Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some brief Scotch notes

In an effort to continue to create more diverse content, I've decided to occasionally post whisky tasting notes, likely focusing on single malt scotch.

Why single malt? Well, IMNSHO, it is the whisky that best reflects a specific place, showing consistent style depending upon where in Scotland it's from (Islay, Highland or Speyside, for example). While it is tough for many people to appreciate differences in flavor at 40% abv or higher (as it occasionally still is for me), the truth is that with some tasting under one's belt, and a bit of an effort, many people slowly gain an appreciation for quality single malts. And once you do, you will eventually realize that, just as you can't live with one type of wine alone, you will need at least several different whiskies on hand to satisfy your need for for variety.

Here are a few of the single malts currently residing in my liquor cabinet:

Isle of Arran 10 year old (Isle of Arran)

Arran is a tiny island lying east of Campbeltown. Its lone distillery is a fairly young one, having been established less than twenty years ago. Their 10 year is light, unpeated, and very drinkable. Sort of a gateway scotch, as it is not too intensely flavored from a higher alcoholic strength nor a heavily peated malt. Light as a sea breeze, with a hint of sweetness on the mid-palate and a subtle, salt inflected finish.

Springbank 10 year old (Campbeltown)

I'm not 100% positive, but I believe that this is Scotland's oldest, continuously independently owned and operated distillery. And their stuff is unbelievably good. I'd love to have the 15 year, but at about $90 it's significantly pricier than this $55 bottle. The 10 year is peatier than I had expected, but beyond the slightly aggressive peat lies a powerfully flavored, nutty, honeyed whisky. The finish is nicely briny, lingers for a while and dissolves elegantly after a while. As powerful and elegant a 10 year as you're likely to find.

1990 Glen Grant 18 year old Gordon & Macphail Reserve (Speyside)

This is a custom bottling done for K&L by independent bottler Gordon & Macphail. An independent bottler selects and purchases casks from various distilleries, bottling them separately and independent of the distillery,though both names are displayed on the label (an example might be, say, 1991 Macallan Murray McDavid 16 year old ). Just as English merchants have a history of selecting the best barrels of port, or perhaps sherry, the same model was established with Scotch. This Glen Grant is a solid Speyside whisky, with some candied citrus and butterscotch notes.

I've also got a few bottles of another fantastic Speyside single malt, Glenrothes, but I'll save that for another post.

I encourage those of you who have not already done so to experiment with single malts and indulge in the occasional wee dram - a perfect winter pick me up during these rainy (Bay Area) and snowy (nearly everywhere else) winter evenings.