The Lowlands whisky region dates back to the late 1700s when it was first defined as part of the 1784 Wash Act. The distillers often used a triple distillation process instead of the double distillation process used in the rest of Scotland. To me, the adaption of a triple distillation process is an indication of the region’s Celtic influence as Irish Whiskey is also traditionally made using a triple distillation process.
Generally, the more times the whisky is distilled, the more elements that are removed, or in other words the purer the alcohol becomes. However, it is those elements that give the whisky its character and there are those who will argue that triple distillation removes much of the whisky’s character and complexity. Today almost all Scotch malt whisky is double distilled.
Many of the Lowland distillers also used coal rather than peat in the malting process. The combination of the two created what would become known as the traditional Lowlands character of light, soft and smooth malts that offer a gentle palate with hints of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon.
The Lowlands region includes traditional Scottish counties like Ayrshire, Berwickshire, Dumfriesshire, East Lothian, Mid-Lothian, West Lothian, Fife and Wigtownshire. In a broader sense, many Scots consider anything that is not in the Highlands as part of the Lowlands.
At one point there were over 100 producers in the Scottish Lowlands but that number had dwindled to only three by the year 2000. Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie and Bladnoch were the last remaining distilleries. The combination of competition from the newer Speyside region, World War I and Prohibition took their toll resulting in the distilleries closing.
However, the fortunes of the Lowlands whisky region changed dramatically after 2010 as there are now 13 distilleries in operation with several more in the planning and development stages. Being the most populous and urban area of Scotland, the distilleries have the opportunity to take advantage of a high volume of tourist traffic. Most of the tourism centres around Scotland’s two largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, both of which are located in the Lowlands. Many of the distilleries are located between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In addition to producing malt whiskies, they also provide whiskies suitable for creating whisky blends. Most of Scotland’s grain whisky is also produced in the Lowlands.
Below is a list of operating Lowlands distilleries. Those highlighted in blue occasionally have whiskies available in Canadian liquor stores.