Before getting into specifics, I would first like to touch on some facts about the general regions where Scotch whisky comes from. There are five distinct areas (as well as Campbeltown, which is hard to get) where whisky is made: the Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islands and Islay. Each individual place adds different characteristics presented by the terroir, or land features, usually in the way of air, water, ground, plant life and so on. I will start with my favorite at the moment, Islay.
Situated off the mainland, this island of Islay hosts eight different distilleries that create for the most part a high octane flavourful whisky that usually has a medicinally, peat-smoke-filled palate accompanied by a balanced malt note and a bit of brininess brought on by aging by the sea in open-air facilities (ex. Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagauvulin).
Next we have the Highlands, which encompass the north, west and east of the mainland. Whisky from here can have a wide variety of tastes that include dry to sweet as well as a touch of smoke and peat. A few good distilleries in this area include Glenmorangie, Dalmore and Edradour. Moving on, Speyside is the largest in the way of sheer numbers, holding half of all Scotland's distilleries. This area produces a mellow, sweet, and particularly fruity malt and is home to the Macallan and Glenfiddich. The Islands and Lowlands are the final two of the bunch and are both part of my Scotch review this week.
The Islands are similar to the Highlands in that they can range from light and sweet to malty and peat smoked, but predominately balanced (ex. Highland Park, Isle of Jura). The Lowlands are interesting in that they employ a triple distillation method used only by a handful of whisky makers in the world, Jameson and Woodford Reserve to name a couple. The malts produced are light and smooth, usually having a floral, grassy taste with subtle delicate aromas (ex. Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie). The two malts I will be touching on in this review are the Glenkinchie 12 year and the Isle of Jura Superstition. Both superb examples from their separate regions, and both very enjoyable.
The Glenkinchie 12 Year ($59.95) is made in the outlying farmland around Edinburgh and is the replacement for the original 10 Year. Bringing a more mature whisky to the palate, it's a typical Lowland whisky in that it is fresh and light in character. The nose is full of grist and fresh grain character with some subtle sweetness. On the palate it is quite smooth which is typical to most triple distilled whiskies: a nice light pear with notes of lemon, some cereal grain and a bit of grassy taste (in a good way). The finish has just the slightest hint of peat and is followed by an absolutely lovely apple brandy taste that lingers until you wash it back with another sip. This is a great before and after dinner dram and a great introduction to the world of single malts.
Isle of Jura Superstition ($56.98) has an Egyptian ankh symbol on the bottle which roughly translated means eternal life. The superstition goes that if you pour your dram with the ankh in the center of your palm you will be granted good health and fortune. The whisky itself is a blend of single malts of various ages all three to eight years old, but they throw in a touch of 20 plus year old to create depth and complexity. The whisky pours a golden amber, floating a dessert-like aroma full of caramel and sweet cereal notes with cinnamon and just a slight smoke peeking through at the end. On the palate it is well rounded, frosted spice cake with dark fruit and a light underlying white pepper. With water added it subsides into the young bare bones reflected in the barley flavors reminiscent of a wee heavy or young barley wine. The finish holds on just enough to make you go back for more.