Whisky was originally used for medicinal purposes and it’s funny how often this is used as a good excuse to have a dram! I won’t go on about whisky’s colourful history, I’d rather introduce you to factors which make me love this spirit and hope that you’ll follow me in my love affair.
Did you know that whisky does not age in the bottle? It matures solely in an oak cask. If it states 18 on the bottle, that is the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle. If you purchase a bottle of 18 year old Scotch, it means that approximately 18 years ago somewhere in the incredibly scenic Scottish countryside, there was ‘new make spirit’ flowing from a polished copper pot still. This would then have been poured into a European or American oak cask and left to patiently mature for at least 18 years. And now: perfection – a beautiful golden spirit for you to enjoy at this moment in time. What were you doing 18 years ago? I was in Sub B, trying to master maths and ballet, certainly not thinking about the whisky I’m enjoying now!
The joy of single malt is: flavour. Upon nosing a superb Speyside malt, one might find, spice, dried fruits, or a hint of chocolate. First time whisky drinkers are confused by this? “How did these flavours get in there? Did they toss some dried fruit in to infuse for a while?” No, certainly not! This is the beauty of malts; their flavours are drawn from every aspect of the whisky making process, from the barley, to the water, to the copper pot still and most importantly, the oak casks. Take one element away, and the dram will simply not taste the same. Whisky making is science and art, but there is also an element of magic.
Some of the complex characteristics of malt whisky simply can’t be explained and that is the beauty of whisky. It’s this magic that will make you fall in love with whisky if you give it a chance.
My next posting will be my Personal Top 5 Whiskies – tell me about your favourites in the comments section or come and join me for a wee dram at Bascule Bar at the Cape Grace.