Whisky Review: Shieldaig 18 Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch

Scotch whisky has a built-in image and reputation. It exudes class and sophistication just from its appellation. But what about a bottle that makes some big promises but doesn’t provide any actual details? That’s the case of the Shieldaig Speyside single malt scotch whisky.

History

William Maxwell & Co. Ltd (now known as Ian Macleod Distillers) is a distributor for scotch whisky in Scotland. Founded about 80 years ago, and self-declared as the 10th largest whisky company in Scotland, the company is best known for its blends and re-bottling of other distilleries’ over-production under their house brands.

Product

Like some of their other brands, this specific spirit comes from the overflow of an undisclosed scotch whisky distiller somewhere in the Speyside region of Scotland.

Where exactly is that distillery? What’s their process? Who knows. Certainly they aren’t telling us anything in the packaging.

What we do know (or at least, what’s claimed on the bottle) is that this spirit was produced somewhere in the Speyside region of Scotland from 100% malted barley, bottled near Sheildaig, and has been aged for at least 18 years.

Interesting to note: Shieldaig, where this bottle claims to come from, is a city in Islay, Scotland. Which is a completely different scotch-producing region than Spey, where this scotch claims to originate. The two statements are technically correct: the spirit was (allegedly) produced in Spey and shipped to Islay for bottling, but they make everything so much more confusing than it needs to be.

Packaging

There’s nothing remarkable here. The bottle looks like a standard scotch whisky bottle, tallish and round with a rounded shoulder and a short neck.

There’s a label on the front with some bare minimum information about the spirit and some history about the “Loch of the Herring,” which would be nice if either (A) this spirit was actually distilled anywhere near the Loch of the Herring or (B) we actually knew what the source distillery was. In this case, it seems that the label is there specifically to try and add some false lore to the spirit purely for marketing purposes.

The bottle is capped with a plastic and cork stopper.

Neat

The primary thing I’m smelling from this spirit is caramel, something I’d usually expect from an American bourbon. Behind that is a bit of that peat smoke and some citrus, but it’s way in the background.

When you take a sip though, the flavors swap a bit. The most forward flavor is the citrus with a bit of peat smoke, and as the spirit sits in your mouth eventually those flavors fade and the caramel vanilla notes take over.

The bare minimum for a scotch whisky is four years in a barrel. The “punch you in the face” Lagavulin is typically bottled at 16 years. This has been aged for a full 18 years, old enough to vote in the States, and I feel like that’s allowed the whisky to drop some of the more typical hallmarks of a Scottish spirit and adopt some of the stronger American flavors.

On Ice

With some ice, those caramel flavors melt into the background, leaving just the citrus notes and some of the peat smoke behind. I actually think I also pick up on some floral items coming forward, something I didn’t even notice when taken neat.

In this format it actually becomes something close to the “fingerprint” of a traditional scotch whisky.

I appreciate that it’s the hardier caramel flavors that disappear. All too often the more delicate aspects are sacrificed and only the strong survive, but here it seems like the ice is blocking and tackling for the weaker and more interesting fruity and floral flavors.

Overall Rating

All in all, it’s not a bad scotch whisky. A bit fruity and heavy on the caramel flavors, so it’s probably a good fit for the American market. I really just wish that the provenance of this spirit was less of a mystery, and that they had been more forthcoming with their marketing.

Shieldaig 18 Year
Produced By: Shieldaig
Owned By: Ian Macleod Distillers
Production Location: Speyside, Scotland
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: 18 Years
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $56.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:

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Overall Rating: 2/5
It’s a solid product, but I prefer my tall tales told by storytellers and not labels on whisky bottles.

4 thoughts to “Whisky Review: Shieldaig 18 Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch”

  1. I tried Shieldaig because I found that Johnnie Black had deteriorated recently. Granted, Scotch whiskey isn’t going to taste the same every year. It’s a BLEND. Right? But I just haven’t liked it as much recently so I tied Shieldaig 12 year and learned through the web that IT has changed a lot recently, and hangers all the time.
    I’m guessing that all producers are all chasing the Asian/international market. Classic “blends” are changing with lightening speed. Brand loyalty is obsolete.

    1. I disagree with the rating. It seems that the rating is not higher because the reviewer doesn’t know the origin and has an issue with that. I don’t have the same issue.

      This 18 yr aged scotch is tasty and surprisingly easy to drink neat or with a splash of soda. It is slightly sweet on the palette at first, and has a nice (not too strong) finish. It is very drinkable even for 1st time scotch drinkers who find it smooth on the first taste (many friends have tried and were surprised at the easy drinking of it also).

      I am not deterred from drinking scotch when I don’t know the origins. It came recommended to me initially, and I continue to seek it out when I have consumed the last dram. Especially since finding a 18 yr old single malt scotch is more difficult (Shieldaig or not).

      And, as an aside, one shouldn’t compare a 12 yr scotch with an 18 yr scotch. They are completely different.

  2. it’s great for what it is. you are not spending $100+ for a single malt scotch. do not excpect 17 or 18 year old Maccllan out of it but over all for the money…. you ll have fun and not going to regret it in the morning.

  3. I agree with an earlier comment. Scotch snobs abound. I don’t care if this stuff was distilled in a closet in Glasgow. It is speyside and very good with flavor throughout. I’m a fan of the 18.

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