After taking a long break to work on a fiction project, I am ready to once again explore the whisky regions of Scotland, without even leaving my own home. Naturally, I’d prefer to visit my mother land in person, but time and money are a major deterrent, as it is for many of us, but that doesn’t have to prevent you from experiencing good scotch. In my last post, I took you to my favorite whisky region, Islay, so now, we are going to tour the largest land region of Scotland, the birthplace of my Clans MacNab,
and MacGregor, the Highlands.
Now, Speyside is a part of the Highland area, but I’m going to leave it, and the outlying isles to discuss as their own whisky regions. Honestly, breaking whisky making down into individual regions isn’t as important for distinction among the distillers as it was two hundred years ago, since today, any distiller can make any type/flavor of whisky they desire. Peat doesn’t have to be restricted to Islay, for example, just as not all the Islay distillers produce peated expressions of their single malts. But, knowing your whisky regions, can help you determine which whiskies you enjoy most. So let’s get started with my favorite Highland single malts, and remember, I try to write about what I know, the whiskies I’ve tasted, but there are quite a few I haven’t, so don’t let that deter you from your own sampling adventures.
When I think of Highland single malts, I immediately think Glenmorangie. Out of all the Highland distillers, in my opinion, Glenmorangie has the most eclectic, and widest range of expressions in differing collections to choose from. Also ranging in price from easily affordable, to investment quality, each collection offers something for everyone. Being a G.R.I.T. S. (girl raised in the south), one the best tasting things ever is a fresh, ripe, juicy peach, and that is exactly what Glenmorangie The Original 10 Year delivers. From the nose to the finish, the flavor of ripe peach lingers, blended with crispness of citrus, warm vanilla, and a soft floral note, this very affordable whisky should always be in your liquor cabinet. Other must haves from their core range whiskies are what I call the Trianaid, (Scot’s Gaelic) the trinity, which are The LaSanta (Gaelic for fiery), my fave The Quinta Reuben, and the Nector D’or. Each carries a unique flavor signature, yet they are all mild enough for a novice scotch drinker to appreciate, and experience new finishes.
The Quinta Reuben is my favorite of the three, mainly due to its rich dark chocolate base note and silky mouth feel. This expression spends the first ten years of its maturation in American white oak, then it is transferred into specially chosen ruby port pipes from Portugal, where is ages another two years. The nose is heady with the combination of dark chocolate, and tangerine, with a hint of toasted nut, and pepper. The palate is perfect for dark chocolate lovers like me, though the heavy chocolate is evenly tempered with light mint, walnuts, dried currants, yet complimented with bittersweet orange. The bittersweet chocolate lingers in the finish, hints of fruit contribute to the silky texture. The Quinta Reuben is the kind of dram you savor, and relish, and like a good port it is particularly lovely after a meal.
Nector D’Or takes its name from the Gaelic term for gold, which perfectly describes the color of this scotch. To me, this is the sweetest of the trinity, so it’s not my top choice, but if you enjoy indulging in French pastries, this is your whisky. As with each member of the Trianaid, this whisky is aged for ten years in American white oak casks, then it spends another two years in Sauternes wine barriques, where it soaks up that rich flavor. As far as the nose goes, this whisky smells like Christmas morning, redolent with hearty fruit, spice, and candied citrus peel. The taste takes the richness even further with ginger, honey, tangy lemon, enhanced with the buttery flavor of toasted almonds, much like a savory pastry. Vanilla lingers on the tongue with a smooth, creamy texture, enlivened by the zing of lemon zest, and nuances of spice. This particular expression makes for the perfect after dinner dram, as it’s sweet enough to satisfy the hankering for dessert, but not overly sweet, yet just as decadent.
This was my birthday dram last year, and WOW, what a gift it was! This is one of those truly complex whiskies, that each time you drink it, you will encounter a new flavor, or scent. High roast chocolate malt aged in new charred oak and sherry casks creating a heady aroma of orange peel and espresso, and an even more robust flavor of dark chocolate, bitter mocha with bursts of spicy sweetness. The finish is the hardest to pin down to exact flavors, as I said, each sip reveals something new, but I find it clean, refreshing like a fruit flavored after dinner mint, if such a thing exists. If you can afford it, buy a bottle. If you can’t, at least treat yourself to a dram, which runs about the same as a mani-pedi.
Other Highland single malts I enjoy, and recommend are The Macallan Fine Oak expressions, and the classic, Macallan 18 yr, which is famous for its dark toffee flavor. Also, Oban, Old Pultney, and Tomatin are fine, classic whiskies, that I urge you to consider trying. Although I am a devoted Islay lover, my family history begins in the heather of the Highlands, as does the history of Scotland’s greatest invention, uisge na beatha, the water of life.
Please don’t drink and drive! Designate a driver!
Peace Love & whisky wishes! Slàinte mhath!
Nancy McGehee Guillory