Last month, I was invited to participate in something called The Highland Journey. Considering my invitation was accompanied by six airplane bottles of fine Scotch, I was pretty stoked.
So later that week, I logged into a video chat, where I watched and listened as Kristina Nash, Master of Whisky, and Lukasz Dynowiak, Whisky Ambassador, guided boozehounds, er, media members from across the country, through the drams, which hailed from four renowned distilleries—Knockdhu, Balblair, Old Pulteney and Speyburn—in the Scottish Highlands.
As you might imagine, things got a little hazy (in a good way) by the end of the session. But from what I remember, all of the Scotches were fantastic. And ranging in price from $29 to $740, there’s an option for every budget.
Below you’ll find a few other fun facts I was able to make out from my increasingly messy notes. Cheers!
anCnoc 22 Year Old, $159
Pronounced “a-nock,” this 120-year-old distillery is named (in Gaelic) for the nearby Knock Hill, and its home distiller is called Knockdhu. Matured in American Bourbon and Spanish sherry oak casks, this spirit is full bodied and complex. You know, like Sofia Vergara.
Tasting notes: Distinct crushed clove, raisin and blood orange flavors are at the front, closely followed by layers of fragrant vanilla and leather. The long, rich finish is smoky and spicy.
Balblair 2002, $59.99
This distillery goes way back to 1790, making it one of the oldest in Scotland. And their process is unique, as small batches are released whenever their distillery manager determines that the balance between the whisky’s age and character is optimal. There’s probably a great celebrity analogy here, but we can’t think of it.
Tasting notes: Sweet and spicy, with hints of oranges, lemons, green apples, toffee, and vanilla. There is a typical long finish as the floral and fruit notes develop and combine with the initial spice and sweetness from the American oak casks.
Old Pulteney 35, $740
Thos distillery sits way up north, where the uncompromising landscape of the Highlands meets the North Sea, and the waves crash against the granite walls of the harbor. That environment makes for a distinctive flavor, bursting with the power and subtlety of the sea. In other words, it’s pretty badass.
Tasting notes: This exceptional dram is sweet and spicy, with a range of signature Old Pulteney flavors from honey, rum-soaked raisins and California oranges to the heavier notes of seasoned leather, pralines and a touch of the salty North Sea air. A long, slow finish with gentle waves of dried fruit and silky tannins.
The Limited Edition Old Pulteney Clipper, $50
The distillery was founded in the busiest fishing port in Europe in 1826, and its whisky benefits from the influence of the coast and the cool year-round temperatures. Only 2,700 cases of 6 of this commemorative bottle have been made available worldwide, making it nearly as hard to claim as Lolo Jones’ virginity.
Tasting notes: Waves of honey and orange zest, a rounded oaky structure and an unmistakable coastal note, which sets Old Pulteney apart. Smooth and long lasting.
Speyburn 10 Year Old, $29
Built using carved stone from the River Spey, with water sourced from a tributary of the famous river, Speyburn sells more single malt in the U.S. than all but four distilleries. This oaky dram is what we’d call easy drinking. Other tasters raved about the value, and this taster was just soused enough to believe ’em.
Tasting notes: Medium-bodied with a delicate, fruity character and hints of toffee and butterscotch with a sweet, long-lasting finish.
Speyburn 25 Year Old, $315
Aged for a quarter of a century in American white oak Fino sherry and bourbon casks this multi-award winning single malt whisky boasts exceptional depth, complexity and balance. In other words, it has a lot more to offer than most 25-year-olds you’ll meet.
Tasting notes: Smooth, vanilla, fruity, grapefruit, sweet, spicy.