The Lowland region, as defined by the Scottish Whisky Regulations 2009, runs from just north of Dundee in the east, to just north of Glasgow in the west. It, along with the Highland region, is one of the oldest recognised whisky regions in Scotland and is second largest in land size. By volume, however, Lowland produces the most scotch whisky with the largest grain distilleries in Scotland operating within its boundary and a deep history in blended malts.

Single malt scotch whisky, however, is returning to the region through the revival of old distilleries and completely new projects like here at Kingsbarns.

The Beginning

The distinction between the Lowland region and the Highland region was first recognised by the Wash Act in 1784. This act separated the two regions into what were effectively tax bands. The Highland distilleries were limited by size but paid a lesser tax on what they produced while the Lowland distilleries, which were larger, paid more excise duty. This was to promote less illicit distilling in the north and increase government revenue from the south.

This increase in tax for the Lowland distilleries, over time, ended up dramatically reducing the quality of spirit produced and the region went through a phase of turmoil. In the 1820s, Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie distilleries opened and still remain to this day as fully functioning single malt producers - the only in the region built before 2005 that have never stopped!

Other distilleries, particularly grain distilleries built by the Haig family, survived the excise duty increases of the late 18th century but many did not live to see the 20th century.

The Character

Traditionally, the character of the Lowland spirit is fruity and light at its core ,with sweet notes of toffee and cinnamon, spicy notes of ginger and slight grassy undertones. Spirits from this region are far less peaty than the Highlands and Islands, with just as complex a flavour profile but a far smoother experience. In fact, Lowland whisky was traditionally completely unpeated due to the access to coal from the borders and Fife area. This character also comes from the tradition of triple distilling in the region, now only carried out by Auchentoshen.

The Lowlands are a fascinating and underappreciated region in terms of whisky! Traditionally distilleries residing here have been known for the gentle, floral and elegant characteristics. For blenders, this style of malt was highly regarded to be used as a means to “bring a blend together” and would deliver some finesse to the liquid.

Peter Holroyd, our Distillery Manager

In recent years however, distilleries like Annandale and Ailsa Bay have experimented more with peat and smokiness meaning the region has somewhat lost its distinct nature. This is a trend of many distilleries in the past few decades who have tended to overpower their base spirit rather than make subtle, complementary tweaks.

The Revival

All is not lost! There are a few new distilleries that are opening in the region as of late - and one of particular note (if we may say so ourselves) is Kingsbarns Distillery. We are located in the East Neuk of Fife, just south of St Andrews, on the Cambo Estate. We operate a pair of stills and have created, through meticulous effort, and minute alterations, what we think is the very spirit of Lowland.

Nowadays, Lowland malts are rightly celebrated in their own right and there has been a tremendous rebirth of distilleries opening or re-opening following previous closure in the category. Interestingly, many are making malts that are extremely diverse in nature. It's an exciting time for the region! Here at Kingsbarns we are striving for a sweet, fruit forward dram, so classic in the Lowland character.

Peter Holroyd

Using local barley, on site spring water, and yeast, we have not complicated whisky. Why would you? We use different techniques to complement our whisky rather than overpower it, a balance many distilleries have, unfortunately, lost sight of.

Kingsbarns is fruit forward, delectably complex, sweet, and a dram you wouldn't think has only been aged since 2015...

Ready to see for yourself? Our new flagship Doocot has been released and we can't wait for you to give it a try! We also have 5cl miniatures on sale if you would rather dip your toe in first. Want to come and see the distillery where the magic takes place? Make a day of it and come see us in Fife, all the details you need can be found here. We look forward to seeing you, and if not, hearing about your experience of our distinctly Lowland single malt scotch whisky.

May 19, 2023 — Douglas Cook

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