I read a blog today that lists the benefits of drinking whisky (though they spelled it with an “e” so we know right off that it has a very American slant). It lists pretty much the same health benefits as red wine. No surprise there. Other than showing the whisk(e)y glasses with ice in them, the part of the blog that made me smile – okay, smirk—was the bit about the “nutritional benefits” of whisky. No fat or cholesterol. As long as we’re reaching, I’m going to reach for a Single Malt and carry on here; feel free to join me.
As discussed earlier, I first experienced the spectrum of whisky on my first trip to Scotland. My dad was pleased that I reported liking the Grants Reserve, since he was a Grants man. I also discovered Edradour, Highland Park and Glenmorangie (as well as its correct pronunciation). There is something very special about tasting the whisky at the distillery, and so we made certain that there were tastings to be had on this trip.
I tend to the rich/delicate whiskies (translation from the Gaidhlig in parentheses) :
Aberlour (“Loud Confluence”): rich/delicate; more spicy-sweet
Balvenie Doublewood (“Beathan’s farm”): toward the fruity-spicy edge of rich/delicate
Cardhu (Creag Dubh, “Black Rock”): light; citrus and spice
Edradour(“Between Two Waters”) rich/delicate; more nutty-sweet
Glenmorangie (“valley of the big meadows”; pronounce the “morangie” like “orangey” with an “m”): near the center of rich/light/delicate; a lot of floral-fruit with a hint of nutty and spicy
Oban (“little bay”): on the smoky side of the middle of the four tastes; a bit more malt taste, with smoky-fruit
Scapa (“boat” from Skalp, Old Norse for boat): delicate; nutty-herbal floral
Strathisla (“The Valley of the River Isla”): rich; spicy-fruity-nutty with enough malt to give it a chocolate finish
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is a Glenfiddich (“Fid’s valley” or “the valley in Fidach”) that I like. Right in the middle of the rich spectrum, the 15 Year, formerly known as Solera, is quite yummy. I tasted the Solera at a wonderful place on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I had just checked out The Whisky Experience, and was standing outside, waiting for Kyle and Liisa (and watching a pretty sad display of a street “performance” of a William Wallace a la Mel Gibson, posing for pictures with tourists whom he pretty much badgered in to it). Once we were all together again, we went downstairs in the Whisky Experience to the Amber Café to have some lunch. The food there was spectacular; one of the best meals that we had. Kyle had vegetarian haggis with tatties (mashed potatoes) & neeps (mashed rutabagas) in whisky cream sauce; Liisa had beef and mushroom pie; and I had sweet potato soup and a mushroom soufflé with lemon vinaigrette, along with the wee dram of Glenfiddich Solera. We were obviously having a great meal of it, and as we left, the Manager gifted us each with whisky tasting glasses. Love that Scottish hospitality!
The food was excellent, as expected. I had potato-leek soup, salad, and a Dornach cheddar cheese sandwich. Kyle had the same, and Liisa had a turkey sandwich. The bartender was very gracious and listened to the list of whiskies that we know we like, and then suggested three for us to taste: Balblair 89 (“the farm on the moor”), GlenDronach (2002), and Bowmore Islay 15. Liisa wasn’t fond of any of them; but Kyle liked the Bowmore (“big hut”), and my favorite was the GlenDronach (“valley of blackberries”).
While driving through Speyside we stopped in at the Strathisla Distillery, the oldest malt whisky distillery in the Highlands (founded circa 1786). I first tasted Strathisla at a wonderful whisk(e)y bar in Ithaca, NY. Enchanted by the chocolate “finish”, I put it up near the very top of my favorites list. I was happy to be able to visit the distillery. As beautiful a building as the distillery is, this was the most disappointing of all the tastings. It had everything to do with the woman who so begrudgingly came to help us at the tasting bar. Her perfume was completely overwhelming and we could not taste the whisky, much less find the aromas that blend to give it its taste. Too bad, I really like Strathisla. tasting at Edradour.
When planning the trip, I looked for the possibility of organically produced whiskies, and was pleased to find that there are two beautiful ones in the Highlands. Bruichladdich (“brae by the shore”) is an organic, bio-dynamic, artisan whisky that made me sorely wish we had had the time to travel to Islay in the Hebrides (Oirthir Gaidheal, pronounced “Argyll”–“The Coast of the Gaels”). Their Organic 2003 is called Anns an t-seann doigh (“the way it used to be”). Next time!
We were not, however, ambivalent about bringing whisky back from the source, and we needed to get another suitcase to accommodate all of it. Top of that list was the Edradour Cream Liquor (Edradour Single Malt Whisky and heavenly Scottish cream) which I savor in tiny sips and share only with the closest of friends. Thankfully, it was savored by one friend so much that she has been inspired to invite me to go to Scotland in 2015.