Is there a Definable "Character" to Highland whisk

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Are there characteristics of Highland Whisky?

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Is there a Definable "Character" to Highland whisk

Postby Frodo » Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:32 am

I'm not sure about this. Islay has coastal/iodine, Island has coastal, Speyside has sherry monster or light with subtle flavours. Lowland has the reputation (IMHO) of being austere in character. What about Highland whisky? Can you describe typical characteristics?

My premise for the question came from a tasting where I found it too difficult to find a "typical" highland whisky and so left out a representitive of that region. I don't have much experiance with these whiskies, prefering Island/Islay or Speyside ones. The only thing I can think of when attempting to explain what Highland Whiskies taste like is to point to Edradour which I find full bodied with some hearty flavours.


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Postby Lawrence » Mon Jul 18, 2005 1:46 am

I always associate highland whiskies that are not loaded up with floral notes but are heartier drams all round.

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Postby Admiral » Mon Jul 18, 2005 4:54 am

I think Lawrence's perception is a good one. There are other similar adjectives to "heartier" which I feel could also be added, i.e. firmer, beefier, full, assertive, etc, etc.

On the palate, such differences are subtle, but I certainly believe they exist.

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Postby Sándor » Tue Dec 13, 2005 2:10 pm

I votes yes because I think the presence of a (more or less) salty tang is a trademark.

On second thought, I forgot about the distilleries south of Inverness. I cannot say the same for all of these whiskies.



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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Dec 13, 2005 2:31 pm

Salty tang north of Inverness - never had that in Glenmorangie.

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Postby Iain » Tue Dec 13, 2005 3:12 pm

"Salty tang north of Inverness - never had that in Glenmorangie"

Me neither Nick, despite its coastal location :wink:.

Jim Murray doesn't seem to have spotted it either - at least, not in the books I have read.

But Michael Jackson has. He described "the spirit's... breezy touch of saltiness.. and even a very faint hint of seaweed".

Walter Schobert seems to agree.

But the "official" Glenmorangie tasting notes at ... _Notes.pdf

don't mention salt, or brine, or seaweed, or refer to any "coastal" character.

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Postby mar_mcdo » Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:40 pm

i think it is very difficult to define highland whiskies. as the region istelf is so vast, the whiskies that originate from it vary enormously in character. i think that during a tasting, if you were trying to represent the highlands it would be best to pick two if possible. one showing the very meaty, full bodied character and another showing how they can also be very light and delicate. anyway, why should we put whiskies into different categories?? there will undoubtably always be an odd-ball out there that doesnt fit into the particular section it has been placed. each whisky is its own.......

I must say however, that in my job (scotch whisky heritage centre) where we get alot of tourists and people who dont know much about whisky, grouping into regions is quite helpful. its also very useful when training new members of staff if they can remember general characteristics from each region. I always try to tell people that regional characteristics are a guide only and to remember that there are whiskies from every region that are different from the generalisations placed upon where they come from.

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Postby hpulley » Tue Dec 13, 2005 9:07 pm

Do Old Pulteney, Clynelish, Fettercairn and Ben Nevis have a single common characteristic? Well, they're all scotch whisky but I don't think they'll share a note in the way that Islays seem to, even the un- or lightly peated ones. Is that a bad thing? No, but I think you are stretching if you claim there is something there which groups them more to each other than to speysides or island scotches.


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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Dec 14, 2005 3:22 am

Speyside is a subset of Highland. So, arguably, is Island.

I don't really believe whiskies are categorizable in this way. Similarities are largely a matter of technique, rather than terroir; such similarities may be intentional or coincidental. Scapa, Tobermory, Bunnahabhain, and Ardbeg are all coastal (and islanders as well); how much do they have in common? Do Dailuaine and Imperial, a mile apart, have as much in common as Laphroaig and Lagavulin? In my mind, the geographical categorization is useful only for keeping track of what's where.

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Is there a definable character to Highland Malt

Postby Danny » Sat Dec 17, 2005 6:40 am

I tend to agree with Mr TattieHeid. I think that there is a distinct difference between a Dalwhinnie and a Balblair or Oban although all are from the Highlands.

There are differences between malt from Speyside and the Islands.

I tend to think that similarities in whisky is caused by a number of things that contribute through the distilling process.

Size of stills, length and shape of the lyne arm, length of time in each part of the process, when and for how long the cut is for a few. Probably an untold number of more that probably only the stillmen have a real grasp of.

Phillp Hills' book Appreciating Whisky and David Wishart's book Whisky Classified give a good discription of the affect of the process on the product.

Then the casks contribute their own unique influence on the whisky as well.

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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:34 am

One thing to keep in mind regarding the French concept of terroir is that the French quite strictly regulate the processes used, as well as the materials. If you want to make calvados with the appellation Pays d'Auge, you must make it a certain way (in this case, double distillation, instead of with an eau-de-vie still). There is obviously no requirement in Scotland that a Speyside or an Islay be manufactured to certain specifications. Whether such an idea would be good for the scotch whisky industry is an arguable point.

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Postby patrick dicaprio » Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:07 am

good question; i was actually thinking about this last week. i would have to say there is a "character" in a broad sense. They are, IMO richer and fuller than speyside or lowlands, probably a notch below Islay on the strength-o-meter. Insofar as that can be characterized as "character." As Wittgenstein would say, it all depends on how you define it.


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Postby Tom » Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:25 pm

Wether or not the macroclimate has an influence on whisky has always been a subject of discussion. The majority thinks no, some even swear not (Diageo f.i.). Diageo started experimenting with this, they moved speyside casks to Islay to see what happened, yet the results have never been published. Moreover nobody even talks about it now. But, we can all agree that some Islay whiskies have a seaweed aroma to them. Coastal distilleries also have this presence, be it more mild and often subtle. This leads me to conclude the macroclimate can have an influence, but only when the opportunity is drastic, meaning for example very close to the sea and its elements. So arguebly you can say this, and the ppm are two of the things that group the Islays and the Island whiskies to eachother. This is as close as the dreaded term "Terroir" goes for Single Malt.

However, "The Highland whiskies" are way to diverse to be grouped IMHO. Some have this "coastal" influence, f.i. Clynelish, but most do not. Give a Old Pulteney or a Glen Ord blind in a tasting and I dont believe they could tell the difference between a speysider. The speyside whiskies tend to be more refined and in particular floral compared to all the other regions, but this is a matter of copper mainly.

As a result you can conclude the regions are simply guidelines founded on the similarities from the production process and the proximity between distilleries. In addition it seems logical that distilleries that lie close to eachother have a likewise production process.

The highland distilleries are all around the highlands. They are what they are simply because they are not close enough to the other regions. Most of them could easely be imbedded with other regions flavorwise. But amongst themselves I simply cannot see the similarities. It is the one region that can't be defined IMHO. Then again, good luck comparing Scapa with Talisker for Island malts, or Highland Park with Tobermory...

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Postby cowboyweaver » Sun Jan 22, 2006 4:30 am

try the Glenmorangie Madeira finish the salt jumps out at cha there. Similar to Springbank 10, say. I realize the Madeira brings some of the salt to ya, but Glenmorangie has it already although it is an undertone with the sweetness. Clynelish salt stands out a bit more without the distracting sweetness. Almost all of the coastal or island scotches have a salt content to varying degree.

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Postby Scotchio » Fri Jan 27, 2006 3:59 pm

I'd say there is a classic old fashioned robust highland style involving peat, honey and sherry ie Glenury Royal,Glen Garioch and Highland Park( yes I know it is on an island) however is is an outsized region,clearly midlands have fruit and speyside has delicacy and coastal has salt. I tend to think of them as regional styles in their own right and geography does not always determine a whisky as having the style of a region. I like the whiskies that typify the highland style but it seems to be a style that is disappearing .

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