Recently, I’ve been trying new scotch whisky to expand my palate and knowledge. Mostly, I was trying Islay scotch, like Laphroaig and Ardbeg, and some blended options, too. However, I’m back to do a review on a whisky from my favorite region of Scotland, Speyside. Today, we’re discussing Shieldaig 12 Year Single Malt.
In this review, we’ll discuss some history, price, abv, taste, and more. So, if you’re interested in learning about Shieldaig Scotch and discovering if it’s worth buying, then keep on reading.
Shieldaig Scotch History
Ian MacLeod Distillers was founded in 1933 (previously known as William Maxwell & Co) and served as a bottler, blender, and exporter of Scotch. It wasn’t until 2003 that they purchased their first distillery, with their 2nd coming in 2012. While they do have two operating distilleries, they still own many brands that are produced elsewhere.
Ian MacLeod doesn’t release much information about Shieldaig Scotch, but they do sell a story with it I suppose.
Where is Shieldaig?
Shieldaig, loosely translated to ‘loch of the herring’, is an area of Scotland located on the western coast around the islands, specifically the northwest highlands area. The fisherman and traders who have lived their have considered themselves to be lucky.
I’m not really sure of the purpose behind the name and story of Shieldaig… at all. Especially considering that it’s produced in Speyside, a region that is on the complete opposite side of Scotland.
I’ve seen some claims that say Shieldaig Scotch is actually bottled in Shieldaig, so I suppose that could work, but there is nothing on the bottle or website that confirms this.
Shieldaig Scotch 12 Year Overview
- Spirit: Speyside Single Malt
- Owned By: Ian MacLeod Distillers
- Distilled By: Unknown (Speyside distillery)
- Aged: 12 Years
- ABV: 40%, 80 proof
- Mashbill: 100% malted barley
- Price: $38
Speyside Single Malt tells us a lot of information in of itself, but I’ll touch more on that shortly. Other than that, we know it’s aged 12 years, and it’s bottled at 80 proof. What we don’t know, is where the whiskey is actually distilled at. Or bottled at. I mean, it’s distilled somewhere in the Speyside region, and it’s bottled in Scotland. Enough about what we don’t know, let’s focus on what we do.
What is a Speyside Scotch?
This is simple. Speyside Scotch must be made distilled within the Speyside region, or the distillery must use water from the river Spey or springs/streams that feed into the river Spey. Technically speaking, Speyside is a region within the Highlands, so any Speyside scotch is also a Highlands scotch. However, most brands will typically clarify that they are Speyside if, in fact, they source water from the river Spey.
This clarifies what the Speyside region is, but there’s also qualities that are typically seen within a Speyside scotch, too. Speyside scotch is typically known for it’s fruity and/or floral notes. Many are also aged in sherry casks adding more red and darker fruit flavors as well.
You can head to Wineware to learn more about the 5/6 regions of whisky regions of Scotland.
What is Single Malt?
Single Malt means two things. First, the mashbill is 100% malted barley. There is a single grain used, and it’s malt (malted barley). Second, the term single signifies that the whisky is produced at a single distillery.
You can make single malt whiskey, which would be from America or elsewhere, but when it’s produced in Scotland, it’s known as a single malt scotch.
The term ‘Single’, in regard to ‘single malt’, DOES NOT mean that it comes from a single cask or barrel. A ‘single barrel’ label means the whiskey comes from a single barrel. Single malt is entirely different.
Shieldaig 12 Yr Tasting Notes
Now that we’ve covered all there is to know about what Shieldaig Scotch is, it’s time to find out about HOW it is! We’re going to pour ourselves a dram and look for typical Speyside notes, as well as any things that stand out.
Nose: Some peat and salt are noticeable off the bat, with lots of honey and apple, and some light oak as well.
Palate: A little more fruit on the palate and less of the peat. There’s still a touch of peat in it’s character, but it’s more in the background. Citrus and apple, honey and caramel, and an herbaceous quality that I didn’t find on the nose.
Finish: There’s a sizzle of spice, but it fades to a slightly medicinal quality. Average in length.
When I first smelled the whisky, I had to do a quick double take to make sure this was actually a Speyside scotch. My first thought was that it was a very lightly peated Islay scotch. I’m not a huge fan of Islay scotch, people bashed me in the comments on my thoughts in my Laphroaig vs Ardbeg comparison guide, but I was excited to try something with much lighter peat and smoke.
Shieldaig, while had notes of peat and smoke on the palate, was much still very strong in those fruity notes with lots of citrus and apple. People tend to pick up a lot of caramel on the nose and palate as well, but it was more of a honey flavor to me. There were also some green and floral notes on the palate which I found to be a nice addition.
The finish was my least favorite part, not bad but not as good as the rest of it. There was a slight medicinal quality to it that was a little underwhelming.
Overall, I really like Shieldaig 12 Yr. It’s not my favorite, but it’s enjoyable to drink. It’s a solid Speyside with just a touch of that Islay peat. A touch of water or a bit of ice doesn’t hurt it either. It dulls a bit of the spice and brings out some stronger herbal notes.
I want to like Islay scotch. It’s just not my thing right now. Meanwhile, most of my favorite scotch comes out of Speyside. I think the value behind Shieldaig is that it’s still very much a Speyside with some Islay peat in the background.
At $38, this is a fair priced scotch as well. Again, there’s nothing super incredible about it, but nothing off-putting either. If you’re looking for a touch of peat but don’t peat forward scotch, this is a pretty good bottle for you.
Shieldaig 12 Year Scotch Summary
The one thing I don’t like about Shieldaig is the story and marketing behind it. It’s named after a town on the coast in the northwest Highlands, but what does that have to do with the whisky? Is it bottled there? Is it aged there? How does Shieldaig, Scotland connect to Shieldaig Scotch Whisky? I have no idea. I mean, there might be a connection, but can you let us know how, please?
I can get over not knowing where it’s distilled at. It’s a common thing. I like to know where and how it’s distilled, but whatever, It’s not a deal breaker.
What I do like is the whisky inside the bottle (and the cannister the bottle comes in). There’s a lot of fruity notes that are typical of a Speyside scotch. Citrus and apple are leading the charge with some nice honey and caramel. Following that is some peat, salt, and smoke in the background, with a floral and herbal tone that will come out more with ice or a splash of water.
Shieldaig probably wont make any favorites list, but it’s not bad either. I won’t seek it out often, but I’ll be happy to enjoy it. My favorite is still Aberlour 12 and some of their other selections, but I really did enjoy getting a touch of peat on a decent Speyside Scotch.
If you have any other scotch recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments. I’d like to try a good lightly peated Islay scotch in the near future, so drop those recs below! and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter while you’re still here!