 the Scottish Parliament levied hefty taxes on malt producers as well as on the end product and this forced many distillers underground and illicit stills were hidden away in the hillsides crofts and Glens.

    This was the start of an era which was often violent and bloody between the illicit distillers and the government excise men. Smuggling became much more organised over the next 150 years, with complex signalling systems used to pass on information of the whereabouts of officialdom.
    Church ministers assisted as well and considerable amounts of spirit were stored in crypts and vaults and were often transported around in coffins!

    The Duke of Gordon finally broke the deadlock by agreeing with the House of Lords that the government should make it profitable to produce whisky again. In 1823 the the excise act was passed which basically allowed the distilling of whisky for an annual fee of £10 and a fixed levy on
    every gallon produced and sold and the smuggling of whisky virtually died out in the next decade.
    The excise act instigated the start of the Whisky Industry which has continued to this day.

  • In 1881 Aeneas Coffey invented the potent still which basically enabled a continuous production of whisky and this consequently led to the introduction of grained whisky (which was much less potent than its predecessor) when blended with fiery malts and sold to a far reaching market .
    At about this time the the phylloxera beetle had devastated the French Vineyards and within a few years wine and brandy were virtually wiped out. The Scottish whisky pioneers soon noticed this disaster and before long Whisky had become a good replacement to Brandy. Today whisky is sold in over 200 countries, it has overcome revolutions, civil wars, political upheavals, economic depressions, famines and is now enjoyed as a popular universal spirit.