Burns Night: The C&TH Guide to Whisky
This Burns Night, we bring you a handy guide to the much-loved Scottish spirit
The Best Whiskies and Distilleries
Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky originates in the Scottish Highlands where it is distilled in the tallest malt whisky stills in Scotland for a purer spirit, expertly matured in the finest oak casks for great depth, and perfected by the Men of Tain. The Distillery was founded in 1843 and is renowned as a pioneer in its field, uniting tradition with innovation.
Why not try…
Glenmorangie breaks new ground with this limited-edition whisky. It’s the first whisky created from yeast growing wild on Glenmorangie’s own barley and marks the tenth anniversary of the Highland Distillery’s pioneering Private Edition series. This rich, creamy whisky has a fruity character given by the yeast and wonderful tastes of vanilla, orange syrup and sweet chilli. £78.95, masterofmalt.com
Glenmorangie Grand Vintage Malt 1991
Released in April, this limited edition whisky takes its rich plum character from two parcels of whisky which, ordinarily, would never be brought together. One has been finished in oloroso sherry casks for sweetness and spice, whilst the other has been finished in Burgundy casks for earthy and truffle notes. United with skill, their contrasts create this surprisingly mellow 26-year-old limited edition – the latest in a collection exploring some of the Distillery’s most prized parcels of aged whisky. £630, clos19.com
It all started with an old welding shop under a bridge in Waco, Texas. Since then, Balcones Distilling has released a number of unique products, many of which are now internationally renowned award-winning whiskies. 100 per cent of Balcones whisky is mashed, fermented and distilled at the distillery, to ensure the finest quality and craftsmanship can be found in every bottle. They never resell whisky from other distilleries or source aged whisky barrels for blending under the Balcones label. This is authentic craft whisky.
Why not try…
Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof
Texas Rye was launched in 2020 in the USA to celebrate the distillery’s 10th anniversary and joins Balcones’ award-winning core range of whiskies. Texas Rye has been twice pot-distilled, made with 100 per cent rye. This comprises 80 per cent raw Elbon rye from north and northwest Texas, including some Crystal, Chocolate and Roasted rye varieties. It’s allowed to age in new charred American oak barrels and has a creamy buttery toffee taste building to peppery spice notes with hints of coffee and nuts, then a peanut butter and dark chocolate finish. £67.25, masterofmalt.com
Ardbeg is The Ultimate Islay Single Malt Whisky. Established in 1815, Ardbeg is revered by connoisseurs around the world as the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay malts. Despite its smokiness, Ardbeg is renowned for its delicious sweetness, a phenomenon that has affectionately become known as ‘the peaty paradox’.
Why not try …
Ardbeg An Oa
An Oa is named after the Mull of Oa in the south west of Islay where the distillery is situated. The whisky is singularly rounded due to time spent in the bespoke oak Gathering Vat, where different parcels of whisky mingle unhurriedly: the richness of spirit matured in Pedro Ximénez casks, the spice of liquid aged in virgin oak, and all the hallmark intensity of Ardbeg matured in ex-bourbon barrels. The result is an untamed single malt. An Oa’s rounded and subtly smoky aromas reflect all the contrasts of the Mull of Oa, with notes of creamy toffee, aniseed, dates and hints of peach and banana. Ideal for smoky malt whisky fans. £43.95, thewhiskyexchange.com
Best Places to Drink Whisky in London
- The Boisdale Restaurant, Canary Wharf
- Brown’s Hotel, Green Park
- Bar Swift, Soho
- Salt, Marble Arch
- Bull in a China Shop, Shoreditch
How To Taste Your Whisky
You don’t need to be an expert to fully understand and appreciate the complexities of a good whisky and the art of how to taste it properly. The first place to start is with the type of glass you use. The Glencairn Glass is endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association as the official glass for whisky. Its unique and stylish shape has been crafted to enhance the enjoyment of all whiskies and to get the most out of your dram. Its tapering mouth captures those all-important aromas, and the wide bowl allows the fullest appreciation of the whisky colour with the thistle style base designed to be comfortable in your hand. Follow this step by step whisky tasting guide below from Glencairn and you’ll be drinking whisky like an expert in no time…
COLOUR: Examine your whisky – is it pale gold, deep gold, copper or rich amber in colour?
This indicates the type of cask in which the liquid has been matured.
NOSE: Which aromas do you recognise when you nose (smell) your whisky – is it smoky, fruity, chocolatey…?
Take your time; the scents change in the glass all the time. Feel free to add a drop of water. The amount is up to you – not too much, but enough to remove any prickle or burning sensation felt on the nose. Then sniff again. Has the spirit opened up or closed down?
BODY: Does your whisky have a light, medium or full body?
As you swirl your whisky in the glass does it cling to the sides and do the “legs” slide down slowly or quickly? Thick, slow running “legs” indicate a more dense texture; whilst thin fast moving “legs” suggest the opposite. Both are good!
PALATE: Which characteristics do you notice when you taste the whisky?
First, sip the whisky without adding water. Identify the balance of ‘primary tastes’ – sweet (on the front of your tongue), salty and acidic (at the sides) and bitter or dry, spicy and smoky (at the back). Then add a little water. This makes it easier to hold the liquid in your mouth for longer and further explore its taste. If you can resist temptation and leave a little liquid in the glass for 20 minutes or so, return to nose and taste to explore how the flavour has developed.
FINISH: Does the flavour remain for a long time or does it disappear quickly?
Consider whether the flavours linger, slowly change or disappear quite quickly.
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