In recent years, the classification has seemed less and less relevant, with the Lowland region in recent years boasting only two working distilleries, in the shape of Auchentoshan near Glasgow and Glenkinchie, south of Edinburgh, with St Magdalene in Linlithgow having closed in 1983, followed a decade later by Rosebank, Littlemill and Bladnoch.
However, the situation improved slightly with the re-commissioning of Bladnoch, near Wigtown in south-west Scotland, during 2000, followed by the opening of Fife's Daft Mill facility late in 2005, though at the time of writing, Bladnoch is once again unproductive, with the owners having entered liquidation last year. At present, the fate of the old Wigtownshire distillery is uncertain.
The Lowlands as a malt whisky-making region are staging a comeback. Remarkably, of the seven Lowland malt distilleries currently operational, only Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie date from prior to 2005, and several additional Lowland distilling projects are in the pipeline.
Glenkinchie distillery - best known for its 12 Years Old and Distillers Edition 14 Years Old single malts - is located in the lush farmlands of East Lothian, some 15 miles south east of Edinburgh. It was established in 1825, and a century later became part of the old Distillers Company Ltd empire. In 1986 Glenkinchie, with its single pair of stills, was chosen as the Lowland representative in the original Classic Malts line up.
Glenkinchie has more to offer the committed visitor than many other Scottish distilleries, as the former maltings has been a museum since 1969, and is now officially the Museum of Malt Whisky Production, housing a fascinating range of distilling plant and memorabilia, including a scale model distillery built for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition.
While in East Lothian take the opportunity to spend time in the picturesque beach town of North Berwick or play a round at one of the many golf courses in the area. You can even see Concorde at the Museum of Flight at East Fortune! (www.visiteastlothian.org)
A visit to Edinburgh is, of course, a must. As well as being Scotland's capital city, it is home to the Scottish Parliament and is the second largest settlement in the country after Glasgow. Widely regarded as one of the most attractive cities in Europe, due to its spectacular setting and high incidence of historic buildings, areas of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Edinburgh (www.edinburgh.org) attracts around one million overseas visitors each year, making it the second most visited city in Britain after London.
For the whisky lover Edinburgh has specialist shops and bars aplenty, not to mention a grain distillery in the shape of North British, which is not open to the public. One must-see attraction is The Scotch Whisky Experience, situated on Castlehill, close to Edinburgh Castle. The Experience provides whisky novices with the perfect introduction to Scotland's national spirit, equipping them to get the most out of future distillery visits. There is also much to inform and entertain the more knowledgeable visitor, and an excellent retail area and bar/restaurant. (354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH1 2NE, Tel: +44 (0)131 220 0441 www.scotch-whisky-experience.co.uk).
Heading north from Edinburgh over the Forth Road Bridge into the ancient county of Fife, two new distilleries have become operational during the past few months, while Daftmill (not open to the public) was developed in an old mill building on the Cuthbert family farm during 2005. Fife is also home to Diageo's vast Cameronbridge grain distillery - the largest in Scotland.
The two newest Fife distilleries are Kingsbarns and Eden Mill, with Kingsbarns being located six miles south east of the historical university town of St Andrews (www.visitstandrews.com), home to probably the most famous golf course in the world, namely 'The Old Course.'
Kingsbarns distillery has been developed in an old farmstead on the Cambo Estate, and opened for business on St Andrews Day in 2014. It is equipped with one pair of stills and owned by the Wemyss family, which has held land in Fife for generations, and established the independent bottling business of Wemyss Malts in 2005.
A dozen miles north west of Kingsbarns, via St Andrews, is Eden Mill. Eden Mill started out as a brewery in 2012, but after installing distilling equipment in 2014 the company turned its attention to spirits, making gin and whisky.
Eden Mill is based in part of a former paper mill, built on the site of the former Seggie distillery, constructed and operated from 1810 to 1869 by Lowland distilling 'royalty' in the shape of members of the Haig family. It is Scotland's only combined distillery and brewery.
Eden Mill has bottled three different styles of new-make spirit using three varying malted barley styles to illustrate the diversity of their distilling regime. From April there will also be the option to 'bottle your own' Speyside-style blended malt whisky, which has been finished at the distillery in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks.
Having developed beer and gin tours of Eden Mill, the owners are now turning their attention to whisky, and expect to be offering whisky tours from March onwards. Contact the distillery for details.
Away to the west, with Bladnoch out of commission and William Grant & Sons Ailsa Bay malt distillery and Girvan grain distillery not being open to the public, it falls to Auchentoshan and Annandale to uphold Lowland whisky honours.
Auchentoshan is located ten miles from the centre of Glasgow, and the distillery was first licensed in 1823, now operating as part of Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd, owned by the giant Japanese distilling concern of Suntory Ltd. Auchentoshan practises triple distillation, once a characteristic of Lowland malt distilling, and the core range focuses on American Oak, Three Wood, 12, 18 and 21 Years Old single malts. A conference centre has been developed at the distillery, along with impressive visitor facilities.
Just as you cannot visit Glenkinchie without spending time in Edinburgh, so you cannot tour Auchentoshan without taking in Glasgow (www.seeglasgow.com), the largest city in Scotland, with a population of more than one million people.
21st Century Glasgow stands at the centre of the former heartland of Scotland's industrial might, having grown during the 18th and 19th Centuries into what was often referred to as 'The second city of the British Empire,' after London. Much of its wealth was based on the importation of tobacco during the 18th Century and later on heavy industry, with engineering and shipbuilding at its core.
Glasgow boasts a proud whisky heritage, too, having been home to seven distilleries over the years, though today only Chivas Brothers' Strathclyde grain distillery in the Gorbals district remains operational, and visitors are not admitted. However, malt whisky making will soon return to Glasgow, courtesy of the Glasgow Distillery, located in the historic Pump House, on the banks of the River Clyde (www.glasgowdistillery.com).
Annandale distillery is to be found some 65 miles south east of Glasgow, and 17 miles from the attractive county town of Dumfries (www.dumfries-and-galloway.co.uk). Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns spent the last years of his life (1791 to 1796) living in Dumfries, while working as an excise officer, frequenting the town's Globe Tavern, where you may raise a glass to the poet, as well as visiting his home, which is open to the public.
Unlike most of its contemporaries, Annandale distillery is actually based on the reconstruction and revival of an existing whisky-making facility, operational between 1830 and 1921. Annandale's renaissance (see Whisky Magazine 121) is largely thanks to locally-born businessman Dr David Thomson, who has spent a large sum of money restoring and enhancing the old distillery structures over a period of seven years, and creating an extremely attractive visitor experience in the process.
Pencaitland, Tranent, East Lothian EH34 5ET
Tel: + 44 (0) 1875 342 004
Two tour options - adults £8 or £12, plus gift shop, where a distillery exclusive bottling of Glenkinchie is available. Daily bus services operate city centre direct to the distillery (£20 or £24 inclusive of tours). Book the bus by calling: +44 (0) 1875 342 012
East Newhall Farm, Kingsbarns, Fife KY16 8QE
Tel: +44 (0) 7717 754 053
Three tour options - adults £8, £20 and £50, plus gift shop and café.
Eden Mill Distillery
Main Street, Guardbridge, Fife KY16 0UU
Tel: + 44 (0) 1334 834 038
Distillery and brewery tours, off-licence sales of beer, gin and new-make spirit.
by Dalmuir, Clydebank, Glasgow G81 4SJ
Tel. +44 (0) 1389 878 561
Seven tour options - from £8 to £200 per adult, plus gift shop.
Northfield, Annan, Dumfriesshire DG12 5LL
Tel: + 44 (0) 1461 207 817
Four tour options - from £8.50 to £50 per adult, plus The Maltings gift and coffee shop.