Posts tagged ‘Highland’

Phil’s Favorite Highland Single Malt Scotches

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.

Tomatin 12 Year-Old Scotch Review

I started this blog with the intent of reviewing whiskeys that were affordable, and here in the United States, the best way to drink good whiskey on a budget is to buy American.  However, every once in a while, a good deal on a whisky comes a wandering across our borders.  Tomatin 12 year-old is one such whisky – affordable and quite enjoyable (and it pairs wonderfully with a bit of darts while you’re enjoying the World Championships this weekend).

Tomatin is a distillery located in the Eastern part of the Scottish Highlands, and while not an especially common single malt here in Boston, it is certainly not impossible to find.  The 12 year-old is the standard single malt from the distillery, and it is aged in a combination of first-fill ex-bourbon casks, refill American hogsheads, and refill Sherry butts before being married for an additional period in ex-sherry casks.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

The nose on this is pleasant and fruity (apple pie), with some honeyed notes, some meaty sherry, sweet bread pudding, and a whiff of floral pleasantries as well.  The palate is soft and seductive, with malt, some fino sherry, warm nuts, and a slight waft of some warm earthy smoke.  The finish is dry and surprisingly long with pears, peat, malt, and some candied nuts.

Overall, this is a very pleasant single malt, especially if you are looking for a dry presentation of a Highland single malt.  If you are looking for a good inculcation of a Highland whisky without breaking the bank, seek out a bottle of Tomatin 12.  My grade: B.  Price:  $35-40/750ml.  At the price point, it is hard to beat this one for a single malt.

Comparison Review: Scotch Styles, McClelland’s Speyside vs. McClelland’s Lowland

I have been asked by several people to begin posting reviews of non-bourbon whiskeys that also fit the mission of  In that vein, I am doing a comparison review of two great value Scotches that I am fond of.  But first, a few brief words about Scotch Whisky.

Like bourbon to America, Scotch Whisky is made in Scotland.  Unlike bourbon, Scotch is made primarily from barley, although some other cereal grains are occasionally added.  In addition, Scotch varies significantly depending on the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from.  Obviously, each distillery is a little different, but most regions have a distinct flavor profile embodied by the distilleries in that region.

McClelland’s is a Scotch distributor that sources and bottles whisky from different regions of Scotland.  As such, McClelland’s whisky is usually pretty cheap (between $20-$30), and it gives a good introduction to a region’s flavor profile before diving headlong into a Scotch that costs $50 a bottle.  McClelland’s makes single malt Scotches, which means that all of the whisky in the bottle is made from the same mash.  Blended Scotches like Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Dewar’s are made from blending different Scotches from different distilleries in order to get the desired product.  Generally speaking, single malts are crisper with a more distinct flavor profile, hence their appeal to whisky drinkers.  Now, on to the whisky…

The Speyside region of Scotland is the most well-known Scotch region, home to about half the distilleries in Scotland.  It is a relatively small region located in the Northeast of Scotland, where the Spey River enters the North Sea.  Distilleries such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Glenrothes, The MaCallan, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie are all found in the Speyside region.  As a general flavor profile, most Speyside whiskies strike a balance between fruity and floral notes and richer flavors of vanilla and oak.

On the nose, McClelland’s Speyside reminds me of Andes Mint candy.  It is fresh and minty, with some whispers of dark chocolate and fresh cut pine evergreens.  On the palate, the whisky is sweet and nutty, with the most prominent notes being almonds and hazelnuts.  The finish is moderately long, starting with light, piney flavors, and moving towards smoky pine and smoked peat at the end.  Like most of McClelland’s products, the Speyside is not very complex, but it gives a crisp, clear introduction to Speyside whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a great daily whisky.  It is a great anchor for any cabinet.

The Lowland region of Scotland is located in the south, and it is only home to a few active distilleries nowadays.  As a flavor profile, the Lowland Scotches are known for being very delicate and subtle.  They tend to be fresh and floral, with an almost silky or buttery texture.  Their popularity has died out a little bit in the past few decades as the whisky market has tended towards the massive flavor profiles of Islay Scotches and the Highland and Speyside regions.  However, Lowland Scotches are unique and fantastic whiskies.

On the nose, McClelland’s Lowland is mostly floral and citrusy.  There are notes of lemons and tangerines, coupled with dense floral notes of roses and lilacs.  This whisky is a pure joy to smell.  The palate is earthy and sweet, almost as if chewing on an orange or lemon peel.  The whisky is oily on the palate, feeling like melted butter in the mouth.  The finish is short and fairly weak.  It leaves a perfume-ish taste in the back of the mouth, but it is not very complex or powerful.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is great daily whisky, not as complex as the Speyside, but it anchors a cabinet just as well.

Overall, I prefer McClelland’s Speyside to McClelland’s Lowland.  However, if you are looking for a gateway whisky, a Lowland Scotch is a great place to start because of how easy the whisky is to drink neat.  These are both great introductions to Scotch, so give them a try and let it ride!