The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Coastal Whiskies

Try some salty old sea dogs.

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This tasting is about whiskies made by distilleries close to the sea. Obviously the island distilleries are all close to the sea. However, in many of the island whiskies the coastal effect is dominated by peat. We have selected five unpeated coastal whiskies to see if we can find a sea common theme: salt. Salty and briney are tasting notes you see fairly often, particularly with whisky from coastal distilleries. The salty taste has been attributed to the water used in distillation, the casks used or sea air permeating the wood. However, some people doubt that salt is a valid taste in whisky at all, since distillation removes impurities such as sodium chloride. The salt people taste, they claim , is in fact just a sensation on the lips and the tip of tongue. However, if this is true, why are salty tastes identified more commonly in coastal whiskies than inland whiskies? Is it just the power of suggestion? We know its coastal so we expect salt? Who knows? Who cares? Whether there is sodium present or not, some whiskies taste salty. Its not as obvious as peat or sherry, but it is definitely there. We have selected five whiskies for you that we think have some maritime influence. Old Pulteney, Ben Nevis, Bunnahabhain, Teaninich and Six Isles, a vatting of six island single malts.

Old Pulteney 12 year old.

The by-line on Old Pulteney labels is "the maritime malt" and it is probably the classic coastal whisky. The distillery is in the northern Highlands, just 20 miles from John O’Groats and is the most northerly mainland distillery. Old Pulteney is owned by Inverhouse and the majority of the 3 million litre production goes into the classy blend Ballentines. However, there are now 12, 17, 21 and 30 year old distillery bottlings and the 21 year old won the Whisky Bible’s whisky of the year award in 2012. The 12 year old is pretty good too!

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Sweet almond biscuit, creme caramel, lemon pith, green apples, salt and a hint of oak.
Palate: An immediate hit of oak, softening to a salty bitter lemon, sweet tobacco and vanilla on the finish.

Retails for around £25

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Ben Nevis 10 year old

The Ben Nevis distillery sits at the bottom of its namesake mountain, but it also borders a coastal loch, and definitely considers itself a coastal distillery. There is definitely a wiff of sea air with this whisky. Owned by Japanese whisky giant Nikka since 1989, the majority of the output of Ben Nevis goes to Japan. Their standard expressions are this 10 year old and a 25 year old , but they also sell a selection of blends under the brand "dew of Ben Nevis"

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Grape and sherry. Chocolate fudge. A wisp of smoke and salt. ‘Christmas’ oranges
Palate: Initially macaroon-like then it’s a spicy little chap with a lightly-smoked heart of sherry and ginger cake. On the finish, it’s increasingly spicy, lip tingly and slightly bitter.

Retails for around £30

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Bunnahabhain 12 year old

Bunnahabhain (pronounced "boona-hah-ven") is an Islay distillery that is arguably the most remote. To get there you need to traverse an amazing winding coastal path with the paps of Jura as a backdrop. The maritime influence is clear in the whisky and in the bottle design. Their range was recently relaunched by their owners Burn Stewart at a higher strength and non chill filtered. This new whisky is more aggressive and rugged.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Creammy toffee and sherry, moist fruitcake and fresh currants. Cinnamon.
Palate: Slightly sulphury at first, then dates, creamy sherry and Dundee cake. The peat increases towards the spicy and ever-so-slightly bitter end.

Retails for around £35

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Six Isles

Made by Ian Macleod Distillers (owners of Glengoyne and Tamdhu), the Six Isles is a combination of whisky from Scotland’s six whisky producing islands: Islay; Jura; Orkney; Sky; Mull; and Arran. This is a soft peaty whisky with coastal overtones.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Immediately coastal with milk pudding and liquorice. Chardonnay. Caroway seed, bitter lemon, pine resin, salty peat, chlorine. Lightly floral.
Palate: Several degrees of lemon. Part sweet, part bitter. Lemony, salty peat. Vibrant oak making a surge late on, as does a lovely thin seam of vanilla.

Retails for around £30

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Teaninich 10 year old

Teaninich (pronounced ‘tee-ninick’) distillery is one of those distilleries you have probably never heard of, because very little is released as a single malt. It is located a just north of Inverness, not far from Dalmore and Glenmorangie, on the Cromarty Firth which is apparently the playground of dolphins, or so it says on the label of this only official release as part of Diageo’s "flora and fauna" range. Maybe more highland than coastal in taste, we absolutely loved it.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Grapey. Dusty. Chocolate limes. Nutty and green fruits. A wisp of smoke
Palate: An earthy, grapey creaminess. Light peppery vanilla. Limes and fruit salad chews. On the finish, cape gooseberries.

Retails for around £40

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