Friday, July 1, 2011

Two Drams from the Motherland

I went to university in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and one of the things that I ended up missing most about Scotland once back in Vancouver was the range of single malt whiskeys available. Before I returned home from Caledonia in 2007, I figured that I would be able to buy - or at least order - a great number of the malts available in the UK. I was wrong. The BC Liquor Control Board is very selective regarding the whiskeys that they regularly stock, and one must pay for a case (plus shipping fees, plus an administration fee) if one wishes to order an atypical whisky. 

I recently spent two weeks in Scotland and appreciated the vast array of single malts at my greedy little fingertips as much as the many reacquaintences and nostalgic activities that were completed...well, almost as much. In addition to visiting the Oban Distillery with my sister and speaking with several whisky vendors, I made a point of patronizing several of Edinburgh's more comprehensive, established bars to sample some rare single malts. 

One of the single malts that I tried was Glengoyne 10 Year. There are many things to like about this whisky and distillery: it is only one of two distilleries that still use rotund Golden Promise barley, it is distilled in the Highlands but aged in the Lowlands (which is unheard of), and it is very drinkable. I noted, however, that this last trait also detracted from the overall quality of the drink. Glengoyne's slogan is "The authentic taste of malt whisky untainted by peat smoke" and I definitely found that the lack of any peat results in a really flat finish. Like the inclusion of hops in beer, the use of peat smoke in whisky production results in flavours that compliment the bready, straightforward characteristics of barley-based alcohol. I do not enjoy peaty whiskeys, such as the Islay malts, but Glengoyne truly lacks cojones. The bouquet is wonderful, with delicate apple and grass aromas, but the whisky has zero finish and zero complexity.

Another single malt Scotch that I tried was Inchgower 14 Year. This whisky surprised me because it has a humdrum history and is the major contributor to Bell's, the vin ordinaire of blended whiskeys. Although Inchgower is owned by a corporate conglomerate and is closely linked with disgusting Bell's Whisky, it is a decent dram that I would much rather drink over any of the common single malts found in most bars and restaurants (Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Balvenie, etc). It has subtle nose, offering hints of nectarine and cardamom, and it provides a super typical Speyside flavour. With a full-mouth feel, bright copper colour, and lightly peated finish, this malt offers the drinkability of a daily Scotch and just enough complexity to keep your tastebuds engaged. 

Now the important question: will I be able to find Inchgower in Vancouver? D'oh.

1 comment: