We’re back to the Highlands of Scotland today. Want to add a bit of Scottish flavor to your plans for a romantic weekend? How about a single-malt tasting party?
Uisge beatha is Gaelic for water of life. Committed single-malt drinkers consider it to be nothing less than that. According to the Scotch Whisky Association:
“The earliest documented record of distillation in Scotland occurred as long ago as 1494, as documented in the Exchequer Rolls, which were tax records of this time, The quote above records “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae”. This was equivalent to about 1,500 bottles, which suggests that distillation was well-established by the late fifteenth century.“
The Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009 control the production, labelling, packaging, and advertising standards for Scotch whisky in the United Kingdom. Among many detailed and specific regulations for the process, strength, color and so forth, it defines “Scotch whisky” as whisky that is distilled in Scotland of water and malted barley and other whole grains. It must mature in oak barrels a minimum of three years.
If you’re just getting started with single-malts, the chart below, from Malts.com, is a fabulous visual aid to help you choose a whisky to taste and to find your favorites. It is not a complete list of all the single-malts available from Scotland, but it’s a good place to start.
My husband’s long-time favorite is Bunnahabhain, but lately, perhaps because the weather has turned chilly, he’s taken a liking to Old Pultney. He says that one is especially fine on a cold golf day as “swing oil” to warm and loosen up the golfers tight muscles – or maybe he means just to loosen up the golfers.
My taste runs to Drambuie – a liqueur made from malt whisky, honey, herbs and spices, or just a wee sip of a single malt, but a friend of ours favors Laphroaig, which smells and tastes like iodine bandages to me.
That just proves that everyone’s palate is different. Like wines, single malts express different nuances of flavor that may appeal to one person and not another. One way to discover your favorite is to host a single-malt tasting party. An excellent event is Burns’ Night on January 25th. Much like a wine-tasting, have everyone bring a different bottle (and designated drivers!). To find the best pairings for the different single-malts, serve a variety of food, whether that includes a noble Haggis or not. If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of friends in the neighborhood, do a neighborhood single-malt tasting. Then everyone can simply walk home.