After the intensity of the recent Sheraton Wine Awards David Pike decides to take a breather from the grape and instead focus on some of the best spirits Scotland has to offer.
AS your favourite team either tumbles from the footy finals or leaps into premiership contention, a wee dram of the Scottish good oil can help calm the nerves or console.
One of the most intriguing aspects of whisky is that it is among the most natural of spirits.
Reference to the ‘water of life’ was first made in 1494 in Scotland. The word used was the Gaelic ’vishgi’, which was later corrupted to the common English ‘whisky’.
By the mid 1700s connoisseurs of the spirit were emerging and the Scottish distilleries were producing both flavoured spirits and plain malt, which in principle are the styles we have today. It is the established household names such as Chivas, Ballantine and Johnnie Walker who gave birth to the whisky industry.
In the early days, country shopkeepers and grocers simply bought barrels from nearby distilleries and, over a period of time, created house names and styles that became ‘the trade’. While the blended whisky market has enabled Scotland to become the world’s biggest exporter of spirit drinks, it is the unique quality of single malt whisky the enthusiasts are most passionate about.
Single malts are without question uniquely different from distillery to distillery. Environmental differences including the local water, the climate during maturation and the house touch all help create an individual style.
Bargain buy. A pleasant surprise displaying a smoky, textured, full flavour and plenty of subtleness on finish and length. At this price not many other whiskies have this much kilt to show.
Johnnie Walker Black Label
A surprise package. This whisky is well put together, which is why it is still a world leader in this blended style. Best described as a whisky with an enticing amber golden colour, a mass of integration, complex flavours including coffee and mocha, and good palate weight that would suit an aperitif style.
You could almost hear the bagpipes playing. This is a Scottish treasure. It’s a little-known fact that Tamhu helps to make the components of Famous Grouse. This 10-year-old is a ripper in its own right, with frequent aromas of toffee, malt and some smokiness. The palate is elegant, round with a mellow yet persistence of finish.
Lagavulin is all about the distinct styles you attribute to malt whisky. This was a whisky of incredible complexity and understanding, and was one of the highest pointed whiskies of the tasting night. It displays intensely heady aromas of sea salt, peat soil medicinal characters and hints of gun powder intrigue. Rich and powerful with salty, dry, smoky, sherry flavours that seemed to have a lasting crescendo that would make Mozart believe he was Scottish.