We have chosen classic examples from five of the six whisky regions of Scotland. These are
The most Southerly distillery in Scotland is the very small and independently owned Bladnoch which produces under 100,000 litres per year. This expression is known as the "beltie" (because of the Belted Galloway cows on the label) and is one of the first bottlings made by the present owners. Bladnoch sell it directly from their website for £36. A review of this Beltie by Whisky for Everyone is here.
A variety of Bladnoch whisky is available including 17-20 yr old made under the old ownership, and a sherry finish, a lightly peated, and a 46% version of the Beltie (all three are 8 years old) and made since the reopening. This article by Whisky Fun compares the old and the new whisky. Bladnoch have large warehouses and rent out cask space to other distilleries. They have access to a lot of old whisky which they sell these via their forum at very reasonable prices (for example, 25 year old Caol Ila for under £50). There is a good article on Bladnoch here. If you develop a taste for Bladnoch you can buy an individual cask from the distillery.
Nose: oily with linseed and fresh salad notes at first, but with water green fruits and particularly apple emerge.
Palate: Green apple, almond, marzipan and sappy young barley, enhanced towards the end with paprika and pepper notes. Gooseberries.
Finish: Medium, fruity and some spice.
For tasting notes and discussion see our Bladnoch 8 Beltie forum page.
Situated in Ballindalloch, Glenfarclas was founded in 1836 and has been in the same family (the Grant family, but not the ones that own Glenfiddich and Balvenie) ownership since 1865. Glenfarclas is one of the greats. Its style is typically complex, rich and sherried. If there was ever a whisky to sit with in front of a roaring fire on a winter’s evening, this is it.
Nose: Sultanas, creamy toffee, sherry, menthol. Soft but massively complex
Taste: Clean and light, followed by an oaky bite which itself gives way to waves of rich minty toffee. Quite drying at the end. Superb.
Glenfarlcas 15 can be bought for Around £40
Balblair is one of Scotland's most under-rated distilleries. You'll find it on the road from Inverness to Wick in the most North Easterly part of Scotland close to Glenmorangie and Dalmore. The air here is meant to be the purest in the United Kingdom and until relatively recently the distillery's standard offering was called Elements. But the whisky was relaunched a few years back and instead of an age statement its various expressions are now marked with a year representing a vintage in a similar way to wine. The new vintage is the 2000 which was released in September 2010 and can be bought for about £35. The Edinburgh Whisky Blog comments are here. Balblair are owned by Inverhouse, who own 5 distilleries.
Nose: Creamy, fluffy red apples, yellow fruit, gentle and sweet.
Palate: Pear, sweet apples, tinned apricot, very sweet and then sharp and spicy. Vanilla ice cream.
Finish: Warm and fluffy
Arran distillery only opened in 1995. Famous for producing some of the best (although illegal) whisky in the 18th century, the island supposedly has the purest water in Scotland and a warm climate for speedy maturation. Arran’s whisky is creamy, rich and fruity, not what you would expect from the Islands, but fabulous nonetheless. We have therefore selected the new Arran 14 year old for our Island representative.
Arran 14 was released in September 2010 and is available for around £35-£40. Dominic visited Arran in the spring of 2010 and reviewed this whisky on his blog. Cask Strength also visited over the summer. Whisky Notes have a nice review.
Nose: Buttery, light, floral with touches of summer meadow, lemon.
Palate: Fresh, vibrant, vanilla, lemon, grapefruit, menthol, pepper.
Finish: Medium, clean, fresh and spicy.
For tasting notes and discussion see our Arran 14 forum page
Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte An Turas Mor (Gaelic for ‘the great journey’). Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte expressions have received rave reviews, justifiably in our opinion. Bruichladdich are opening a new distillery in the village of Port Charlotte using stills and equipment from the now-defunct Inverleven distillery in the Lowlands.
This no age statement Port Charlotte (PC) whisky was released in September 2010 and can be bought for around £35-£40. It is a combination (or as Bruichladdich call it, a "multi vintage") of earlier PC expressions which were bottled at cask strength aged 5-8 years old. PC is peated at 40 ppm and matured in Bourbon casks, but PC-5 has a first fill Sherry finish and PC-6 a Madeira finish. These all combine wonderfully in the new more affordable An Turas Mor expressions.
Nose: Victorian London, sooty smoke, smoggy, with many aromas from stale fish and over ripe fruit to cooking fires.
Palate: Sweet at first, balanced and easy with gooseberries poached in cream, then the trademark smoke and peat but not as fierce and aggressive as in the past. You're expecting Jack The Ripper, you get the Artful Dodger. Get over it though, because it's a beauty.
Finish: Peat, pear and green fruit, in an enjoyable but pussy cat finish
For tasting notes and discussion see our Port Charlotte An Turas Mor forum page