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.
Me neither Nick, despite its coastal location .
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
https://www.glenmorangie.com/tasting/im ... _Notes.pdf
don't mention salt, or brine, or seaweed, or refer to any "coastal" character.
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.
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.
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.
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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