The Scottish Highlands is the biggest geographical region of Scotland in terms of whisky-making, but it is a diverse area with lots of land between distilleries.  Some Highland distilleries resemble Speyside whiskies, while some resemble Islay whiskies, while others create something wholly new altogether.  But, you already knew all that.  Before more dallying occurs, here are the nominees for Phil’s favorite Highland Single Malt Scotch.

Name: Glenmorangie Astar

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 114.2 (57.1% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: The Astar was a limited release from Glenmorangie aged in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at cask strength.  It is a relatively young whisky; there is no age statement listed, however Glenmorangie has stated that most of the whisky used for Astar is between nine and ten years old.  This is a rich, creamy whisky with white wine flavors, vanilla sweetness, and rich orchard fruits.  Astar proved definitively that age is just a number and excellent whisky can occur at any age.  This was a limited edition bottling, but I have heard rumors that bottles can still be bought.  The problem is that the price is not the affordable sub-$100 mark that it was 5 years ago when this whisky was first released.

Name: Glenmorangie Ealanta

Age: 19 Years

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $125-150/750ml

Notes: Glenmorangie has created a plethora of wonderful whiskies in their Private Edition series, and I could have chosen a number of them, but this one is my favorite to date.  This wonderful whisky was the fourth annual release of the Private Edition series, and what makes it unique is that it is aged entirely in virgin oak casks.  The wood was toasted and seasoned for 2 years, but the first spirit to ever come in contact with it was Glenmorangie.  The result was a mixture of rich and creamy fruits and vanilla flavors, rolled together with fresh oak and floral notes.  The flavors were flavors I recognized, but arranged in an entirely different manner.  Truly a special whisky experience.  Unfortunately, this whisky was released four years ago, so finding a bottle of it floating around now may prove both difficult and costly.

Name: Glenmorangie Signet

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $225-250/750ml

Notes: This is another unique whisky experience from Glenmorangie.  The whisky in the bottle contains several components, but the two primary components are 30 year-old whiskies from Glenmorangie’s warehouses and younger whiskies distilled from a proportion of “chocolate” barley, most likely roasted in a similar fashion to roasted barley used to make dark beers, such as stouts and porters.  It’s something of a mysterious process, but the result is magnificent.  Flavors of rich mocha and dark fruits ooze seductively from this whisky.  The whisky is sweet and bitter and delicious all the way through.  This whisky is still part of Glenmorangie’s Prestige Range, and is commonly available provided you are willing to shell out the price tag for this gem.

Name: Oban 18 Year-Old

Age: 18 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $100-125/750ml

Notes: This malt comes from the west coast of Scotland, right on the water.  There is a big honeyed note that rolls through the whole Oban experience in this whisky, but it is supplemented by a damp, earthy peat smoke.  Water brings a little more brine and salt into the whisky to work with the sweet and smoky flavors.  This is a smooth, seductive, complex whisky.  Oban 18 is a continually released whisky, but only on a limited basis.  It is certainly available if you know where to look and whose palms to grease.

Name: Old Pulteney 21 Year-Old

Age: 21 Years

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $125-150/750ml

Notes: Old Pulteney is located on the Northeast coast of Scotland, and the whisky from the distillery drinks like its location.  You can taste the salt of the sea right from the start of this whisky.  However, it is supplemented by rich orchard fruits, cinnamon sticks, and fresh cut heather.  This is an older whisky that still drinks like it’s got some youth and vibrancy to it, which makes it a pleasurable pour.  It is by no means drowned in its age, rather enhanced very much by it.  This is a continual release from Old Pulteney, but it is still a rare find, so your best bet is to get in good with your local liquor store manager because for a 21 year-old whisky, there are not too many better deals than this one.