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The Most Hotly-Awaited

1. The Glenlivet

How could I not be incapable of waiting to return to the distillery that started it all? Brevity is impossible when trying to convey the perfection of October 25th 2007 so I won’t go into the glorious weather (bright and fresh), the extraordinary scenery, and the speechless ecstacy felt when I realised that all of these new sights and smells were systematically unlocking a very strong latent passion. OK, so I did go into it. It is a truly beautiful part of the world and the 18yo expression will always be a seminal favourite. www.theglenlivet.com

2. Glenfarclas

I developed a strong impression of this malt’s class from reading a lot of Michael Jackson. After I got my hands on the 15yo, though, I soon saw that the reputation of this distillery is well-founded. I am intrigued by its enduring independence, fascinated by its history and utterly seduced by its big, rich and complex flavours. The 30yo flaunts these qualities most appealingly, and is the only malt I have encountered so far that has nearly moved me to tears on account of its perfection. www.glenfarclas.co.uk

3. The Balvenie

The often overlooked sister of Glenfiddich, this is another distillery that could draw me to its door on the strength of its product alone. However, its tour is legendary and is one of the few sites in the land offering visitors a practical demonstration of every stage of the whisky-making process from the maltings to the cooperage and warehouses. www.thebalvenie.com

4. The Dalmore

For a long time the 12yo was the malt I scored the highest in the Mainland Highland category but excited no great ardour in me. That was until I tried the 1263 King Alexander III which awakened me to the genius of Master Blender Richard Paterson, the kaleidoscope of flavour options offered by different wood finishes and the unique power, richness but also delicacy of this malt. It is yet another distillery with a stunning location. www.thedalmore.com

5. Highland Park

The first island I shall visit on my whisky journey shall also be the most northerly and perhaps the most fascinating historically. Its Viking encounters and sparse wilderness induce regret within me that I can’t linger here and discover more about this ancient community. I have a particular vision in my mind of rolling off the ferry and the emotions that will acompany me. Doubtless I shall feel many more as I immerse myself in one of Scotland’s most distinctive and revered malts. www.highlandpark.co.uk

6. Talisker

There is a photograph in Jackson’s ‘Scotland and its Whiskies’ which, if you have seen it, should provide a superlative explanation of why I’m keen to get here. If you haven’t, it is an arresting panorama over Loch Harport and the distillery, both awash in prized West Coast sunshine, while in the background the saw-toothed Cuillins nurture a mantle of sinister cloud about their shoulders. It is the image I would use if I had to explain the concept of terroir to a sceptic. How can such a landscape not have some bearing on the incomparable Talisker whisky? It will also be the first distillery since Highland Park; a ferry ride, seven-hour train journey and 50 miles ago. www.malts.com/en-gb/Malts/Talisker.htm

7. Caol Ila

While The Glenlivet will always be a distillery with added significance and sentiment for me, this is my current favourite. The 12yo is magnificent and the 18yo is the finest aperitif in the world. In my opinion. In places its architecture might have a little too much 1970s functionality about it and not enough early 19th century romanticism, but I doubt I shall discover a better view over the course of my travels than that from its still room, over the Sound of Islay to Jura. www.malts.com/en-gb/Malts/CaolIla.htm

8. Ardbeg

Like Glenfarclas, this is another malt I approached fully conscious of its reputation and following and instantly became a disciple. Just like the other two Kildalton distilleries, its south shore location looks spectacular in the pictures and Michael Jackson description of the atmosphere there hasn’t exactly eased my yearning to be there. In ‘Scotland and its Whiskies’ he promises that “on a stormy day high seas will crash against the warehouses, impregnating the earth floors with briny, seaweedy aromas.” With both the 10yo and Uigeadail, I get some sense of this, but it is no more than a tease whispering, “come to me…” www.ardbeg.com

9. Laphroaig

Gaelic for “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay”, I’d be content simply to look upon this distillery. It invokes a double whammy of desire, however, because of its fiercely loyal fans who are obsessed with the unique tarry peatiness found in the whisky. A monster of a malt. www.laphroaig.com

10. Bowmore

Together with Caol Ila, I feel that this distillery’s offerings provide the most balanced presentation of Islay’s singular flavours. The 18yo Bowmore is one of the best malts I’ve tasted and it also appeals to the collector in me with its intriguingly rare and hopelessly expensive bottlings. The Bowmore 1964 Trilogy was sold at auction in New York for $21,600. www.bowmore.com