Whether it is to heat up in the middle of a storm, celebrate summiting a peak or having a well-earned nightcap, a carefully chosen spirit can elevate a weekend in the Scottish Highlands. Here are four selections that we suggest you give a try next time you take a trip into the mountains.
You may think it’s a strange choice to bring a sun-soaked Caribbean rum into the rainy hills of Scotland, but this fun-sized bottle of rum offers welcome spice in the midst of a cold storm. The amber-coloured spirit doesn’t need to go anywhere near a glass of Coke or indeed a glass at all: a hip flask should do it.
Where the average rum that you’ll find a supermarket shelf will usually taste sugary and syrupy, this blend of 3- and 5-year-old rum hits the right balance between warming alcohol, oak notes and a touch of pineapple on the finish. In your first days on the trail, the temptation may be to reach for something punchy when it gets nippy, but keep it mellow and go for the gentler rum. After all, when the rain is slamming at you horizontally you’re probably just after a ray of sunshine from Jamaica.
When travelling around the highlands of Scotland you may find yourself making the occasional river crossing or doing a boat tour. Once you get on an exposed deck, the wind shooting down the icy loch will have you missing the cover of mountains to shield you from the cold. You’re best bet once you’ve got the port in your rearview mirror is to reach for just that, a rich and jammy port. With an ABV of somewhere between 16% and 20%, this will do the trick as you take in the coastal and maritime views, without making your sea legs even wobblier.
If the French have Chartreuse and the Germans have schnapps, Americans have Jack Daniels Honey Liqueur. Chartreuse and schnapps are spirits made from herbs and spices found in the mountains of France and Germany respectively, and while JD Honey can’t quite claim that type of heritage, after a rich and glossy dram of this while looking at the mountains, you won’t really care…
If you are heading to Ben Nevis, drop a small bottle of this into your bag and try to ignore that you are adding undue weight to your pack. Once you’ve reached the summit and you are officially the most ‘elevated’ person in the UK, uncork this bottled Scottish goodness and let it tantalise your palate. The smoke-heavy elements of this dram match harmoniously with the cloud-filled and rocky formations unfolding in front of your eyes.
As always, though, one or two sips should do it. Don’t forget you need to descend the mountain, which, as anyone will tell you, is when most accidents happen. These mountain spirits should be used sparingly and in small measures – your shoulders (and head) will curse you if you go overboard and bring four full bottles in your backpack.