The High Road

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Sitting in the multistory steel and glass atrium of the soon to be re-opened 5 Beekman Street, you can’t help but notice the drive and the confidence that marked New York at the end of the 19th century. It was a similar boundless industry and optimism of bold spirits that raised the copper stills and the smoke stacks of some of Scotland’s relatively unheralded, if not downright unheard of distilleries. The whisky from these stills has been prized by master blenders in Scotland for over a century, but it is only in recent years that they have started coming into their own as single malts.

If a great spirit can be masterfully distilled, then it can even be more easily ruined or brought low by poor cask maturation or by other poor choices before bottling. Scotland’s cool and maritime climate offers ideal conditions for aging spirits in barrel, so if distillers make the effort to source quality casks then new make spirits have an excellent chance of coming out the other side of cask aging held high by the power, grace, and refinement that have built the reputation of the Scottish dram.

It is at this final stage that our featured single malts really distinguish themselves. Chill Filtration before bottling has long been the common practice of most of Scotland’s distilleries for the purposes of rendering their drams more palatable to a wider public and to prevent their whisky from turning cloudy, particularly if ice or cold water were added. However, there are two notable flavor prices to be paid for this pairing down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even light chill filtrations (moderate temps of 50°F and durations under 3hrs) have been shown to reduce the presence of a family of aromas known as nerols, which can contribute notes of rose and lemongrass. Moreover, although many of the long chain fatty esters that may make a whisky cloudy are not particularly aromatic, they do play an important role as enhancers of aromas that are already present.

None of the following single malts have been chill filtered. All of them have been bottled at above 45% abv, which allows them to hold more aromas and coincidentally allows them to remain uncloudy at room temperature. They are all bolder and truer expressions of place and they offer a master blender’s view of Scottish distilleries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning with the Speysides, Glenlossie located 10km south of Elgin, was founded in the late 19th century by John Duff, a man who crafted light, ephemerally floral whisky through the redistilling of condensing vapors inside the still via purifier pipe. Glentauchers, on the outer edge of a cluster of distilleries around Keith, has long been prized by blenders for its honeyed and spiced drams. Since its malty rebirth in 1992, this Speyside distillery has released a growing number of good value single malts.

Our first Highland single malt comes from the Edradour distillery, in idyllic Pitlochry, retains much of its original, Victorian era, distilling kit. Andrew Symington, the driving force behind Edradour, also helms Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky, an independent bottler that has championed a range of non-chill filtered single malts.

Moving north along the A9, Clynelish, found in the North Sea golfing town of Brora, is a Highland malt that shows the difficulty of grouping stylistically varying malts within a broad and roaming geographic category. In fact, modern Clynelish is the ideal dram for the peat head that has matured into a more restrained and nuanced whisky lover.

Finally, a Cinderella story from the west coast Isle of Mull, once shunned as a penny-pincher’s single malt, Tobermory has retained its affordability while dramatically raising its quality. The time of these hidden drams has come and with it a rekindled age of exploration of Scotch whisky! David Salinas

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Glenlossie 1992 Single Malt Unchilfiltered Uncolored

Belying its inconspicuous public profile, Glenlossie has been held in the highest esteem by master blenders throughout Scotland for decades. By design, the stills of Glenlossie were crafted in the pursuit of lightness; reflux has also conferred a refined oiliness to the palate of this fresh and fragrant dram.

 

Delicate aging in low char hogshead barrels has resulted in a white wine-like, golden beech single malt. The nose is perfume worthy with hyacinth, cardamom, sweet butter, and sea salt. The palate packs a bit of a peppery punch, followed by Meyer lemons and ending on Oloroso and dried fruit notes. David Salinas

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Glentauchers 1996 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Signatory 17 Year

Located near Taucher’s forest, on the road from Keith to Craigellachie, Glentauchers was re-launched in 2000, after a fifteen-year shuttering. Rarely seen as a single malt bottling, it continues to be an important part of some of Scotland’s best-loved blended whiskys.

 

Golden-amber hued and aged in ex-bourbon barrels, the aromatics are strikingly fresh with hints of linden, raw honey, sea salt, and white flowers. The palate holds notes of dark plums, toffee, coriander, wheat biscuits, and anise with a candied plum finish. David Salinas

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Edradour 10 Year Signatory Highland Single Malt Natural Color Un-Chillfiltered

For many a Scot, Pitlochry evokes memories of childhood Highland holidays. The draw is no less emotive for the whisky aficionado. Visiting Edradour is like stepping back into the golden age of Scotch whisky. More interesting still is a visit to the Signatory warehouse, where a staggering number of innovative single casks, from throughout Scotland, are slowly coming of age.

 

This particular bottling is burnished gold with aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, sage, prunes, graham crackers, and nutmeg. A medium bodied palate offers hints of pineapples, dandelions, and a toasted marshmallow finish. David Salinas

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Tobermory 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Isle of Mull

The misty Isle of Mull on Scotland’s west coast, lies between Isles of Jura and Skye. Originally established in 1798, Tobermory had long been overlooked as a single malt, until a decided turn towards quality with the acquisition of the distillery by Burns Stewart in 1993.

 

Aged in ex-bourbon casks, the Toberymory 10 yr is only slightly peaty, not due to peat smoke during the barley malting, but rather because the distillery’s water is drawn from the aromatic Isle of Mull peat lochans.

 

Despite its relative youth, the aromatics are quite complex including lime blossom, gingerbread, star anise, honeysuckle, and toffee. The palate opens discretely and harmoniously before getting a slight kick of brine and peat. The finish is long and lovely with peppermint, honeyed pineapple, and vanilla. This is summer’s own dram, fruity, refreshing, and can easily be enjoyed without adding water! David Salinas

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Clynelish 16 years old Signatory Single Malt Scotch Whisky Highland 750ml

For many Scotch aficionados, Clynelish is the once and future malt. In fact, there are two separate distilleries in the North Sea town of Brora, about an hour's drive north of Inverness. The now shuttered, but fully intact, original distillery of Brora was founded by the Marquess of Stafford in 1819 and for many years this highly prized single malt was sold only to family, friends, and a small private clientele.

The "new" and currently operating distillery was opened in 1968, for a time (1969-1983) both distilleries operated side by side, but differing stylistically the older distillery (aka Clynelish I or Brora) offered a more peated dram than the newer distillery (aka Clynelish II or Cylnelish). Today, old bottlings from Brora are auction darlings and current releases from Clynelish are often staples in the blends of some the most prestigious Blended Scotch Whisky.

This Signatory bottling was distilled in February 1998 and bottled at the end of July 2014, spending 16 years in a Hogshead (Cask No: 2467). Feathery light amber in color and with an expressively detailed and subtly peated nose that offers hints of cardamom, ginger, and honeysuckle. The gently waxy palate carries notes of vanilla cream, toffee, and a slight smokiness. As always free of added color and chill-filtration, this is a dram for those looking for a more refined, slighly peated single malt. David Salinas

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