Whenever I browse the Scotch aisle at Spec's, I always see a good number of Scotches, some labeled as single malt and some labeled as blended, that I've never heard of and about which I know nothing. Some of the time, I avoid these for that reason; but sometimes, I'm just in the mood to take a flyer. Yesterday, I was in the mood to take a flyer, and I bought a bottle of Drumguish Single Highland Scotch Whisky. I can't offer much in the way of an explanation about why I selected this one over the others that I saw. It probably was largely due to the fact that it was on sale for $17 a fifth.
It turns out that Drumguish is a bottling produced by the Speyside Distillery, which is located on the upper Spey near the town of Drumguish. Although there is no age designation on the bottle, some Interweb sources that I found say that it's 5 years old. Speyside also produces a 12 year old whisky under the Speyside label. I have tried this, and I like it, especially at the price (around $30 a bottle) -- it's a fresh, fragrant, malty Scotch, unpeated and aged exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels. The distillery only started production at the end of 1990, making it one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland. It also means that they have only had stocks of aged whisky for a few years. While they were waiting for their aging stocks to make it to 12 years and become commercially viable as premium Scotch, they got by from selling blended whisky and the young Drumguish.
So is Drumguish like a young version of Speyside 12 year old? Well, no. Not even close. It's peated, and pretty significantly so. It's smokier to my nose than Highland Park 12 year old, and HP is pretty smoky. Not Ardbeg smoky, but pretty smoky. It's a different kind of smoke, too. Where Islay malts remind me of nothing so much as liquid alcoholic beef jerky, Drumguish smells like burned grain. Not unappealing, but very different from Islays. I also get a load of vanilla that reminds me of Bourbon, probably giving a hint of the barrels that it's aged in. On the palate, it's sweet and grainy. There's not a whole lot to it, but I like it, especially at the price.