Loch Lomond 12- Choosing a new single malt is a bit like playing “Operation”. You want to be able to grab that beauty without getting zapped. That is not a problem with this Highland rock star , grab and go with the confidence of a surgeon. The fine folks with their distillery perched on the shore of this scenic lake (loch), use a unique mash up of recharred, refilled and bourbon barrels to craft their malty magic. The complex sweetness on the nose is payed off with ultra mellow fruit and spices in the flavor. I found the finish to be lingering with a hint of welcome peat, a true zesty whisky. This dram is wicked good , well priced , beautifully bottled , and you won’t get zapped ! Rated a buzzing 8 on the snob scale and highly recommended.
Speyburn Bradan Orach- Here is a breezy Highland malt that might surprise you. With no age statement in sight, I usually navigate to another area of the whisky aisle, but this one has a sunny disposition that offers waves of vanilla and some distant spices that were terrific. There is some initial bite with a light nose but the alcohol dissipates quickly and the flavors include some lemony citrus. The relatively low proof migh tbe responsible for the smooth sailing flavors but make sure to avoid ice or water as then it would be pathetically weak. There is not a huge amount of character here, but it is a great value and I applaud the distillery for making a quality whisky at this price point. I’d hold back on the second glass until you’re back at the dock but then splash away. Rated a pedestrian 6.5.
Glen Garioch 12- A minor confession…. with so many Highlands on the shelf these days, many of
them amount to a snoozefest in your glass. There, I said it, not my fave….But this one avoids many
of the cliché characteristics . Let’s start with the spiffy label typography, it has calligraphy no less!
The nose is potent with alcohol and sweet honey and the first sip is chockablock with creamy
caramel and some mystery fruit that defies you to identify it. This malt is alarmingly smooth and has
a split personality from aging in bourbon and sherry casks, giving it a back flavor of wood and
sweetness. One downside for me is that the finish is faster than a Frenchman waves the white flag, I
prefer a longer lasting taste. Oh by the way, the pronunciation is “Geerie” so don’t embarrass
yourself in the bar if you are lucky enough to find it on the shelf. I guess the Highlands do make a
whisky even a snob could love, rated a 7.5 and worth searching for.
Glengoyne 10- It is time to unhitch from the world wide interweb and get back to enjoying reality at a normal pace. Our subject whisky is a Highland malt of notable unhurried quality. The makers actually air dry the barley and employ a slow process distilling technique which flies in the face of every annoying smartphone wielding speed demon. The nose is of toffee and fruit with a slight earthiness , which could be the result of the dirt floor in the barrel warehouse. I found the usual highland vanilla and a slightly raspy spice at the back of my mouth on the first taste , and just a hint of bacon. Taking my time led to a more mellow mouthfeel and the amber glassfull eventually disappeared rather quietly. Even the finish on my test drive was leisurely, but in a good way. So before some nit picker starts poking around in Google to research this slow paced wonder, I suggest you simply buy a bottle , invite a friend or two via snail mail….( remember stamps and letters..) and taste this beauty. It’s clean and crisp and unhurried. Kinda like Scotland I suspect. Now try not to check your email or the market for at least a few hours……rated an analog 8 on the Snob slide rule….and I lied about the bacon.
Tullibardine – I occasionally wonder about the curious link between track centric people and single malts. As you review your corner data back home in the den, a wee dram of this Highland whisky should be part of your process. Tullibardine means ” lookout hill” in gaelic and from my vantage point here I’m looking at a paddock full of highly tuned track machines. Many of my friends who are engaged in this pursuit are serious fans of esoteric scotches. Our subject malt pours bright gold and has a sweet citrus nose with a smooth and clean finish. Lighter that most, there is a distinctive wine like presence that may result from the aging in bourbon barrels. I found some spiciness in the mouthfeel and think most fans of a waving checkered flag will enjoy this winner. It may not be the smoothest ………. but neither is that motor of yours with the full race cam. Best enjoyed after your next event and rated a solid 7 on the snob tachometer…..
AnCnoc 12- A recent visit to the Guggenheim renewed my interest in all things modern. Many single malts have vintage formulas and equally stogy graphics which brings us to the artistically contemporary AnCnoc 12 produced by the good folks at Knockdhu. Gaelic for “ The Hill “, it should be no surprise that this yellow hued beauty is a highland malt. The nose was ultra crisp with a good dose of pepper and and a minor stroke of smoke. The mouth feel was clean and creamy with the usual Speyside fruit hidden somewhere deep in the composition. The lovely finish was long and lingering and the malt itself was representative of the clean and graphic label. All the essentials for a memorable drink are here and while this may not be the “ Picasso” of single malts, it is surely worth adding to your gallery…Rated a painterly 7 on the snob scale.
Clynelish 14- Don’t let the wacky cat scare you away from this coastal overachiever. Our subject is a Highland classic that pours a beautiful orange color and your initial sense will be delicate floral notes with a subtle sweetness. Enjoyed neat , you’ll find spicy overtones and a lingering warm finish. You might detect additional nuances by adding a few drops of water ……My personal preference is having distinctive peat and this single malt delivers a mild smokiness that is soft enough for almost any whisky fan. In my experience , most felines are perpetually blasé , but this one has the correct level of attitude and character. I rate it a puurrfectly warm and fuzzy 7.5.
Oban 14- There is something fishy about this Western Highland malt, primarily because it harkens from the town of Oban which was a fishing village for hundreds of years before the distillery was constructed in the late 1700’s. Talk about a rich history ….you can detect a slightly salty air in your glass if you give it a chance to linger . Richly colored like an amber jewel , this smooth and slightly malty scotch has a dry delicious texture on the palate . I detected subtle creaminess in my second glass which made me think this would be a fine after dinner dram, perfect for following your grilled beef or venison. There is a subtle but delightful bit of peat balanced by some fruit mid taste. I image this as the ideal reward for landing a “keeper” on a dry fly. Easily an 8+. Oh, and to avoid sounding like a rookie….remember when ordering that the A is silent.
Glenlivet 12 Airline Mini- Here’s a first…. the snob manages a stellar review at 32,000 feet. Enjoying a fine scotch is part tasting and part overall experience. Who need a crystal glass when American Airlines offers up a charming embossed plastic cup. Additionally, the warmth of the genuine Formica folding table (complete with propaganda literature in the clever seat back pocket) enhances our enjoyment. This refined highland whisky has subtle floral notes with very light peating. Somehow during the process, even the roar of the 757’s massive jet engines seemed to mellow out after a few sips. I found vanilla and spicy fruit flavors in this extremely smooth malt, and its golden color brightened up the cabin of my aluminum transporter. I recommend this mile high treat to even my pilot friends…once you touch down. My apologies for the inferior photo on this post, the iphone was bouncing around and my lighting isn’t up to the usual snob standards…I rated this well traveled scotch a solid 8.