This month we decided to try a few whiskies from the various islands around Scotland. In 2015 we tried a single cask of Arran Malt from an independent bottles, so we decided the standard Arran Malt 14 yr old expression, and unfortunately it was the least favorite Scotch of the night, perhaps too simple and dull. The Scapa Skiren impressed us, it’s not a distillery we were very familiar with but it was very unique and well liked by the group. The Highland Park 18 Year Old is hard to beat, many consider HP18 to be one of the best Scotches around, very complex with a pleasant peatnes, for the price it’s hard to beat, slightly better than the 15 yr old, but we might need to taste them side by side to really determine the difference, this was the clear winner of the night.
1. The Arran Malt 14 Year Old
Cost: $40- $60
Region: Islands: Isle of Arran
Casks: ex-bourbon, ex-European oak, finished in first fill sherry casks
Nose: Very fragrant and perfumed on the nose, with peaches, brandy, and ginger snaps, plus vanilla and mild oak.
Palate: Smooth and creamy on the palate, with spicy summer fruits, apricots, and hazelnuts.
Finish: The lingering finish is spicy, buscuity, and slowly drying, with just a hint of salt
Notes: Released in late 2010, this Arran 14yo is intended to be the standard issue bottling, taking over from the 12yo that appeared in late 2008. As has always been the case with Arran’s malt, this has been neither colored nor chill-filtered.
2. Scapa Skiren
Cost: $80- $90
Region: Islands: Orkney Islands
Nose: Classic Scapa green apples, toffee-covered and apple pie. With them comes a touch of sea spray, with both brine and a gently medicinal hint, some almost rye-whiskey-like spice and a hint of mint.
Palate: Soft and sweet, with brown-sugar-dusted buttery shortbread, a core of dried and candied apple slices, ground spice, and an autumnal surround of damp forests.
Finish: Apple skin, Ryvita and green leaves, with soft brown sugar.
Notes: The apple-y notes are typically Scapa, but there’s almost a hint of American-style-whisky spiciness – is there some new oak in the mix? It’s easy drinking and a great entry point for the new Scapa range.
3. Highland Park 18 Year Old
Cost: $120 – $140
Country: Islands: Orkney Islands
Casks: ex-sherry, and ex-bourbon
Nose: A profusion of ripe floral notes and fresh blossom with a delectable fruit salad. Notes of honeyed exotic fruits with a little botrytis.
Palate: Creamy and full with fruit conserves and espresso. A creaminess with cinnamon and allspice. Notes of toffee with thick black forest honey with a touch more citrus.
Finish: Long and well sugared with a herbal edge.
Notes: Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt its own barley, using locally cut peat. The peat is sourced from floral heather bushes, which burn hotter and cleaner than the grassy peats of Islay.