Undisclosed Highland

Highland Extra Special (40%, ASDA, +/-2013)

Extra Special Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (ASDA)

40% ABV, £20.50 for 70cl

Score: 78/100

What they say:

A fine example of a classic Highland Malt, sitting between the smoky, peaty aromas of Islay Malts and the sweetness of soft Speyside Malts.

Every precious drop of this golden single malt whisky is created in our distillery in the brooding wilderness of Scotland’s highlands. Like the mountains themselves, little has changed over the centuries. We still use water., filtered through peat to the granite below before bubbling up as pure crystal spring water – soft, slightly acidic and perfect for whisky making. We then distill this single malt in time-honoured fashion before gently air drying with a hint of peat smoke to impart a light smoky flavour. Finally, this classic highland malt is matured in oak casks previously used for Bourbon or Sherry to impart a richly rewarding fruity complexity. The result? – A full-bodied whisky with subtle floral notes, hints of oak and a delectable spicy sweetness.

Rich, full and bursting with sherried fruit, with creamy oak, a hint of peat and a delicious sweetness… the finish is long and flavoursome with a lingering spiciness. Expertly distilled with pure highland spring water and barley, then matured in American or Spanish oak casks originally used for Bourbon or Sherry to achieve its unique fruity flavour.

What I say:

I noticed this as soon as it hit the shelves at ASDA due to the new packaging in the Extra Special range, selected by J. Glass and Leiths school of food and wine. Part of the mystery of this peaty, partially sherried highlander was the colour itself. I took a punt on this £20 bottle as I figured the possibilities of buying a NAS sherried peaty highland whisky for this price must be quite slim, and I wanted to try and guess where it was from.

Colour:

Deep Caramel gold

Nose:

Earthy toffee and caramel, estery floral honey and fudge, sweet caramelised brown sugar and herbal cardamom

Taste:

Chocolate, heather honey, earthy peat and delicate spiced nutmeg, hazelnut and gianduja

Finish:

Medium, sweet and mellow with more fudge, a little salt and lots of nuts

Would I buy it again:

Absolutely, this is actually rather fine whisky with plenty of character. It is full bodied and spicy and fruity and has quite a pronounced peaty tang both on the nose and the palate. My experience of Highland Distilleries is a little limited as I have my favourites from which I have tried a lot, I have tried some only once and there are others I have yet to even try. Something about this Highland Single Malt however is very reminiscent of a whisky I tried when visiting Blair Athol distillery, in particular the distinct nutty flavours at the end, although the salt threw in a little confusion [and I would suspect lead others to presume perhaps Clynelish].

So what is ASDA extra special Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky? My guess would be Blair Athol, this Highland distillery produces around 2.5 million litres of spirit each year, they peat their barley, they mature in bourbon casks for blending into Bell’s and sherry casks for their own single malt expressions and I’m sure they would have a little spare for bottling for a major supermarket such as ASDA.

Either way I guess we will never know, and that makes up part of the fun of drinking this. Others have already stated that due to the lack of distillery specification on these supermarket specials the whisky could in fact change from one batch to the next. I like the fact that it strips away the preconceptions and snobbishness attached to the knowledge it comes from one particular distillery or another, and in the end is evaluated pure and simply for what it brings to your glass.

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