There’s a time and a place to enjoy a dram of scotch.
As the Piña Colada was invented to rest perkily by a beach towel on a sun-drenched strip of white coral sand,
so the single malt whisky is best enjoyed in the Highlands of Scotland, in the drawing room of an old hunting lodge hotel, with the chill of the early evening drawing close and a log fire burning merrily in the grate.
That said, I’ll always remember my first taste of Ledaig 10-year-old for the very incongruousness of my surroundings. It was a flawless, 25-degree day on Scotland’s Ardnamurchan Peninsula – 50 square miles of unspoilt natural splendor in the West Highlands of Scotland – Loch Sunart sparkling prettily in the middle distance, and the sun warming the deck beneath my feet.
Your typical Highland afternoon this was not. In that part of the world, this is a unicorn of a day – and we had five of them in a row. My wedding day was one of them.
There’s no way I could deliver an impartial verdict on this particular scotch. But shouldn’t such things be subjective anyway?
Professional whisky ‘noses’ will tell you that scotch should be tasted using a narrow-throated ‘nosing glass’ or ‘copita’, but I prefer my heavy crystal tumbler. It feels right in the hand, it looks great on the table, and my wife bought it for me – so it has sentimental value too. They’d also tell you that your palate is keener on an empty stomach, but if you’re tasting scotch before breakfast then you’re more likely a lush than an epicure.
So, subjectivity. It’s why I’m transported to that sun-drenched May afternoon at the merest whiff of Ledaig’s 10-year-old expression, while for you it might well conjure images of heather, peat, sea mist and spring rain.
Objectively, we’re talking a ‘peaty’ (the smoky flavour derived from drying the malt over a peat fire) whisky in the classic Islay tradition – although Ledaig is technically a Highland.
You get sea salt and astringency on the nose, with a warm, oaky sweetness on the palate – to me, it evokes beeswax furniture polish. It’s redolent of the sea breeze blowing in off the Sound of Mull, with a warm, woody smokiness that gives way to a savoury, buttery finish. It inarguably retains the character of Tobermory – the quaint yet hardy seaside outpost where it’s distilled – and yet, for me, it will always conjure visions of that sun-drenched inlet, and the giddily joyous days following my wedding.
TRY IT WITH: CRANACHAN
Scotland’s favourite dessert combines four classic flavours of the Highlands: toasted oats, heather honey, fresh raspberries and of course, whisky. It’s the perfect gateway drug for non-whisky drinkers, giving them that incomparable scotch flavour without pushing them outside their comfort zone. And paired with your favourite dram, it’s the perfect way to end an evening meal.
There are dozens of different ways to make Cranachan. I prefer a lighter version, with fresh raspberries and natural yoghurt substituted for cream and coulis, but you can go all out if you like and create a more indulgent treat.
At its simplest, cranachan involves toasting whole oats in the oven, then layering them with your fruit, cream, whisky and honey. The flavour comes from the whisky and the honey, so experiment with different combinations – at the moment I like a sweet heather honey with a robust, smoky scotch like this one.
– Smoky and sweet, with a buttery salinity on the finish
– A mildly peaty whisky and a good gateway to the stronger Islay malts
– An affordable but high-quality hand-crafted single malt
- Remember to Drink Responsibly