The Highlands are the largest geographical whisky region of Scotland. Due to the large area, whisky in the Highlands is very diverse and offers a vast spectrum of flavours and characteristics. In the North full bodied malts dominate. These are generally sweet & rich in character. Dalmore being one more recognisable northern highlands. Lighter, fruity whiskies are more commonly found in the east, such as Glendronach. Similar drams are found in the South, these would commonly have a touch less body, such as Aberfeldy. The Western Highlands offers full body with a tough of peat, the coast also has a great influence on these whiskies, Oban being one of the bigger names. One common element throughout the Highlands is a noticeable citrus tone.
Today I am so pleased to be able to share one of my favorite bottles of whisky with you. Named In honor of King Alexander III, who as legend has it was saved from the fury of a charging stag by an ancestor of the Clan Mackenzie, owners of the Dalmore distillery for over a century. In recognition of this noble act they were given Royale License to adorn their coat of arms with the stag.
Aroma: Heavenly scents of caramel, chocolate, vanilla and orange zest give way to slight hints of passion fruit and raspberry.
Palate: Rich, bold and full of body. Strong tones of cinnamon, vanilla, almonds, toffee, chocolate and caramel are dominant with lovely hints of lemon zest and raspberry.
Finish: A beautiful soft but peppery finish with flavors of cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
I have always loved any Dalmore bottle I’ve tried but this one holds a special place in my heart. It has a unique marriage of no less than six separate finishes; French wine casks, Madeira drums, Sherry butts, Marsala barrels, Port pipes and Kentucky bourbon barrels. It has an incredible complexity to it and yet it’s soft and comforting in tone. Definitely a must try!
Today we examine the classic 12 year old expression from Old Pulteney. This elegant highland single malts is solely aged in ex-bourbon casks and is bottled at 43%.
Nose: Honeycomb, vanilla, and soft oak hold the nose. Also present are aromas of coastal brine and malt.
Palate: Soft vanilla, soft sea brine and citrus dominate the palate. There is also a slight hint of pepper present.
Finish: A clear toffee tone with brine and lemon.
As any distiller of the islands and northern coasts of Scotland will tell you, the sea can have a tremendous influence on the aging of a malt. It can impart flavors of rich sea brine and salt. I am a lover of these maritime malts. They can range through all types of flavors from the peaty to the soft but they all have these delicious coastal flavors and smells that make them truly unique. The Old Pulteney 12 Year whisky is a good example of how these marvelous maritime tones can be expressed in a lighter ex-bourbon aged malt.
The relatively new 12 year old expression from Old Pulteney was released in 2018. Unlike its predecessor, it is entirely aged in bourbon casks, giving a heavy influence of bourbon sweetness and vanilla.
Nose: Honeycomb, vanilla, sawdust, soft oak, and a touch of malt.
Palate: Soft vanilla and citrus dominate the palate. There is also a slight hint of pepper and a soft sea brine present.
Finish: A clear toffee tone with brine and lemon.
I normally prefer sherried or partially sherried malts, however for me this is by no means a hard and fast rule. I really do love this malt and oddly enough I actually prefer it to their old 12 year which had a slight sherry influence. In my experience, the sweetness and strong vanilla that comes from ex bourbon casks can be overpowering in a malt. In this case though, I feel it helps to balance the coastal salinity of the whisky. The 12 year is an excellent introduction to Old Pulteney and I highly recommend it.
Named after the street in Wick on which the distillery stands, the Huddart is unique to Old Pulteney in that it is finished in ex-peated malt casks. I first tasted the Huddart on a visit to Old Pulteney and was quite impressed. The malt does carry a noticeable peat influence, but this peat is married well with the classic maritime ex-bourbon ageing that is synonymous with Old Pulteney. The Huddart is released with a strength of 46% ABV.
Nose: A creamy nose with bold tones of butter, vanilla, apple, bonfire smoke and apricot. A lovely hint of seaweed also is present.
Palate: Flavours of bold sea brine and banana dominate the palate. Also present are tones of burnt sugar, vanilla, a light peat and spice.
Finish: A lingering finish with flavours of seaweed, honey, thyme and malt.
My readers may have noticed that I often prefer sherried or partially sherried malts, although for me this is by no means a hard and fast rule. I have always had a soft spot for the ex-bourbon aged Old Pulteney malts, and the Huddart is an excellent innovative example. The idea of using an ex-peated cask is relatively unique and certainly is for Old Pulteney who, to my knowledge, have never released anything resembling a peated malt. If you are an Old Pulteney fan and are looking to try something a little different I would highly recommend it.
Old Pulteney is one of my favorite northerly distilleries on the east coast of Scotland. Up until 2013 it held the title of the most northerly distillery on The Scottish mainland. Since 1826 it has been making fine, light, maritime malts. Recently I decided to try one of their special release vintages.
Aroma: Strong notes of pear, peach and banana. Plenty of vanilla as well with a whisper of honey.
Palate: Bold fruity sweetness with pear and banana. Clear pepper and vanilla as well with a nutty edge. Also present is a clear malty tone.
Finish: Lingering vanilla and spices, with a light sweetness. Medium in length.
I have always considered the Old Pulteney’s as dear friends. Their 12 and 17 years are truly some of my favorites. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to try one of their special release vintages. I would say the 2006 vintage is clearly very different from their 12 and 17 years. There is much more fruit and sweetness with less sea salt most likely from its first fill, Ex-Bourbon barrel aging. It is however a wonderful bottle and definitely worth a try.
Each year Diageo presents new limited batches of the Distillers Edition series from its core distilleries. These different whisky editions are classic malts from each distillery that have enjoyed a second maturation which takes place in unique fortified wine casks to enhance their palate. Each wine cask is specifically chosen to complement the unique character of each distillery. The Dalwhinnie 1998 Distillers Edition (bottled in 2015) was treated to an Oloroso Sherry cask finish and bottled at 43% ABV. The Oloroso finish adds tones of rich fruit and spice to the classic honeyed character of Dalwhinnie.
Nose: Sweet scents of heather, barley, dark chocolate and honey. Also present are aromas of dried apricots and pepper, characteristic of the Oloroso cask finish.
Palate: A soft but elaborate palate with sweet honey, walnuts, fresh grapes and rich sultanas.
Finish: A long finish with continuing flavors of honey. Also present on the finish are clear tones of malt and vanilla.
Dalwhinnie is an interesting Highland distillery and even though they are part the giant portfolio of Diageo they have always kept their unique palate, which is characterized by light flavors of sweet honey, walnuts and cereals. I have always thought of their malts as marvelous for the summer months and often a good alternative to the malts of Speyside.
Today we examine another top-notch Diageo Distillers Edition Malt from Oban Distillery. The Oban 2003 Distillers Edition (bottled in 2017) was treated to a finish in Fino sherry casks from the Montilla region. The town of Montilla is located to the east of the better-known sherry heartland of Jerez. Montilla’s fortified wines are far less well known outside Spain. The region’s drier wines (Fino and Amontillado – the latter of which is named after the town) are particularly prized for their quality. The drier, fragrant and savoury style of Fino make the casks an excellent fit for the sweet and citrusy profile of Oban’s malt. Whilst most distillers prefer casks from the sweeter Oloroso or Pedro Ximenez sherries for adding flavour to their malts, this is a terrific example of what a good quality Fino cask can provide.
Nose: Fruity and pungent with classic tones of citrus so often associated with Oban. Also present are scents of grape.
Palate: Green apple, sea salt, black pepper, marzipan and cinnamon gum.
Finish: Christmas cake, honeyed malt, another touch of sea salt.
This magnificent single malt takes its name from the distillery’s founder, James Allardice. It’s completely matured in Oloroso sherry casks, and it was originally released in 2009.
Aroma: Beautifully soft and creamy! Strong notes of Sherry, a hint of old rum, with pineapple and brown sugar present as well.
Palate: Deceptively complex with strong tones of Oloroso Sherry. Rum makes another appearance with fruit cake, chocolate, hazelnut, honey and a hint of Sauternes.
Finish: A bold long finish with cassis and citrus zest.
The GlenDronach 18 is an exceptional sherried single malt. I believe its beautifully soft, fruity and sweet characteristics are best enjoyed as fantastic conclusion to a meal; perhaps taking the place of a cognac or armagnac.
Ive been on a Glenmorangie kick and the other day I decided to try out there relatively new 14 year Ruby Port cask finish.
Aroma: Thick, fruity and floral. Hints of dark chocolate, orange zest and sandalwood. Also a slight touch of rose Turkish delight.
Palate: A beautiful velvety texture with strong notes of orange, lemon, dark chocolate and raspberry. Slight hints of mint and nutmeg as well.
Finish: A deep, gentle and lasting finish of orange and dark chocolate.
I have to say I was very taken by this bottle. The aromas and flavors are simply to die for. I’d also like to add that at its current retail value, which of course may rise as if it gains popularity, it is a great buy. In my opinion the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 14 year is fabulous!
I’ve been on the hunt recently for some more accessible bottles. A colleague and friend suggested the Glenmorangie 10 year. I realized that I could not recall trying it, so I thought, why not let’s give it a shot.
Aroma: Thick and very fruity. Strong notes of pear, apple, nectarine and lemon. Some spice as well.
Palate: Heavy and creamy with thick notes of honey and malt. Vanilla and toffee are present as well with light notes of apricot, lemon and spice.
Finish: Long gentle finish with malt, fruit and spice.
I have always loved some of the more expensive bottles that Glenmorangie puts out such as their Signet, which of course is in a league of its own. I have to say though, that I was very impressed by the Glenmorangie 10 year. Especially when comparing price with value. I think this bottle should be considered a great entry-level scotch and a perfect one to explore the fruity nature of the Highlands.
Clynelish distillery is located on the eastern coast of the highlands in Sutherland. The distillery was technically founded in 1819 by the Marquis of Stafford who chose the site for its proximity to the coal fields of Brora. As was the case in so many distilleries, it fell under the ownership of DCL (now Diagio). They built a new facility next door in 1967. The old distillery was renamed Brora and eventually closed in 1983. Like so many distilleries in Scotland Clynelish has gone through great changes over the years but their malt has held true. They are an old staple and I find their classic malt as just that. The Clynelish 14 Year is known for its waxy character and dominant citrus. Bottled at 46% using a majority of bourbon casks.
Nose: Scents of citrus (zesty mandarins and lemon) and vanilla dominate. Also present are whiffs of elderflower and candle wax.
Palate: A soft and waxy palate with great clarity. Flavours of orange marmalade, vanilla, dried fruit and cinnamon.
Finish: Medium in length with flavours of Seville oranges and a hint of sea brine.
The Morven is an exciting new edition to the newly formed Wolfburn range. The newly established Wolfburn distillery has stolen Old Pulteney‘s title as the most northerly distillery of mainland Scotland. The lightly peated Morven is a non-age statement single malt. At 46%, it is non-chill filtered with a natural light color.
Nose: slight notes of apple and grape paired with light earth and peat.
Palate: A very light almost ashy peat is joined with honey, raisins, peppery oak and malt.
Finish: lovely notes of caramel and ginger hold the finish.
Although it is young, it’s peppery bite and hints of malt are lovely when paired with its classic highland honey and its very faint peat. I’m always excited to try out the malts coming from some of Scotland’s newest distilleries today. It helps to understand where the industry is heading and what we can expect to see in its future!