A stunning setting for tasting some Master of Malt Whisky

Graeme here!

Well due to a wee break in the academical calender I have managed to escape the squalor of student life and made my way up North to the comfort of my parents home in Aberdeen. But not before captains Lukasz and Chris managed to set me up with a few whisky’s to try on my trip. So sitting by the fire, I contemplated the whisky’s before me and concocted a suitable place to enjoy these dastardly drams. I had two real battle axes on my hands from the Master of Malt range, a Highland Park 13 year old single cask sitting at a lovely 57% ABV, and a Caol Ila 30 year old single cask at 57.4%ABV. I could almost feel the power bursting out of these two samples, they seemed too big to sample sitting by a fire with my Teddy/Lion/Cocker Spaniel Toby fluffed up beside me. They needed something grand, mystical and exciting and I knew just the place.

An amazing place


So bag packed, I left the comfort of the city and headed a couple of miles out of Aberdeen to what is probably one of my favourite places ever. The unforgettable setting of Dunnottar Castle. Now if you are from Aberdeen and have not visited this place, shame on you!! If you are not from there and are planning a visit, make this the top of your list. Dunnottar Castle is an impregnable ancient fortress built on top of a huge rock that juts out into the North Sea. Its current buildings were built somewhere between the 15th and 16th century. It completely transports you away from all the problems of modern times and has a mystical air around it, in which, it seems, anything can happen. So I arrived there and viewed the scene around me. It was magnificent, because it was built on a rocky mount jutting into the sea there is a huge gulf between the main land and the castle. The gulf also cracks into the mainland where a waterfall races down the rocky landscape. I bypassed that and came to the huge gulf, 100 feet separating me and the picturesque castle. Luckily a short trip of around 200 steps down will take you to a path that leads to another set of narrow steps, back up within the castle walls to the top of the mound. The area at the bottom is a big rocky beach that stretches over two coves on either side of the mound. Having been to the castle before I decided to do some tasting on the windswept beach. So I wandered over to a throne shaped rock and took out the whisky’s.


A moment of peace and a couple of drams

Sitting there, I got lost in the magic of this place. The sea and sky melted into one shimmering background with only the whites of the clouds and the waves breaking over the rocks providing any extra colour. There was a mist drifting over the jagged rocks in the sea creating an eerie chill and on top of the mound the castle seemed to transport back in time to years gone by. I could almost hear the sound of people dancing in a beer hall, the drunken shouts cheering as the Robin Laing esque bard struck a chord in the corner. Even better was the still they would have had in the courtyard, producing a pure, uninhibited, primeval spirit that would match the forces of nature around the fortress. As I took out the two samples I had been given, I couldn’t help but have high hopes for these two spirits. Highland Park 18 year old had been the first bottle of whisky I had ever bought and the magnificent Caol Ila 18 year old still remains one of the best whisky’s I have ever tried. So not only did these samples have to compare to their previous incarnates, they also had to deal with the historical grandeur of Dunnottar Castle. I settled back and cracked them open.


Highland Park 13 Yo Single Cask
Single Malt
Master of Malt
57% ABV

Buy it here

Nose: Very, Very robust! A strong nose to match the strong elements of my surroundings. A slightly smoky, sweet aroma like a crispily baked cherry pie, singed on the edges to create a tinge of burnt caramel. Gives away to a sharp, fresh citrus aroma.

Palate: Immediately engulfs the whole mouth with a soft flavoured smokiness which I didn’t expect from the Highand Park. This quickly washes away to leave a sweeter citrus taste. It feels like it expands across the tongue continuously, the citrus notes always leading a slightly peppered cream flavour.

Finish: Quite a strong finish, a thick creamy honey, slightly burnt on the edges.

Overall: Pretty epic, as I sit in the battering winds, watching the seagulls swoop around the fortress above my head, it makes me feel safer, more enclosed. Does wonders in keeping out the cold and makes me feel all tingly. Will have to go back to the 18, but may even be better than that.

Caol Ila 30 Yo Single Cask
Single Malt
Master of Malt
57.4% ABV

Buy it here

Nose: Not as strong and powerful as the Highland Park but still delightful. Like an elegant sea serpent it dances between the initial hit of fresh exotic fruit, and the ever lingering salt sprinkled smokiness that provides the base aroma.

Palate: Fantastic! Excellent whisky for this time and place. Like the waves before me, the taste crashes against my tongue, wave after wave of flavour. Quite a sharp peppery taste at the beginning but this goes on to a rich fresh woody body, before ending with a light exotic fruit basket of flavours. It then ripples back to the beginning again.

Finish: Like the nose it leaves an elegant feeling on the finish. A sweet, rich and thick finish with a slight edge to it. Like a pineapple strepsil

Overall: Fantastic! For me probably not as good as the 18 though . It encompasses all that this place stands for; elegant yet robust, fresh yet ancient. As I lay there in the fresh sea air it completely brought to mind the imagined beer hall, people dancing and singing with Lukasz and Robin Laing singing ballads in the corner. An absolute steal for a 30 year old at that price.

All in all a great day out. The setting of Dunnottar was perfect for these two whisky’s, and for me it provides a whisky tasting setting that is capable of matching any on mystical Islay itself. The two whisky’s stand strong as examples of island malts, robust, full flavoured and evocative. The perfect whisky for a seaside fortress. However, my weather resistance from the Whisky has ran out and so I am off home to some of Mumma G’s homemade fish pie and a beer on the sofa with my Toby.


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