Monthly Archives: August 2014

Whisky: Scotch Independence?

As we approach 18th Sept 2014, the debate rages on throughout Scotland and the UK about whether or not the Scots should vote for Scottish independence. For whisky drinkers, this mirrors one question that has often considered too: do I stick to just scotch whisky or not?

scottish flag

Whisky: Scotch Independence?

The answer is that only you can really decide. But! It would not be right (almost rude, in fact) to rule out other whiskies without trying them first, so here’s a potted geographical tour of the big names that the non-scotch world has to offer:

Jameson's - Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey

Jameson’s – Triple Distilled Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old - Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old – Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is known to have a long and vibrant history, similar to the Scots. In fact it seems that no trip to the Eire capital, Dublin, is complete without a trip to the Jameson’s distillery (or the Guinness factory for that matter). Jameson’s is a regular favourite amongst most pubs and bars and, due to its kudos and mass production, is now readily available in most shops and supermarkets and stands proud as the flagship Irish dram. Similarly, Bushmills from Northern Ireland is increasingly adorning the shelves and optics of local public houses and offer a triple distilled blend and a 10 year old single malt as their entry level drams, which could prove to be your tipple of choice. Bushmills also lays claim to be being the oldest Irish whiskey with its history hailing back to 1608!

Across the pond, the US is renowned for its sipping whiskey and bourbons. The big marketing powerhouses of Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam are always competing heavily against one another for your money (e.g. Jim Beam’s recent claim of making history with Mila Kunis battles with the annual claim of September as Jack Daniel’s birth-month) and both have their strengths and weaknesses, but always get the job done with their charcoal-rich hearty measures, whether neat or with a mixer. North of the US border, you have the Canadians, who are more known for their rye whiskies (i.e. made with rye rather than malt) and most famous is the self-titled Canadian Club whiskey, which packs a unique punch, and can be delicious on its own or with a mixer (usually with its Canadian comrade Canada Dry ginger ale).

Yamazaki - Distiller's Reserve

Yamazaki – Distiller’s Reserve

Moving across the Pacific to Japan, you come back to predominantly premier single malts, and there is none bigger than the Yamazaki, within the Suntory whisky family. The Yamazaki is certainly harder to find in pubs here in the UK and you generally have to seek it out in some of the more upmarket bars, mainly due to the price and prestige that the brand associates. That said, it is still a fine dram and their staple Yamazaki 10 is a good place as any to start exploring whether or not Japanese whisky is for you. In 2014 they have also released their “Distiller’s Reserve” within their core range which cleverly demonstrates their use of different casks (including their signature Misanura oak), and has been made widely available via supermarket deals within the UK.

Further south, Australia’s mark on the whisky world is gaining considerable pace, including the 2014 World Whisky Award winning dram hailing from Tasmania, courtesy of Sullivan’s Cove.

Travelling from east to west, we come across India’s largest offering to the industry via the Amrut company whose expressions come very highly rated by whisky guru, Jim Murray. (As too are the John Distilleries expressions from Goa, India). Amrut have progressively built up a varied back catalogue of whiskies including peated and unpeated versions of their product and even a fusion of the two, with their core range demonstrating a great spectrum of complex and rich drams.

English Whisky Company - Fine Single Malt

English Whisky Company

Traversing back into Europe, the last two decades or so has seen an explosion in different countries making their names known within the whisky community, with Sweden’s Mackmyra, Holland’s Zuidam, Denmark’s Stauning and France’s Warengham distilleries representing their respective nation’s biggest fare. To the casual drinker however, the largest problem with these (relative) newcomers though is that they are scarcely available in public within the UK and often need to be bought especially from merchants or at whisky-specialist bars.

Coming back full circle into the UK then, the last 10-20 years has also seen a similar emergence of new players in the market with Penderyn offering celtic magic via their single malt from Wales, as well as the eponymous English Whisky Company and Adnams single malts, both based in Norfolk, getting their patriotic labels on the shelves. What this goes to show is that whilst it may have all started in Scotland, the variety and choice of whiskies available is getting larger and larger and whether you become a scotch purist or a multinational dabbler, the whisky world is your oyster. M

Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Single Malt Scotch Whisky: Your Starter For 10

It’s probably fair to say that one of the most intimidating aspects about drinking single malt whisky is the price associated with it. It’s one of the things that can make it elitist and can put a lot of people off. To play devil’s advocate though, if you were paying rent on a place for at least 10 years, you’d probably want a decent return on selling part of it, and that’s what distilleries need to do to earn their way. It therefore follows that the older the whisky, the more investment the distillery has put into their liquid and the higher the income required. There’s also a certain prestige that comes with age and, at a nice round number, that’s why the 10 year old of any distillery is usually their opening staple.

What does a 10 year old whisky represent? Well, for those who enjoy the odd wee dram, it’s the first step to discovering the distillery’s main product. With a 10 year old, you’re going to find out the whisky’s key characteristics: is it heavy or light; is it smoky or not; does it actually taste nice? This is true of any ‘core range’ whisky that a distillery has to offer but, as a rough rule, the 10 seems to be the magic number that shows off their potential or even their best offering.

Starter(s) For 10

Starter(s) For 10

Putting these points together, a 10 year old is most likely to be the cheapest single malt that a distillery has to offer. To us, this means that the 10 is often the one that is most readily available in the shops or in the pub, and as such is your gateway to discovering single malts.

One of the best places to start is with one of the most recognisable names in single malt: Glenmorangie. Powered by successful advertising and sponsorship deals, Glenmorangie is found in pretty much every supermarket and pub and, to be fair, for good reason. The Glenmorangie 10 is an example of a decent, creamy all rounder. It has a nice, satisfying body whilst still having that distinctive whisky burn/rasp. It is certainly a simpler tasting whisky than most with predominantly caramel-like flavour and texture, but, on some days, that can be exactly what you’re looking for and so it’s a good one to have in the arsenal and certainly one to start exploring whether or not whisky is for you.

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old - The Original

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old – The Original

Personally, the Aberlour 10 was the first single malt that I’d ever bought, and that’s largely because it was £20 for a bottle in the supermarket. Of the more readily available whiskies it is certainly a great starter for 10 as a lighter all rounder. It’s a slightly flowery and nutty dram that has a pretty smooth finish. It may just be down to personal experience and fond memories but it is a good place to start and appreciate the difference between a clean single malt and the cheap, rough stuff.

Aberlour 10 Year Old

Aberlour 10 Year Old

On the other side of the spectrum is the Laphroaig 10. Anyone who is starting to discover single malt whisky will quickly come across this bad boy. The first thing that is striking, before you even get to the liquid itself, is the rather alien looking word and it’s distinctive black and white label on a green bottle. Pronounced La-froyg, it instantly displays elegance and class and has a mysterious, cult like feel. And why is that? Because when you open it: BOOM!!! The stuff is liquid dynamite. Amongst the peatiest/smokiest drams out there, it packs a unique punch that will stay with you forever. (I could go on and on about Laphroaig and the other Islay peat monsters – see also Ardbeg 10 – but I’ll save that for another time). Out of their entire range, the Laphroaig 10 is the distillery’s key player and will probably become your regular tipple if peat becomes your passion.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Similarly Talisker 10 is also a great opening gambit. As with Laphroaig, the Talisker 10 is a regularly available malt and, being from the western islands off Scotland, also packs a smoky punch, but with a totally different character to Laphroaig 10. It is widely recognised that your palate becomes more attuned to tasting whisky when you have 3 different whiskies next to one another and it is certainly worth having a nip of Laphroaig and Talisker back to back to get your taste buds in tune to what lies beneath the smoke. Talisker has a smoother edge whilst still delivering smoke and has a distinctive coastline saltiness, which is the brand’s key feature and makes it surprisingly more-ish.

Talisker 10 Year Old

Talisker 10 Year Old

What can be daunting about getting into single malts is that there is a lot to choose from. The big money backing of Diageo behind their ‘Classic Malts’ range is certainly populating the local pubs with more variety, and the Cragganmore 12 and Glenkinchie 12 that sit within that range are also a good base for getting to discover what you like. Also, for the smaller, independent distilleries, the 10 year old is the landmark expression that represents a decade of effort and anticipation that gets their name on the shelves (the Benromach 10 and the new Bruichladdich Laddie 10 being fine examples of that).

Whether or not you agree with the large commercial businesses getting involved (which is another article for another time) you cannot deny that the increasing range of choice can only be a good thing to the enthusiasts and beginners alike and it certainly seems that a distillery’s first double digit dram is the best place to start and maybe even dwell on your whisky voyage.


Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at