Famously described by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, the Lowlands of Scotland are “the most glorious corn country I have ever seen”. The eastern part of the Lowlands particularly are heavily used for agricultural purposes, with grain and barley being grown plentifully ( whisky being an important end product for both). A great amount of grain whiskies are produced in the Lowlands, with most of them finding their way into blends.
The Scottish lowlands are not an officially recognized geographical area of Scotland, but generally refer to the southern parts of Scotland that are not part of the Highlands. The Lowlands and highlands can considered to be separated by a geological boundary that spans from just north-west of Glasgow (if you want to get more specific, Helensburgh would be the place) to roughly Stirling, and it includes Edinburgh. The actual distinction between the Highlands and Lowlands first was made in the Wash Act of 1784, which determined that Highland whisky would be taxed based on the capacity of the still, whereas in the Lowlands, duty would be raised per gallon on the wash.
Coal and ironstone are some of the sediments that were common in the Lowlands. There’s also been significant volcanic activity in the past. The lack of brine in the soil, combined with the carboniferous rock (shale and sandstone mostly) tends to lead to its waters being nice and crisp. Lowland whiskies are characteristically lighter and fresher (traditionally this could be explained by the triple distillation that removes most of the rough edges from the spirit – a process only Auchentoshan uses nowadays) , flower- or heather-ish, and a bit malty or grassy in taste. They make for excellent beginner whiskies, and are a nice substitute for a glass of wine in the summer evenings.
In the past, several Lowlands distilleries used peat in the kilning process. Today’s Lowlands whiskies ceased doing so, although Annadale promises to revitalize that tradition and they will be producing both a peated and non-peated version of their whisky.
There currently are 6 active distilleries in the Scottish lowlands.
Inactive distilleries include:
- Glen Flagler
- St. Magdalene