It's a whiskyregion. In Scotland. Some people don't like whiskyregions for various reasons, and those "some people" sometimes includes me. But that's not what I want to discuss in this post.
Some companies market their whiskies based on whisky regions. Diageo's Classic malts is a good example of this. A few years back they had the regions of Speyside, Islay, Islands, Highland, Lowland and also West Highland if I remember correctly. For a lot of us this was our first encounter with whisky regions. Or maybe it was Tesco's line of whiskies labeled with similar regions.
But these "regions" are made up by the companies that is trying to sell whisky to us. Nothing wrong with that. But Diageo is such a big company with so much whisky and so many distilleries that what they do and say is sometimes believed to be how things are. But no. Their regions is just something they made up to help market their whisky. Nothing wrong with that, and it's not like it doesn't make any sense what they do.
But what is this thing called Speyside? Maybe it's the whisky distilleries that are situated on the banks of the river Spey? No. It's not that simple.
Maybe it's the distilleries that lies in the watershed of the river Spey? This would include the rivers, streams, burns and glens running into Spey. Like Livet and Fiddich to mention a couple of wellknowns.
No, it's not like that either. Far too simple...
A lot of distilleries that are Speysiders are on the banks of Lossie, Findhorn and Isla. Confusing?. And Isla runs into Deveron which has distilleries on it's bank that are NOT Speysiders
Confused? I was! I am too focused on rivers. Speyside has nothing to do with rivers.
I headed over to SWA's website. SWA is Scottish Whisky Association. They must know what is where in Scotland. They say this:
The current UK legislation relating specifically to Scotch Whisky is The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. The Regulations govern the production, labelling, and presentation of Scotch Whisky.
So I continued over to the The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. You might have heard about them before. They are the ones that wants us to drink blended malt.
The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 Chapter 10 says :
Locality and region geographical indications...
(5) The protected localities are—
(a)“Campbeltown”, comprising the South Kintyre ward of the Argyll and Bute Council as that ward is constituted in the Argyll and Bute (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006(1); and
(b)“Islay”, comprising the Isle of Islay in Argyll.
(6) The protected regions are—
(a)“Highland”, comprising that part of Scotland that is north of the line dividing the Highland region from the Lowland region;
(b)“Lowland”, comprising that part of Scotland that is south of the line dividing the Highland region from the Lowland region; and
(i)the wards of Buckie, Elgin City North, Elgin City South, Fochabers Lhanbryde, Forres, Heldon and Laich, Keith and Cullen and Speyside Glenlivet of the Moray Council as those wards are constituted in the Moray (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006(2); and
(ii)the Badenoch and Strathspey ward of the Highland Council as that ward is constituted in the Highland (Electoral Arrangements) Order 2006(3).
Now this is the protected regions and localities. This basically just means that a distillery has to be on Islay to label itself as "Islay Whisky". And that a distillery has to be in Speyside to label itself as "Speyside Single Malt Whisky". And it also defines these regions and localities. Later in chapter 10 the division line between Lowland and Highland is exactly defined as well.
The region "Islands" is not mentioned. Any Scotch whisky could label themself as "Island Whisky" if they want to. All of Scotland is on an island in case you forgot :-)
And here the region Speyside is exactly defined as Moray and the "Badenoch and Strathspey" ward in the Highlands
End of story. This is Speyside. When it comes to whisky. All of Speyside is located within the Highland protected region, so it's totally legal for a Speyside distillery to label themself as Highland. Macallan does it. Legal yes, but confusing. It's hard to be more Speyside geographically than Macallan
End of story. No more confusion.
I had to look on my google maps of distilleries : http://danishwhiskyblog.blogspot.dk/2010/04/google-maps-of-all-whiskydistilleries.html
I wanted to know which distilleries were actually located in the Badenoch and Strathspey ward.
Speyside. check (Some one with a sense of humor decided to name his distillery "Speyside". Label it as Highland Malt, and then locate it far away from anything else considered Speyside whiskyregion. You have to be a Scott to have that kind of humor)
That's it. Wait. There's one more.
Dalwhinnie. check. Dalwhinnie is a Speysider. End of story. It's located far up the mountains, far to the south, almost in Perth. It's a shorter distance to Perth than to Elgin from Dalwhinnie. Many consider Elgin the capital of Speyside. I could agree with that. People in Dufftown might not, but it's also a shorter distance to Perth than to Dufftown from Dalwhinnie. Elgin is on the river Lossie by the way :-)
Dalwhinnie is a Speysider. I see. Interesting. It's in the watershed of Speyside as the river Truim runs north into the river Spey
Badenoch and Strathspey
Here's a few other borderliners :
Tomatin is not, nor is Glenglassaugh. Nor Glendronach. Neither Ardmore
Inchgower is a Speysider. So is AnCnoc. (Knockdhu)
Knockdhu considers and labels themselfs as Highland. Which is not wrong. But as the distillery is located in the Keith and Cullen ward in Moray, it's a Speysider!
All this geography can be very hard to grasp. To help us, SWA made this map:
It shows the regions and localities. You shouldn't be confused anymore now. Until You locate Tomatin on their map that is:-)
Speyside has around 50 working distilleries. Also quite a few mothballed, demolished and silent distilleries, which whiskies are still available out there. This makes Speyside the main whisky producing region of the world!!. It's a rather small area located between Inverness and Aberdeen in the northern part of Scotland
..between Inverness, Perth, and Aberdeen. sorry..