The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Although one might have one's own idea of exactly where the Highlands is in Scotland, it is, in whisky terms, easier to say where it isn't. Exclude the Islands, the Lowlands and Speyside, and there you have it; except that Speyside is sometimes classed as a sub-district of the Highlands and some distilleries (such as Ardmore and Knockdhu) which some writers would have as belonging to Speyside, fiercely cling to the Highlands appellation. I hope that's clear. Geographically, the Highlands is the biggest whisky region in Scotland, encompassing four sub-regions (excluding Speyside). Even within these sub-regions, there is often no clearly definitive style, so there is considerable range within the Highland region, making it the hardest to pin down stylistically. If there is one overarching characteristic, however, it's a distinct earthiness. In the North of the region, whiskies such as Pulteney and Glenmorangie display a crisp, spicy and often briny character, ideal for Summer. Others, such as The Dalmore and Glen Ord, possess a rich and voluptuous sherry character, plus a distinct orangeyness with The Dalmore. The Western Highlands is, in reality, quite sparsely populated in terms of distilleries and encompasses starkly different styles, from the smoky and fruity Oban down to the light and nutty Loch Lomond. This area is adjacent to Campbeltown, the sixth Scottish region in its own right, despite only having three active distilleries. It once had more than 30. The East of the Highland region also produces a mixed bag of styles. Bordering Speyside in the North-West, malts such as MacDuff and Lochnagar could be mistaken for Speysiders. Elsewhere, malty, sweet and noticeably smoky whiskies can be found at, amongst others, Glen Garioch and Ardmore. Finally, we come to the Central Highlands region. Whiskies from here were once known as Perthshire whiskies because all but one of the distilleries resided in the county. From the heather honeyed Dalwhinnie in the North to the buttery and creamy Tullibardine in the South, and nutty, flowery, fruity and spicy whiskies in between (e.g. Aberfeldy, Deanston, Edradour). So, as you can see, the Highland region has a real mix of flavours that satisfy pretty much all whisky tastes. The Whisky Tasting Club has selected another great five whiskies to represent the Highlands. From the North, we have the rich and luxurious Dalmore 12 year old and Clynelish 15 year old Distiller's Edition. From the East, we have the malty and smoky Glen Garioch 12 year old. Finally, from the South, the smooth and aromatic Dalwhinnie 15 year old and the crisp and peppery Glengoyne 12 year old cask strength. Enjoy!

Glen Garioch 12 year old

Pronounced Glen-Geery, Glen Garioch is the most Easterly Scottish distillery. In years gone by, its whisky had a pronounced peatiness to it. In more recent years, however, the peat hasn’t always been easy to find. Happily, it seems to have returned with this 12 year old, along with a healthy dose of sherry. If you like your whiskies big and soupy, you’re going to enjoy this.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Green fruits and light peat. Miso soup. Light sherry and tropical fruit. Quite prominent fresh oak.
Palate: The sherry is more apparent now. The peat also cranks up in intensity, as does the oak, ending up in a three way tie, refereed by a soft biscuity vanilla.

Retails for around £40

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Dalwhinnie 15 year old

From the central Highlands comes an old favourite. Dalwhinnie is the second-highest distillery in Scotland (after Braeval) and is situated halfway between Perth and Inverness. This 15 year old is the standard expression from this distillery and is heathery, voluptuous, honeyed and, underneath it all, smoky. This is one of the best selling single malts in the world. After you’ve had a sip, you'll know why.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Light dusty oak and a merest hint of peat. Tapioca pudding and mangoes.
Palate: Oak gradually building, before being joined by honey and soft tropical fruit.

Retails for around £35

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Clynelish 14 year old

Clynelish (pronounced Cline-Leesh) is situated in the town of Brora on Scotland’s North East coast. Adjacent to it is the old Clynelish distillery, known as Brora until it closed in 1983. The Whisky Tasting Club has chosen the 14 year old expression, with its seaweedy and mustardy character. This is an exercise in subtlety and one of the best coastal whiskies available.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Soft, mellow and fruity (orange?) with a definite saline edge. Violet creams. Shortbread. Sweetly herbal. A wisp of smoke.
Palate: Immediately salty, spicy, creamy and mustardy, viscous and oily. Bitter orange marmalade towards the middle, and a little nip of oak and smoke. A coastal cracker.

Retails for around £35

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Dalmore 12 year old

Situated at Alness, further on the North East coast, The Dalmore is a very different beast from the malts that are produced at nearby distilleries such as Glenmorangie and Balblair. Rich, orangey and liqueur-like, Dalmores are perfect for a winter fireside dram. The 12 year old is no exception, sherried, spicy and marmaladey, it is an ideal way to introduce yourself to one of the world’s great distilleries.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Heavy and intense. Molasses, sticky toffee pudding, treacle, marmalade, overripe oranges.
Palate: A little lighter than you might expect, given the nose. Toffee and orange peel. Rich and rounded with a peaty undertow.

Retails for around £35

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Glengoyne 10 year old

Glengoyne is a bag of curiosities. Split by the Highland/Lowland line, it is distilled in the Highlands and matured in the Lowlands. It is also the most slowly distilled Scotch whisky and is free of the influence of any peat. The result is a creamy, clean and malty whisky.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Buttery, fluffy apple with a crisp, raw, biting edge. Lemon drizzle cake. Marzipan. Light sherry.
Palate: Soft and sugary at first, then the lemon peel, wood spice and vanilla kick in and raise the stakes. The finish is spicy, yet soft.

Retails for around £30

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