For an 8yo whisky to present itself as assertively as The Hielan' requires something special from both distillery and master blender. GlenDronach have got it right yet again as this young single malt shows both character and finesse which belie its years.
I firmly believe that you can enjoy different whiskies in the summer from those you would choose in the colder months. I generally pick lighter summer drams and it would be reasonable to assume that this 8yo would be a slightly paler expression of the GlenDronach house style. Not a bit of it! Yes, it is less rich than many of their older whiskies but the youthful twist seems to come from a greater use of bourbon casks, giving an edge to the whisky and a lighter, brighter taste.
The nose is complex and full and hints at the fruity spicy nature of the flavour in the mouth. On first taste I found sultanas, a lighter dried fruit than the darker coloured raisins, lots of spice which was pepper but with hints of cinnamon or cassia, and a fruitiness which borders on marmalade but was more jammy. An apricot conserve made with a mix of fresh and dried fruits for a greater flavour? A jam tart of a whisky? Yes please! The second sip is gentler, fuller and more balanced but the spicing is more pronounced and The Hielan' becomes more of a summer evening's whisky, and less of a lunchtime aperitif.
I also found hints of saltiness, a characteristic of many Island whiskies and a few coastal Highlands as well. Of course, Speyside whiskies are technically Highland drams but saltiness is not often to be found in them. I can see that some people would find gingerbread and butterscotch in this whisky too but they presented to my tasting as richness and spice. This whisky is 46% and I do wonder whether younger whiskies are sometimes bottled at higher strengths to add more character to them? I would love to taste The Hielan' at 40% and 43% to compare and contrast - if I hadn't just finished my bottle I guess I could have done that myself simply by adding more water but it would be fun to taste it at exact proof strengths prepared by the distillery.
Adding a few drops of water to The Hielan' made it gentler and slightly more mature, a youth with rounded edges. It is a delicious whisky with lots of character and, yet again, confuses me completely as to what my favourite GlenDronach actually is? Maybe I don't have to have a favourite from this distillery.
By the way, I remembered immediately after the filming stopped that I was indeed a Kingfisher in the Girl Guides. Apologies to all ex-Kingfishers in the Commonwealth of Guiding. Maybe that's why I chose electric blue glasses, car, iPhone cover, fountain pen and ink, etc? And after we had made the film we sat down to lunch and the whisky went very well with it.