Please let me take you around Scotland and present you to the best Single Malt whiskies in the world. Most of the distilleries are 150 - 200 years old.....officially. Whisky distilleries was made legal 200 years ago, but most whisky distilleries has a many hundred years long history as illegal whisky distilleries long before whisky was made legal. Scotland's reputation as smuggler's paradise has it's origin in this period.....
All the whiskies in this feature are available through good whisky shops.
Highland Park 12 years old.
We start the trek in the most northern whisky distillery in the world. Highland Park is situated in the Orkney Islands; a windswept group of islands 50 km. north of Scotland's mainland.
Many regard this as the best whisky brand in the world. This view is controversial. But nobody question the fact that Highland Park is the most complex of all whisky brands. You find distinct tones of peat, smoke, sea weed, sherry, saltwater, flowers, grass, citrus fruit and honey in Highland Park. It has a long, sweet and lingering aftertaste. Highland Park is an essential purchase in a collection of whisky. It is easy available through all whisky shops.
Old Pulteney 12 years old.
We are taking the ferry over to the mainland Scotland and down to the Caithness peninsula to Wick. Old Pulteney was re-launched again as single malt in 1996 and is now widely available. This distillery is the most northerly mainland distillery in Scotland.
Old Pulteney's main characteristics is a heavy, tangy aroma. There is heavy hints of citrus, flowers and sweetness in this whisky. This whisky is medium complex, which make Old Pulteney very popular among whisky blenders. This is an OK whisky, without any weaknesses or brilliance.
Glenmorangie 10 years old.
We are continuing our quest for whisky down the Moray Firth to Tain, just outside Dingwall. Glenmorangie has a relatively mild taste with hints of flowers, citrus, peat and toffee, with a flinty aftertaste. This aftertaste is this whisky's main characteristic.
Glenmorangie is not one of my favourites. That does not mean it is a bad whisky. Glenmorangie is a high- quality whisky with it's own soul. Glenmorangie is the most sold Single Malt in Scotland. It comes in a variety of ages and varieties. The Glenmorangie range is well worth checking out.
Glen Ord 12 years old.
We continue to Glenmorangie's neighbour Glen Ord. This malt is a nice, well balanced malt. The taste is rich on fruit, peat and grass. Not spectacular, fascinating or pompous. Just gentle. This malt is a very popular after dinner malt, best enjoyed together with a good cigar and in company with true gentlemen or ladies. If you are looking for fireworks in a whisky bottle: you do a big mistake if you buy Glen Ord. But Glen Ord has it's religious like following and it's good reputation is highly deserved.
Talisker 10 years old.
We continue our quest for good single malt whiskies down the long, rugged west coast of Scotland. Until we comes to The Isle of Skye. It is probably the most beautiful island in the world. This island has everything. It even has a whisky distillery which has a world wide reputation as one of the finest in the world. Talisker is the name and it is brilliant. Talisker single malt whisky is based on the pungent water of Skye. The taste is smoky, salty, peaty, peppery, leathery and very, very pungent. The result is whisky full of character and soul. It has a very strong aroma and smell. Enough to send the faint- hearted running for cover. The aftertaste is long and lingering. It is one of my favourites.
We continue our journey down the west coast to Isle Of Mull. This is a quiet and gentle island. The biggest city on Mull is Tobermory, who are built around it's harbour and it's whisky distillery named Tobermory. The taste of Tobermory is gentle, fresh, lightly peated, fruity, medium- dry and with a smoky finish. Tobermory is not the most known whisky in the world, but it is a true gem, much loved by all true whisky- lovers.
Oban 14 years old.
We take the Craignure- Oban ferry back to the mainland again and embark in my favourite Scottish city, Oban. This is a nice town with some thousand lost souls. In the middle of this town; you find the distillery with the same name. Oban is a very elegant whisky with a salty, fruity, flowery and honey taste. It is a very nice combination of all whiskies in Scotland. It is a very nice all-rounder and a brilliant introduction to the pleasures of single malt whisky. Start with this whisky if you have not tried the pleasures of single malt's before.
Isle Of Jura 10 years old.
We are going off shore again to one of the islands south-west of Oban. Isle Of Jura is a barren island, with less than 200 inhabitants, 2 000 sheep, a few insane cows, five shops........and a world known whisky distillery. The taste Isle Of Jura is very different from the other West- Scotland whiskies. The aroma is very rich and warm, with a strong taste of cake and coffee. I use it as an after-dinner whisky, together with a dessert. This whisky has a lot of character and is a very original whisky. It is kept in high regard among whisky lovers.
Bunnahabhain 12 years old.
We have now taken the small ferry from Isle of Jura to Isle Of Islay. This rain and windswept island has no less than eight whisky distilleries. All of them are world famous. I am starting with the most uncharacteristic of the eight Islay single malts. Bunnahabhain is a very gentle and dry malt. It has a very nutty, flowery taste. It is a delicious single malt. This is not the most known single malt in the world, but it deserve a lot more attention than it has got so far. This is a real gem for whisky lovers.
Bowmore 12 years old.
Bowmore is far more famous than Bunnahabhain. Bowmore is real Islay malt, with all it's trademarks. The nose betrays the origin of this whisky. The aroma are full of peat, malt, smoke and sea weed. The aftertaste is very long and lingering. Bowmore 12 years old is perhaps my personal favorite among the Islay malts. Bowmore also comes in several different varieties.
Bowmore Legend (8 years old).
This is the budget version of the 12 years old malt. Much of the same applies as the 12 years old. But the Legend is more straight forward and an one dimensional affair. I would very much recommend the 12 years old instead of Bowmore Legend. But as an introduction to the delights of the Bowmore range of whiskies, this is a fairly decent whisky.
Bruichladdich 10 years old.
This is the favourite whisky among the hardy inhabitants of this rugged island. This distillery is also Scotland's most westerly distillery (although a new distillery has just been established some miles west of this 'Laddich). Strong hints of flowers, heather, fruit, malt, peat and smoke is Bruichladdich's main characteristics. The taste is long and very lingering. This malt is not as recognizable as the other Islay malts, but it is still highly recommended. This is a whisky for the long rainy nights. You will never walk alone again.
Bruichladdich has just been re-opened and re-launched again with new bottles and website. I like the new owner's positive attitude (check out their website). I guess Bruichladdich will be among the top single malts within ten years. And that serves this whisky right !!!!!
Ardbeg 17 years old.
Hard to find due to being mothballed in the '80 and restarted again two years ago by the new owner Glenmorangie. This Islay malt is very heavy peated and full of sweetness at the same time. It is a very complex whisky which give a lot of pleasure. This whisky is a good alternative to playing Cluedo. The mystery of what is hidden in this whisky, will keep you occupied throughout 4-5 bottles. That is, if you can get hold of these bottles and your employer give you a substantial pay-rise. Ardbeg is a highly recommended whisky.
Ardbeg 10 years old.
....and the result of the re-started Ardbeg distillery has just hit the shops (March '00). And what a whisky !!
It is not as complex as the 17 years old, but it has a hell off a lot more character. The taste is sweet and flowery like never before. The long and lingering aftertaste is very peaty. In between these explosions of opposites; you will also find a lot of smoke, seaweed and salt. To say that the release of Ardbeg 10 years old, was the highlight of year 2000, is a massive understatement. A collection of whiskies without at least one bottle of Ardbeg 10 years old, is incomplete. Kill, borrow or steel....... but not from me !!!!!!!!
Laphroaig 10 years old.
Some whisky brands are famous. Laphroaig are infamous. We are talking about the most pungent and intense single malt in the world. Laphroaig are the "trade- mark" distillery of Isle Of Islay. This is the most hated and loved whisky in the world. The smell is so strong that it "kill" your nose for several minutes. It has a medicine like taste, with a intense taste of peat, seaweed, smoke and saltwater. The aftertaste is very long. Which comes as a nasty shock for those who takes a small sip and spit it out in horror.....
There is nothing nice with Laphroaig. It is just pure brutality and horror. Personally; I love Laphroaig. A lot of people world wide share my view. Laphroaig has a devoted religious-like following world wide. It's position is highly deserved. You will either hate or love Laphroaig.
Lagavulin 16 years old.
The close neighbour to Laphroaig. Both in location and in taste. Lagavulin is much more complex in it's aroma than it's famous neighbour. Lagavulin has a dry, smoky, peppery and leathery taste, with a long aftertaste. Lagavulin is a malt with an intense taste, but not as brutal as Laphroaig. This is a very famous whisky with a well deserved reputation.
Springbank 12 years old.
We have taken the two hours long ferry- trip back to the mainland and continue down the long Kintyre peninsula to Campheltown, where we find Springbank whisky distillery. This whisky has a very sweet and flowery taste. It has a very strong aroma. The aftertaste is also long. It is one of my favourites, although it is very difficult to find in Scotland at the moment. But Springbank was re-launched in Scotland last month and it should now be available through Oddbins, Peckham (Central Station) and other specialised shops. What are you waiting for ???
Isle Of Arran 4 years old.
I got a sample of this whisky stuck in my hand on a the ferry crossing between Brodick and Ardrossan last time I was on the majestic Isle Of Arran. This whisky is far too young, but it show a hell of a lot promise. In some years time; it will be available as a 12 years old. Based on the 4 years old (sold in limited quantity in specialist shops), it is going to be a cracker of a whisky. The 4 years old is full of fruit and flowers in the Springbank vein. No aftertaste though and no balance. By no means a great whisky, but it is worth a try.
Auchentoshan 10 years old
This distillery is situated on the main road between Dumbarton and Glasgow. It is the only remaining distillery in Glasgow. It goes under the Lowlands family of whiskies. The taste is full of fruit and flowers.
The bouquet is richer than most other whiskies, but without losing any elegance. The aftertaste is long and lingering. This whisky is the best Lowland whisky on the market and an absolute delight. Not to be missed.
We should make a stop at Glengoyne distillery outside Glasgow, but by one reason or another: I cannot recall the tasting notes of this malt. I prefer peaty malts and Glengoyne 10 years old is an unpeated malt. In other words: my big collection of single malts do not include Glengoyne. I guess I should be ashamed of myself....
Glenkinchie 10 years old.
A nice car journey takes us to Edinburgh, the capitol of Scotland. Edinburgh has a very nice whisky museum, which everybody should visit. The museum is located at Edinburgh Castle; one of Europe's biggest tourist attractions. Some miles south of Edinburgh; Glenkinchie whisky distillery are situated.
It is a very gentle whisky. It has a complex and elegant taste with hints of spice, sweetness, salt, citrus and smoke. It is certainly a very good whisky, with it's own character. Check it out.
Tullibardine 10 years old.
Is Perth and the Ochil Hills a part of the Highlands ? Is Tullibardine a Highland whisky ? I am not so sure about that. Tullibardine is certainly the most fruity whisky I have ever tasted. The smell and taste of raisins is also very strong. But then the taste of dark chocolate comes sneaking into the palate. The aftertaste is not as long as I would like and this is the main negative thing about this whisky. Besides of that, this whisky is recommended. The distillery is relative new and a very welcome addition to the whiskies of Scotland.
Old Fettercairn 10 years old.
We take a trip up along the east-coast of Scotland to one of my favourite whiskies. Old Fettercairn (40 km. south of Aberdeen) is not the most respected whisky in the world, but it still has a lot of character. It has a very nutty, citrus- fruit flavour. It is medium dry, with a lot of aroma. It is a nice everyday whisky and it deserves all the respect it can get.
Dalwhinnie 15 years old.
We continue the whisky trail into the mountains in Scotland. Dalwhinnie is the highest located distillery in Scotland. It is located in a windswept, barren mountain range in the middle of The Highlands. This
location is what gives the character to this gem of a whisky. The taste is mild and gentle. Still it has a lot of aroma with soft tones of heather, flowers and malt. The aftertaste are long and lingering.
Dalwhinnie is very popular around the world and it fully deserve this popularity. This is one of the best whiskies you can buy for money.
Tomintoul 10 years old malt.
Tomintoul is a delightful village, situated high up in the mountains between Aberdeen and Inverness.
A visit to this village is highly recommended. Tomintoul has also a brilliant beer brewery with the same name. Do not forget to stock up with their excellent Stag Ale.
In whisky terms, it is situated between The Highlands and the Speyside whisky regions. Tomintoul single malt is relative strong and brash in it's aroma. This is therefore not particular an elegant malt. But you get a very good Speyside malt for approx. £ 15. This is an excellent everyday malt which deserve a lot more credit that it currently have.
Macallan 10 years old.
We are following the whisky trail down river to River Spey, where we end our journey around Scotland with some real good whiskies. You will find 70 % of all whisky distilleries around this river and it's many subsidiary- rivers. River Spey is also a damn good salmon river. Macallan is one of the market leaders. This whisky are matured in sherry casks and the result is a whisky with a strong sherry flavour. Macallan is the driest whisky of all whiskies. It has a strong flavour of oak, toffee and sherry. It has a long lingering aftertaste. This is one of the most essential purchases in a whisky collection. Please note that there is several varieties of Macallan.
Aberlour 10 years old.
This whisky is grossly undervalued.. Which means that you get a great whisky for almost nothing. Aberlour whisky distillery is owned by a French company and Aberlour is more popular in France than cognac. Aberlour has a mellow, sweet taste with a flowery, spicy, nutty taste. There is also some hints of sherry in this very good whisky. It has a long and lingering aftertaste. Aberlour is highly recommended.
Cragganmore 12 years old.
Cragganmore is the most complex and elegant of all River Spey single malts. It is my view the Queen of the River Spey single malts. Cragganmore has a nutty, fruity medium strong taste with hints of sherry, peat, smoke and flowers. It is a very complex whisky and it is highly recommended.
Cardhu 12 years old.
Probably the most arch-typical Speyside malt on today's market. This malt is the basis for famous blends like Johnny Walker's. The taste is sweet, grassy, heathery, flowery and peaty. Hints of toffee and honey is also evident in this malt. This is not a particular interesting malt, but it has it's subtle charm. Cardhu can only be found in well stocked shops.
Glen Grant 10 years old.
I hate spirits with the name "Grant" thrown in. The Grant blended whisky, the vodka and the gin with the same name is truly awful. But Glen Grant 10 years old comes as a nice surprise. This whisky has a very fresh taste. The contents of wood is almost non-existent. Compare the colour to the colour of Macallan and Aberlour and you will understand what I say.
Glen Grant has a very heavy taste of nuts, with some toffee thrown in. The aftertaste is surprisingly long. This is too much a one-dimensional whisky in my view, but check it out if you want. This whisky deserve respect.
Glendronach 15 years old.
A true gem, well hidden in the specialist Whisky shops or in my dear neighbour, Ballantine's, visitor shop. This noble Speyside malt is very dry, with a medium strong taste of sherry. It also has some strong hints of sweet fruit, spice, chocolate, ginger, honey and wild flowers. It is like a Scottish summer on speed. Strangely enough, the price pr. bottle is only approx. £ 25. If you can find this gigantic whisky, that is.
Glen Moray 12 years old.
This is a very controversial whisky. This whisky are mellowed in Chardonnay white wine casks and was released one year ago in a blaze of glory. I first hated this whisky because I feared that it would set a trend of light, wishy-washy whiskies. One year after; I have thankfully been proven wrong. Strong and aromatic whiskies are selling like never before and Glen Moray has not destroyed my paradise. So what's the score ? This whisky is actually a welcome addition to Scotland's portfolio of Single Malts. It has a very light taste, even more lighter than Glenfiddich. The taste is delicate grassy, fruity and malty. The taste of wine is thankfully almost non- existent. The aftertaste is actually very delicate, with some subtle undertones.
Glen Moray is by no means a great whisky. It does not have a great character and it is rather bland. Besides of this; Glen Moray is a good every day whisky and it does not deserve to be slagged off. Try this whisky and make up your own mind.
Glenlivet 12 years old.
This is a very nice Speyside whisky. It is very elegant with it's light, refreshing taste with a citrus, flowery, spicy aroma with a crisp finish. The aftertaste is very long and lingering. It is a typical summer whisky and is best enjoyed outdoors on a warm summer day. A good alternative to gin & tonic. Highly recommended. The new variants of Glenlivet are more refined and heavy in taste and aroma.
Balvenie 10 years old.
Believe it or not; this excellent malt is produced next door to the rather soulless Glenfiddich. Soulless is not the word I would use on the heavy smoked Balvenie. It also has some elegant undertones of sherry, heather, peat and flowers. The taste is long and lingering. Balvenie is exclusive produced according to old production methods. This is a back-to-the-roots Speyside single malt. This malt has become very popular in the last twelve months. Which prove that there sometimes is justice on this planet. This widely available malt is highly recommended.
Glenfiddich 12 years old.
We finish the whisky trail with the most known single malt whisky in the world. For a long time, it did not have any age stated on the bottle. And frankly, the taste was not particular impressive too. But I tasted it again in March 2002 and it is my impression that Glenfiddich has cleaned up their act. 12 years is in my view is an ideal age for a whisky. Glenfiddich is a bit frowned upon by snobs like myself. My new impression of Glenfiddich is that it is one of the best 10 -12 years old Speyside whiskies.
Glenfiddich has a very light, refreshing taste with hints of fruit, smoke, peat, grass, flowers, malt and vanilla with a crisp finish. The aftertaste is very long and lingering. This whisky is most known for it's green bottle with it's very special shape. Glenfiddich comes in several varieties and the Solera Reserve has won a lot of praise. I will check it out....
Is it only me or is it that Glenfiddich finally has come of age ??
This was a short presentation of the pleasures of single malt whisky. I have left out a lot brands who deserve to be mention in this article. I have not enough time and space to include these brands.....yet. But I will include new reviews when I have devoured some more whiskies.
Please contact me for more information about the single malt whisky and travelling in the Highlands and
the Islands in general (also see the Cycling In Scotland feature).
But more important; visit your local whisky shop and take the whisky- trail !!
Scottish Malt Whisky Society
Scottish Whisky Brands