Sarah Dewing tackles the single malt.

By Drum Digital
03 May 2011

What is the role of a Deluxe Consumer Specialist?

Deluxe Consumer Specialists recognise the need for a specialised level of service for ?corporate clients and discerning individuals.  This one-on-on service includes whisky ?tastings, education, tailored events, bespoke gifting, bar consultations and facilitating ?orders.  We are like the private bankers of the whisky world.How did my passion for whisky come about?

When I joined Brandhouse five years ago, I had Johnnie Walker Gold Label and Johnnie ?Walker Blue Label in my portfolio.  While on a work trip visiting the distilleries in ?Scotland (Brandhouse felt it was the best way to introduce us to whisky) we did a whisky ?tasting with one of the master distillers.  With the first couple of whiskies all I could really taste was the ethanol.  But then I tried Dalwhinnie 15 YO and it all changed for ?me after that.

For the first time I could pick up different flavours – honey sweetness, ?vanilla and marzipan – and how smooth and creamy it was.  Since then, trying different ?single malts has been a journey of discovery for me – each one is uniquely packed with ?hidden flavours and aromas.

What is a Blend?

A blended whisky is the product of several distilleries.  It is made from many different ?malt whiskies and a few grain whiskies.  Examples would be Johnnie Walker, Bells and ?J&B.

What are the key flavours in Lagavulin?

Scoring high across the tasting trifecta of colour, nose and palate, tasting a Lagavulin 16- ?year-old is a blissful indulgence of the senses.  In appearance, you have a deep amber ?gold colour.  Take a whiff and you will be hit full-force by the smoky whack of peat.  ?Other than smoke and peat, the nose offers a salty hint of the sea, evened out with ?caramel, banana and lingering notes of wood and vanilla.  This full-bodied smokiness of ?the peat is not at all overpowering due to it being excellently balanced.  The finish is ?strong and elegant, warming your mouth intensely. ?Lagavulin is a distinctive, well-balanced yet remarkably bold and smooth whisky that ?even pairs well with other full flavours including strong cheeses like Gorgonzola, ?Roquefort and Stilton, smoked meats, sausages, venison and dark chocolate.  However, ?as a standalone single malt of impeccable character, with a tiny splash of water to release ?its properties, Lagavulin is just as happy on its own.

What does the age statement on a bottle mean?

In a blend it refers to how many years the youngest whisky in the bottle lay maturing in a ?cask, so, for example, the youngest whisky in the Johnnie Walker Black Label lay in a ?cask for 12 years. ?In a single malt, it refers to the number of years that individual whisky lay maturing in ?the cask – so Lagavulin 16 YO lay in the cask for 16 years.

If I keep my bottle of Lagavulin 16 YO for 2 years will it become Lagavulin 18 YO?

The maturation or ageing process ends as soon as the whisky is removed from the cask, ?thus the answer is no, it will not age in the bottle.

I often hear the word “peat” being used when my friends are describing the taste or ?aroma of their Single Malt.  What is “peat”?

Scotland is, in large parts, covered by a thick layer of peat.  The layer was formed over ?thousands of years by decaying plant and sea matter.  The plant matter in question is the ?Scottish equivalent of our fynbos and is known as heather.  However, due to the very ?high rainfall in Scotland it does not become compressed into coal.  Peat is then dug up in ?narrow strips and left to dry.  The Scots use peat as an energy source similar to how we ?use coal.

Now, what has this “peat” got to do with whisky?

We know that a single malt is made from malted barley. It is during the malting process ?(where heat is added to damp barley to stop it germinating) that peat can come into the ?picture.  In some single malts, wood fires provide the abovementioned heat.  However, in ?others, the heat comes from peat fires and it is this peat smoke enveloping the barley that ?gives it the very distinctive “peaty” aroma and taste.  Roughly speaking, the longer the ?exposure of the malted barley to the peat smoke, the more peaty that malted barley will ?become and furthermore the single malt will be.  A great example of a peaty single malt ?is Lagavulin 16 YO.

How come whisky is sometimes spelt with an (e) and sometimes without?

Scotch whisky is always spelt without an “e”, be it a single malt or a blend.  Historically, ?Irish whiskey distillers inserted an “e” to their spelling to differentiate their product from ?Scotch whisky.  American whiskies have in general taken up the insertion of the “e”.

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