The two best-selling single malt whiskies in the world, The Glenlivet & Glenfiddich, come from Speyside. Speyside has the greatest number of distilleries of any of the whisky producing areas of Scotland.
The River Spey
The River Spey rises in the western Monadhliath Mountains, fifteen miles west of Newtonmore, and meanders east and north, sundering the Monadhliath range from the Cairngorms, and then flowing through the fertile Laigh o’Moray and the district called Strathspey until it meets the Moray Firth at Spey Bay. It is the fastest flowing river in Britain, and famous for its salmon fishing.
This is among the loveliest scenery in Scotland. It is also the principal whisky-producing region: Speyside has within it some forty-six operating distilleries – over half the total number in the entire country – and among them some of the most famous names.
Perhaps surprisingly, very few Speyside distilleries actually draw their water from the Spey itself, or from its famous tributary rivers, the Fiddich, Lossie and Dullan. They get it from adjacent springs and rivulets.
“It would be no true or, at least, no very discerning lover of whisky who could enter this almost sacred zone without awe.”
(Aeneas MacDonald, 1930)
Speyside Malts’ Characteristics
Speysides are essentially sweet whiskies. They have little peaty character (although some have a whiff of smoke) and their salient characteristic is estery – typically, this aroma is compared to pear-drops or solvent (nail varnish remover, particularly). They can be highly perfumed: scents of carnations, roses, violets, apples, bananas, cream soda and lemonade have all been discovered in Speyside malts.