If you’re a whisky lover, you’ve surely heard of Highland Scotch. The distinct region of Scotland known as the Highlands is home to some of the world’s finest whisky distilleries.
But what is it that makes Highland Scotch so special? Let’s take a closer look.
A Brief History of Highland Scotch Whiskies
Scotch whisky has been produced in Scotland for centuries, with records dating back as far as 1494. The term “Highland” originally referred to any area outside the Lowlands, but over time it became associated specifically with the rugged and mountainous terrain of northern Scotland.
Highland distilleries are known for producing rich and complex whiskies with bold flavors that reflect the landscape and climate in which they are made. In the 19th century, many illegal distilleries were shut down in an effort to regulate the industry and ensure quality control.
This led to an increase in licensed distilleries, including many in the Highlands. Today, there are over 30 active distilleries producing Highland Scotch Whisky.
What Makes Highland Scotch Whiskies Unique?
One of the defining characteristics of Highland Scotches is their diversity – there is no one “typical” flavor profile for a Highland whisky. However, there are a few common threads that tie these whiskies together:
- Location: distilleries in the highlands often use water from nearby sources like rivers or lochs (lakes), which can impart unique mineral flavors into the whisky.
- Climatic conditions: The cool, damp climate of northern Scotland means that barrels age more slowly than they do in warmer climates like Kentucky or Tennessee. This slow aging process allows for the development of complex flavors and aromas.
- Maturation: Many Highland whiskies are aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, which can give them a sweet, fruity flavor profile with hints of vanilla or spice. Others are aged in oak barrels to develop more pronounced smoky or peaty notes.
All of these factors come together to create whiskies that are rich, complex, and full of character. Whether you’re an experienced whisky drinker or just starting out, exploring the world of Highland Scotch is an adventure well worth taking.
Top 5 Best Highland Scotch Whiskies to Try
1. Glenmorangie Original: A Classic and Smooth Whisky with Hints of Vanilla and Citrus
When it comes to Highland scotch whiskies, Glenmorangie Original is one of the most popular and widely recognized brands in the world. This classic whisky has a unique and smooth taste, with hints of vanilla and citrus that make it a perfect choice for both novice drinkers and seasoned experts alike.
The Glenmorangie distillery has been producing whisky since 1843, using only the finest ingredients, including locally sourced barley, water from the Tarlogie Springs, and oak casks imported from America that have been specially made for aging whisky. The result is a whisky that is both complex and subtle, with just the right balance of sweetness, bitterness, and acidity.
If you want to experience Highland scotch whisky at its best, Glenmorangie Original should be at the top of your list. Whether you prefer to drink it neat or mix it with your favorite cocktail ingredients, this classic whisky is sure to impress.
2. Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old: A Rich and Honeyed Whisky with a Smoky Finish
If you’re looking for a more robust Highland scotch whisky experience, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old should definitely be on your radar. This rich single malt has a distinctive honeyed flavor that makes it stand out from other whiskies on the market. Like all great Highland scotches, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old is aged in oak casks for several years before being bottled.
During this time, the oak imparts its own unique flavors into the whisky. In particular, Dalwhinnie has an unmistakable smoky finish that sets it apart from other whiskies in its class.
To fully appreciate Dalwhinnie’s unique flavor profile, it’s best to drink it neat or with just a splash of water. The complex flavors and aromas will come through much more clearly this way, allowing you to savor every sip.
3. Oban 14 Year Old: A Bold and Complex Whisky with Notes of Sea Salt, Smoke, and Fruit
If you’re looking for something truly bold and complex, Oban 14 Year Old is the perfect Highland scotch whisky for you. This richly flavored whisky has an unmistakable aroma that combines sea salt, smoke, and fruit in a way that only the finest whiskies can. One of the things that sets Oban apart from other Highland scotch whiskies is its unique location.
The distillery is located right in the heart of a small fishing port on Scotland’s west coast, which gives it a distinctive maritime character that is unlike anything else on the market. Whether you enjoy drinking your whisky neat or mixing it with your favorite cocktail ingredients, Oban 14 Year Old is sure to impress with its bold flavor profile and complex nuances.
4. Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old: A Sweet and Spicy Whisky Aged in Both Bourbon and Sherry Casks
For those who like their Highland scotch whiskies on the sweeter side, Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old is definitely worth trying. This unique whisky is aged in both bourbon casks (which give it its spicy flavor) and sherry casks (which give it a sweet edge). The result is a whisky that has a richly layered flavor profile, with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, honey, and dried fruit all blending together seamlessly.
Whether enjoyed neat or mixed into your favorite cocktail recipe, Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old will quickly become one of your go-to whiskies. If you’re looking for a unique and flavorful Highland scotch whisky that is both sweet and spicy, you can’t go wrong with Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old.
5. Talisker 10 Year Old: A Peaty and Smoky Whisky with a Hint of Sweetness
Last but certainly not least, Talisker 10 Year Old is one of the most distinctive Highland scotch whiskies on the market today. This single malt has a rich, smoky flavor that is balanced by just a hint of sweetness, making it the perfect choice for lovers of complex and nuanced whiskies. Talisker is famous for its intense peaty flavor profile, which comes from the fact that the barley used to make this whisky is dried using peat smoke.
The result is a whisky that has an unmistakable smoky aroma and taste that sets it apart from other Highland scotch whiskies. Whether you enjoy drinking your whisky neat or mixing it into your favorite cocktail recipe, Talisker 10 Year Old will quickly become one of your favorite go-to whiskies thanks to its bold flavor profile and unique character.
Lesser-Known Highland Scotch Whiskies to Explore
Edradour 10 Year Old: A Hidden Gem
If you’re a fan of small-batch whiskies, Edradour 10 Year Old is one Highland Scotch Whisky that you do not want to miss. Distilled in the smallest distillery in Scotland, this whisky has a unique flavor profile that sets it apart from the rest.
The nose is filled with notes of caramel and honey, complemented by hints of fruit and spice. On the palate, you’ll taste creamy vanilla and butterscotch flavors, with a warm finish that lingers.
What makes Edradour so special is their traditional distilling methods. In fact, they still use wooden washbacks instead of steel ones.
This gives the whisky a distinct flavor profile that’s not found in other whiskies. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, Edradour 10 Year Old is definitely worth trying.
Glengoyne 21 Year Old: A Rich and Fruity Delight
For those who enjoy aged whiskies that are rich in flavor and complexity, Glengoyne 21 Year Old is an excellent choice. The whisky is aged for 21 years in sherry casks which give it a deep amber color and rich aroma.
On the nose, you’ll detect notes of dried fruit such as raisins and apricots along with hints of cinnamon spice. The taste experience starts off sweet with flavors of dark chocolate-covered cherries mixed with vanilla custard before moving on to citrusy orange peel zestiness towards its finish on your tongue.. It’s incredibly smooth on the palate thanks to its long aging process which gives it an almost syrupy texture.
Tomatin Cu Bocan: A Lightly Peated Whisky with a Twist
If you’re looking for a Highland Scotch Whisky that has just the right balance of peat and sweetness, then Tomatin Cu Bocan is definitely worth exploring. Unlike other heavily-peated whiskies, Tomatin Cu Bocan is lightly smoked which gives it a subtle smoky aroma along with hints of chocolate and citrus.
On the palate, you’ll taste sweet notes of honey before it evolves into a pleasant smoky flavor that’s not overbearing. This whisky also has an interesting twist – it’s aged in three different casks: ex-bourbon barrels, virgin oak casks and sherry butts to create its unique flavor profile.
Overall, these lesser-known Highland Scotch whiskies offer something truly special for whisky enthusiasts seeking out something new to try. With their unique flavor profiles and aging techniques that set them apart from the rest, they’re absolutely worth exploring.
How to Properly Enjoy Highland Scotch Whisky
The Glass Matters
The first step to properly enjoying Highland Scotch whisky is choosing the right glass. A Glencairn glass is the preferred choice among whisky enthusiasts due to its unique shape.
It features a wide bowl for swirling, a narrow neck for concentrating aromas, and a wide base for easy handling. The shape of the glass also helps release the scents and flavors of the whisky.
Add a Splash of Water
Adding a splash of water can help bring out flavors that may have been hidden by the alcohol content of the whisky. The ideal ratio is typically one part water to four parts whisky, but this can be adjusted based on personal preference. Be sure to use high-quality water that complements the flavor profile of your chosen Highland Scotch.
Sip Slowly and Savor
It’s time to enjoy your Highland Scotch whisky! Take small sips and let it roll around your tongue before swallowing.
This allows you to taste all the different notes and flavors in each sip. Savor each sip slowly while appreciating all aspects of its taste, texture, aromas, and finish.
Trying out different varieties of Highland Scotch whiskies can be an enjoyable experience for any whiskey enthusiast or connoisseur. With their unique flavor profiles and rich history, these whiskies provide an opportunity to explore different styles in depth.
Remember that choosing a quality glass matters greatly as does adding a splash of water before sipping slowly and savoring every drop! So go ahead and pick up some new bottles today – you won’t regret it!