WHISKY VS WHISKEY
Of these countries, all but four spell Aqua Vitae ‘Whisky’. The term ‘Whiskey’ is used in Ireland (since 1960), Mexico and Peru and for most-but not all- American brands. North Korea is a special case. Interestingly, it was the group of the 'Big Four' Irish distillers (John Jameson & Son, John Power & Son, George Roe & Co. and Willam Jameson & Co.) who argued before the Royal Commission of 1908-09 that the correct spelling of the spirit was 'Whisky', representing their better variety of the spirit, returning to 'Whiskey' once they saw Scotch Whisky overshoot them by miles for self-inflicted reasons, starting 1909. George Roe & Co. produced more than 2.0 million gallons of whisky per annum, whereas most Scotch distilleries stayed below the 100,000 gallons per year mark. The Irish were producing over 12 million gallons in 1900 AD.
Latvia, officially known as the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. Part of the USSR, it was always associated with Vodka, but now has a whisky distillery called Latvijas balzams JSC, in its capital city Riga. This distillery produces as many as ten different brands, mainly eight year old blended whiskies and blended malts and also a 10 YO single malt and a 10 YO blended malt. By European standards, their prices are on the low side, approx €20 for the 10 YO single and blended malt and <€18 for their blends. At least two of the blended whiskies – LB Viskijs and Aleksandrs Viskijs – are made from Latvian rye. Amber Beverage Group owns Latvijas balzams JSC, the largest producer of alcoholic beverages in the Baltics. As of 2006, it had a market share of about 50% in Latvia.
The Czech Republic
Armed with a pot still and a handful of whisky books, they set out to create Hammerhead, the country’s first single malt, made from Czech barley and aged in Czech oak, in 1984. The distillery managed to acquire and install a traditional, cast-iron hammer mill of the same style and make as those found in most traditional Scottish distilleries at the time.
Eimverk Distillery is a family-run distillery founded in 2009, dedicated to making premium Icelandic spirits from 100% local ingredients. Their whisky is named Flóki after one of Icelands first explorers, Hrafna-Flóki (Flóki of the ravens). Eimverk produces three whiskies, one Young Malt, one unique sheep-dung smoked malt whisky and one 3-YO Single Malt Whisky using locally grown Icelandic barley. A picture of the Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve is placed left.
Flóki is handcrafted and took 4 years and 163 trial distillations as well as aging and maturation testes to perfect. Production started in 2013 with first sales in 2014. The Icelandic barley is a hardy strain selected to thrive during the short, intense Icelandic summer, while surviving the Arctic winter as it grew in volcanic rocky land. The starch content per grain is lower than elsewhere, leading to low sugar output and a more than 50% content of barley in the bottle.
Flóki’s sheep-dung-smoked reserve is the first of its kind in the world. The barley used in this malt has been smoked using the generations old tradition of smoking using sheep dung in Iceland. The result is truly one of a kind with a complex flavour profile and sweet smoky notes to compliment the intense flavour of the Icelandic barley. This two-year release is a limited reserve of a selection of single barrel bottling.
To meet the beer requirements of British army personnel in colonial India, the Murree Brewery was established in 1860 and incorporated a year later at Ghora Galli, located in the Pir Punjal range of the Western Himalayas at an elevation of 6,000 ft. above sea level, near the resort town of Murree, some 50 kilometers away from Rawalpindi. The founders were relatives of the British mountaineer Edward Whymper, who, five years later, became the first man to scale the Matterhorn.
Now owned by a Parsi, Minoo Bhandara, the brewery is also a distillery with numerous blended whiskies, all 5 YO and more as well as single malts. A “Saladin” Box malting was installed in 1971 and a decision taken to embark on an ambitious long-term program to mature Malt Whiskies. Two underground cellars now hold over half a million liters of Malt Whisky for varying periods of maturation up to 12 years under controlled temperature conditions.
Its crowning glory was its 8-year-old single malt whisky that received lavish praise from Jim Murray. In 2007, Murree launched its real jewel, a 20 YO single malt, as part of a one-time limited edition offer. 2400 bottles were produced priced modestly at around $40 a bottle.
Unfortunately for the locals, Muslims may not drink alcohol. But Bhandara runs a thriving business, with non-Muslims and foreigners buying his products after obtaining a permit. But then, like in many other duplicitous nations, his real customers are affluent Pakistani Muslims and the Armed Forces.
Starting December 2004, 100 bottles of Finnish malt whisky, the Old Buck, a 3 YO, were auctioned. Production is limited to small batches only, with 100 bottles being auctioned every year.
Smögen: Heavy smoke from Sweden in handcrafted Swedish whisky
Smögen 8 YO 2011 (cask 48/2011) - Single Cask Edition No. 12 (50cl, 61%). A single cask bottling of Smögen's single malt Swedish whisky, distilled back in September 2011 using heavily peated barley. It was filled into a first-fill bourbon barrel, where it lay for 8 years, was cracked open in February 2020, and bottled up at cask strength - a hefty 61% ABV.
Nose: Heavy vanilla and oak, with a good whack of earthy, almost coastal peat swiftly following up the sweet and rich wood smoke that found on Smögen whisky. Here though, it seems to work - amazing! It is balanced and nice with warm and restrained spices.
Palate: Toasted almonds and hazelnuts, chocolaty malt and a touch of strong coffee. Sweet ashes and soot. Sugary fruitiness sticking its head up through the smoke and having a look around.
Finish: Lasting peppery spices and a touch of clove building on the finish, balanced by apricot and apple. Sweeter by the swallow. Smoky sugar cubes with a hint of mint.
Smögen’s 100 Proof 50cl 57.1% ABV
Smögen’s first on-going release comes ten years after the distillery produced its first spirit in the form of Smögen 100 Proof. The whisky is produced from heavily peated malt (optic) and is a vatting of 11 oloroso sherry quarter casks. Bottled bearing a 6 year old age statement, this first batch release consists of 2436 bottles.
This expression is not for beginners – nor those that don’t like a bit of eccentricity with their whisky. The flavour combinations are intricate (particularly for the relative age of the spirit) but at the same time, they’re densely bound before dilution – and even then present what might be viewed by some as complexity, but by others as a challenge. Nevertheless, everything is well balanced and in-step, and features left-field aromas and flavours (particularly of the peaty kind). All said, this latest offering from Smögen rather is compelling.
Nose: Savoury sweetness. Burnt toffee and freshly baked pastry cases join maple wood chips and morello cherries. Smoke is part burning logs, part pine needles and part iodine disinfectant. A backbone of malty distillery aromas (toasted and fermenting cereals) is supported by some outlying oddness from white board makers and marmite spread across toast. Dilution presents overt strips of bacon and amps up the prominence of the peat influence - kiln dried logs smouldering in a fire pit set against earthy leaf fires and moist bracken.
Palate: Rather interesting and unexpected – a textural delivery of uncooked lardons alongside plenty of red berries and a pronounced steely and salty mineral touch. Resinous tree sap and leafy greens are joined by impactful smoke that’s much more prominent than the nose alluded to, and significantly dirtier - coal dust and burnt electrical circuit boards. In the back palate a powered sweetness akin to smoked sherbet. The addition of water once again promotes earthiness – forest floors, damp soils, ferns and a trip to the stationer for some Pritt Stick.
Finish: Quite long with dry oakiness offset against leafy freshness whilst wood smoke persistent till the very end.
La Alazana: 80% ex-bourbon cask- 20% ex-sherry cask
Proud to be pioneers in the cultivation of exclusive barley varieties for whisky. The varieties sown in Patagonia, and malted in La Alazana distillery, give a distinctive character to the expression of 100% Patagonian whisky, together with the peat of the region, which is burned under the barley in the malting process to obtain the different smoky notes. Other expressions of La Alazana are processed with the best Scottish malts.
They are proud pioneers in growing barley varieties for whisky, and malting them at the distillery. These varieties contribute to the distinctive character of the 100% Patagonian expression, as does their local peat source for their peated malts. The other expressions use the best Scottish malts.
Water of unequalled purity, from springs coming down mountain slopes in the Andes.
Double distillation process is carried out in copper stills of their own design and construction. They give it a fine and elegant “spirit”, to be matured in special American and French oak barrels: ex bourbon, sherry, cognac, and wine. The microclimate of the Piltriqutrón hill valley ensures a long and smooth maturation, giving it the stamp of Patagonian Whisky.