Highland Queen Blended Scotch

I had never heard of this particular brand – and so was surprised to see several different bottlings of blended Scotch whiskies and single malt expressions on the shelf on a recent trip out West.

The origin of the brand name dates back to 1893, with the Highland Queen blend of Macdonald & Muir Ltd. Named in honour of Mary Queen of Scots, the original Highland Queen was supplied by Glenmorangie distillery. The brand was purchased in 2008, and the Highland Queen Scotch Whisky Company was established at the Tullibardine distillery, in the Scottish Highlands.

I’ve had a few Tullibardine malts, which are generally quite mild and inoffensive. It’s definitely a “gentle dram” maker, and should work well for basic blends.

This entry-level scotch blend is the base expression of the Highland Queen line, aged for 3 years and bottled at 40% ABV. I saw this this bottling on sale for $26 CAD in a COOP in Calgary, Alberta.

Let’s see how it compares to other entry level blends in my Meta-Critic Database:

Ballantine’s Finest: 7.62 ± 0.61 on 12 reviews ($)
Bank Note 5yo Blended Scotch: 8.09 ± 0.67 on 5 reviews ($)
Bell’s Original: 7.57 ± 0.77 on 7 reviews ($)
Black Bottle (after 2013 re-launch): 7.99 ± 0.47 on 12 reviews ($$)
Catto’s Rare Old: 8.02 ± 0.68 on 5 reviews ($)
Cutty Sark: 7.53 ± 0.46 on 15 reviews ($)
Famous Grouse: 7.64 ± 0.56 on 20 reviews ($)
Grant’s Family Reserve: 7.69 ± 0.67 on 14 reviews ($)
Hankey Bannister Original: 7.87 ± 0.31 on 6 reviews ($)
Highland Queen: 7.92 ± 0.45 on 3 reviews ($)
Islay Mist 8yo: 7.91 ± 0.47 on 9 reviews ($)
J&B Rare: 6.98 ± 1.03 on 11 reviews ($)
Johnnie Walker Red Label: 7.36 ± 0.59 on 21 reviews ($)
Teacher’s Highland Cream: 7.95 ± 0.72 on 11 reviews ($)
Whyte & Mackay Special Reserve: 7.47 ± 0.46 on 7 reviews ($)

There are only a limited number of reviews, but so far Highland Queen is scoring on par with the higher-end of the base scotch blends in my database.

I was given a sample to try, let’s see what I found in the glass:

Nose: Sweet, with honey and caramel initially. Standard apples and pears (apple juice), but not a lot of fruit otherwise. A touch of nutmeg. Very simple, but pretty decent for an entry-level blend, with a surprising lack of solvent notes.

Palate: Apples remain the most prominent here, caramel-dipped. Honey, with a bit of vanilla. Something faintly herbaceous, but nothing specifically identifiable. Maybe a touch of anise. Light and watery mouthfeel, with no real burn.

Finish: Short. Quick and clean, just faint apple juice and honey. Disappears with no off notes, but a slight touch of bitterness does creep in.

A very basic blend, with a limited ex-bourbon barrel flavour palate. But surprisingly lacking the off-notes that mar most entry-level blends for me.

This base blend gets a decent score from Jim Murray (though still below average), and a positive review (but a low score) from Jonny at Whisky Advocate. Personally, I’m in-between on this one, but closer to Jonny in score. Nothing to specifically seek out, but as the Meta-Critic shows, you could do a lot worse.


  • Purchased a ltr bottle in benidorm for 8 euro. Very similar to teacherjs and bells , not has harsh as white ankd mckay

  • Lombard Scotch Whisky

    Thanks for sharing such a great information. This is really help me.
    I followed your blog. So please share these types of posts in future.

  • This is normally an enjoyable whiskey. But tonight this bottle 750 ml is disgusting…dont know whats wrong with it…but it tastes of seeds that they make rusks with
    ..a bitter harsh taste…

  • This whisky is definitely better than the price could suggest. Tried first time in Kenya, very good both with water and on the rocks.

  • Finding inexpensive but decent scotch in the U.S. is usually a chore but this’un works when available…

  • Hi Iam regular use in this brand but now in 2 days I got this one in not original because the taste is very bad now on shop is UAE ajman unisat rashdiya if u possible u will check regards barcode no. 3 267682136404

  • Hola, es mi primera vez con este whisky. Para el precio me parece de muy buen sabor , concuerdo con todos con las notas de miel y manzana. El final es corto y un poco amargo . Saludos de Perú

  • I drank Highland Queen after Woodford reserve. Very light, short finish. First time I drank light whiskey like this. Easy drinking but lacking flavor.

  • A surprisingly smooth whisky at this price level. Slightly sweet and pleasant to the palette. Good value for money, for a daily tipple.

  • Of laye have discovered this nase scotch whisky on kenyan shelves. Goes so well on milk, cream and coffee just as Jameson does.

  • I drank a lot of this in Finland whilst listening to Russian donk.

  • Sitting in the deep forest looking over a nice lake drinking Highland Queen could not be better, strong but soft very good!
    Good Value!

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