ISLAY NO LONGER ONLY HOME OF PEATED WHISKY
Aficionados love the strong smoky flavors and the briny notes of seaweed and iodine that are reminiscent of a smoldering campfire by the shore. Naysayers say that it’s like drinking an ashtray or that they smell like a tire store. But depending on where and how the whiskies are made, peated malts encompass a whole range of smoky flavours, along with everything from ripe pears to dried mushrooms.
Peat is an accumulation of decaying or partially decayed vegetation or organic matter, and can be found naturally occurring in peatlands, bogs, mires and moors. Peatlands, while one of the most effective ecosystems on the planet, are a great source for this peat, which is essentially a thick mud, and can be cut out in square bricks and dried as an alternative fuel source to coal. Given peat’s worldwide availability(mainly in the northern hemisphere), it made for a reliable and easily-procured source of fuel before coal and other options made their way to Islay from Glasgow hundreds of years ago.
Peat’s influence in smoky whisky is measured in PPM (parts per million), which looks at the prevalence of phenols, moisture, nitrogen content, and the predicted spirit yield of the final run. Malting the barley to a higher ppm can contribute to a much smokier whisky, but the ppm of the raw material is not a trusted measurement of the peat flavour which ultimately ends up in the bottle. What this means is that the universally accepted PPM scale is a good indicator of the presence of peat, while also having a wide range of scope for distillers.
During the malting process, barley is slightly germinated in order to draw sugars from the starch. This needs to be stopped half-way, however, which is done by applying heat. Where other heat sources are readily at hand in other parts of the world, Islay used peat to malt their barley from the start, creating a unique product that set their small corner of the world apart from the distilleries of Scotland. The smoke from the burning peat imparts a distinct flavour upon the grains, which finds its way into the final liquid.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the fuel used for roasting was usually peat, which burns like coal and is abundant throughout Scotland. In the years after World War II, most Scottish distilleries switched over to other, cleaner fuel sources, but a few kept up the peaty tradition. And in recent decades, as single malt mania took hold and whisky-philes started searching out bolder and more distinctive whiskies, the smoky stuff—the more intense the better—gained a cult following that makes brands like Lagavulin and Ardbeg some of the most desirable of all Scotch. Let's look at a couple of Islay whiskies before moving on.
On the shores of Loch Harport, the village of Carbost is home to Skye’s first of two distilleries producing wonderfully powerful and award-winning Island malts bottled at above average strength.
Talisker had long been available as single malt from independents such as Gordon & MacPhail, and also officially, predominantly as an eight-year-old. In 1998, it was given greater prominence as a founding member of the Classic Malts Selection when the age was upped to 10 years. An 18-year-old joined the range in 2004, but since 2008 the range has expanded dramatically with no-age-statement quartet: 57˚North, Storm, Dark Storm and Port Ruighe. It is now one of Diageo’s most important single malt brands.
Talisker Distillery from the Islands Region has an unusual configuration of their stills – two wash stills and three spirit. But it does not triple distill its spirits. Instead, the five still set-up produces a highly individual new make which mixes smoke, fruit, sulphur, salt and pepper. The malt is medium-peated, the worts clear, the fermentation long. It is in distillation that things seem slightly strange.
The wash stills are very tall with an exaggerated U-shaped bend in the lyne arm with a purifier pipe at its lowest point. This refluxes any heavy elements back into the body of the still to be redistilled. After rising up the ‘U’, the lyne arm coils itself inside cold worm tubs. While there is a lot of reflux taking place, there is little copper contact which provides the sulphury notes in the new make, and could give the signature pepperiness in the mature spirit. The purifier pipe adds oiliness, while the reflux helps to refine the fruity elements created during fermentation.
In contrast to most distilleries where the spirit stills are the workhorses, at Talisker the second distillation takes place in small plain stills, again with worm tubs. This adds mid-palate weight. Maturation is in refill and rejuvenated casks with ex-fortified wine casks being used for the Distiller’s Edition and Port Ruighe expressions and occasional special releases.
Talisker 10: Talisker 10 is one of those whiskies that often gets taken for granted because it’s been such a constant presence for so long. A massive success as the island representative in Diageo's 'Classic Malts' series, Talisker 10yo's profile keeps increasing as more fans discover its intense coastal spicy, peaty character. The 10-year age statement isn’t particularly sexy, it’s not bottled at a high proof (45.8%) and even the peat content is pretty low, making for a balanced and subtle tipple that doesn’t overpower the olfactory with lashings of smoke or iodine. But it’s a perfectly constructed malt that belongs in every serious whiskyphile’s liquor cabinet.
Given its location-connoisseurs and scientists are both divided on whether a spirit can truly display terroir, but if you ever needed proof that it can, Talisker is it- the saline, maritime characteristics endemic to anything made by the sea is delivered in spades, buttressed by crisp bacon, celery salt and ripe red apple helping it evolve into sweet malt and gentle smoke, which lingers on in the long finish. A classic truly elemental malt.
THE UNTAMED SPIRIT OF ISLAY: Although it has long claimed to be Islay’s smokiest malt till overtaken by Bruichladdich, Ardbeg can also realistically lay claim to be one of the island’s sweetest. It is this combination of rich sooty/tarry smoke with a citric sweet core which gives it its balance. Along with Glenmorangie, Ardbeg is owned by LVMH, which means an automatic but unavoidable price jump.
Ardbeg has been called “as close to perfection as makes no difference,” by whisky connoisseurs. Proof then, that Ardbeg truly deserves its incredible reputation. It’s a whisky that’s worshipped around the world. In the past ten years, six different Ardbeg expressions have won prestigious titles including World Whisky of the Year, Scotch Whisky of the Year and World’s Best Single Malt.
Heavy peating at Port Ellen maltings gives the smoke, long fermentation helps to increase softness and a clean, acidic fruitiness, while it is the use of a purifier pipe in the lyne arm of the spirit still which adds an oily, textural quality to the final product but also helps to refine the spirit. A new, modern and very Glenmorangie wood policy has also helped to give more roundness to the final mature product.
Ardbeg has undergone many changes in ownership and shutdowns. Unusable in a blended Scotch, its fortunes in the whisky market were, at best, wavery. A rise in demand for peated whisky saw production increase in the 1960s and 1970s, with demand necessitating that the distillery bring in peated malt from Port Ellen from 1974. For aficionados, the end of Ardbeg’s self-sufficiency was the end of an era – and a style. Seven years later, Ardbeg’s kiln was again extinguished, to restart in 1989.
The stock profile meant that its first age statement release was a 17-year-old, while it would take until 2008 for its own Ardbeg 10-year-old to appear. From 2004, however, there had been incremental releases: ’Very Young’, ‘Still Young’ and ‘Almost There’ showed the work in progress. The portfolio still concentrates on no-age-statement releases, some exclusively from (now very rare) old stock, others from new, some from a mix. Different oaks have also been used as part of a general improvement in the quality of casks used. The range has been bolstered in recent years by the addition of core expressions Ardbeg An Oa (NAS) in 2017 and Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old two years later.
Winner of a host of awards, Islay's Bowmore has been named Distillery of the Year multiple times, and various expressions have also been recognised with Double Gold Awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
As a whole, Bowmore has
won more awards than any other distillery. Islay, of course, has a long history
of illicit distillation, which makes the question of which distillery is the
oldest moot. Officially, Lagavulin, for example, dates back to 1816, but there
were unlicensed distilleries operating on that site dating back to 1742. Established
in 1779, Bowmore distillery is the amongst the oldest on Islay and some would
argue that the individuals that work here produce the best Single Malt in the
world. Why? Bowmore uses traditional
methods of production: methods that have been handed down through generations.
They take great pride in what they do and are among the six that still take the
time to floor malt their own barley - a painstaking process that requires a
Maltman to toss the grain by hand with a traditional wooden malt shovel, every
four hours. It is this kind of detail that sets Bowmore Distillery apart. It’s
a process that’s been perfected over nearly 240 years. The soft fresh water from the nearby River Laggan, perfectly malted and peat-kilned barley, painstakingly cultivated yeast, and the magnificent
character of Islay all come together to create Bowmore single malt Scotch whisky. The Laggan River rises in ancient pre-Cambrian rocks that,
at almost two billion years old, are among the oldest in Europe, and flows into
Loch Indaal. The water flows over peat, picking up a brown colour and about
two-ppm phenol; this is not enough, however, to have a discernable impact on
the whisky’s taste, though its ex-Master Blender Rachel Barrie feels otherwise. And it’s in the legendary No. 1 Vaults, the old stone warehouse that
sits on the edge of Loch Indaal, that the magical character of Islay and
centuries of tradition patiently combine to create a whisky that stands out for
its balance, complexity and beauty. The distillery has four
stills—two wash stills and two spirit stills—and has an annual capacity of two
million litres of pure alcohol. The distillery is also one of the few
distilleries that still use peat in its kilning operations, producing the
distinctive peat reek that Islay whiskies are noted for. Neither the locally
produced barley nor the floor malting are sufficient to meet the distillery’s
annual requirements, so its malting operation is supplemented by already malted
barley that is produced to its specifications and imported from the mainland. Whisky making is a very
complicated process and the best way to understand it is to tour a
distillery. Once the "new-make" spirit is ready, it goes into
American or Spanish oaks casks previously used to age sherry or bourbon, thus
creating different expressions. Casks are placed in the famous no. 1 Vaults for maturing. Located below sea level, this maturation room is as old as
the distillery itself. Some of the most luxurious
vintages Bowmore has produced include the White ($6,000) and Black ($4,500),
part of a trilogy of whiskies, all distilled on November 5, 1964. Completing
the set, the Gold Bowmore ($6,250) was recently released. Less than 900 bottles
of each of the trilogy were produced, making all of them exceptionally rare. Additionally,
the year that they were distilled was also the year that Bowmore introduced
steam-powered stills, which are able to produce a much smoother and consistent
As a whole, Bowmore has won more awards than any other distillery. Islay, of course, has a long history of illicit distillation, which makes the question of which distillery is the oldest moot. Officially, Lagavulin, for example, dates back to 1816, but there were unlicensed distilleries operating on that site dating back to 1742. Established in 1779, Bowmore distillery is the amongst the oldest on Islay and some would argue that the individuals that work here produce the best Single Malt in the world. Why?
Bowmore uses traditional methods of production: methods that have been handed down through generations. They take great pride in what they do and are among the six that still take the time to floor malt their own barley - a painstaking process that requires a Maltman to toss the grain by hand with a traditional wooden malt shovel, every four hours. It is this kind of detail that sets Bowmore Distillery apart. It’s a process that’s been perfected over nearly 240 years.
The soft fresh water from the nearby River Laggan, perfectly malted and peat-kilned barley, painstakingly cultivated yeast, and the magnificent character of Islay all come together to create Bowmore single malt Scotch whisky. The Laggan River rises in ancient pre-Cambrian rocks that, at almost two billion years old, are among the oldest in Europe, and flows into Loch Indaal. The water flows over peat, picking up a brown colour and about two-ppm phenol; this is not enough, however, to have a discernable impact on the whisky’s taste, though its ex-Master Blender Rachel Barrie feels otherwise. And it’s in the legendary No. 1 Vaults, the old stone warehouse that sits on the edge of Loch Indaal, that the magical character of Islay and centuries of tradition patiently combine to create a whisky that stands out for its balance, complexity and beauty.
The distillery has four stills—two wash stills and two spirit stills—and has an annual capacity of two million litres of pure alcohol. The distillery is also one of the few distilleries that still use peat in its kilning operations, producing the distinctive peat reek that Islay whiskies are noted for. Neither the locally produced barley nor the floor malting are sufficient to meet the distillery’s annual requirements, so its malting operation is supplemented by already malted barley that is produced to its specifications and imported from the mainland.
Whisky making is a very complicated process and the best way to understand it is to tour a distillery. Once the "new-make" spirit is ready, it goes into American or Spanish oaks casks previously used to age sherry or bourbon, thus creating different expressions. Casks are placed in the famous no. 1 Vaults for maturing. Located below sea level, this maturation room is as old as the distillery itself.
Some of the most luxurious vintages Bowmore has produced include the White ($6,000) and Black ($4,500), part of a trilogy of whiskies, all distilled on November 5, 1964. Completing the set, the Gold Bowmore ($6,250) was recently released. Less than 900 bottles of each of the trilogy were produced, making all of them exceptionally rare. Additionally, the year that they were distilled was also the year that Bowmore introduced steam-powered stills, which are able to produce a much smoother and consistent spirit.
THE HISTORY OF SUNTORY: The history of Japanese whisky is the history of Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory.
In 1923, Shinjiro Torii envisioned a whisky filled with the essence of Japanese nature and hand-crafted by artisans through a patient process of enhancing the work of nature. He dreamt of creating subtle, refined, yet complex whisky that would suit the delicate palate of the Japanese and enhance their dining experience. Though initially inspired by traditional Scottish whisky, Torii envisioned a Japanese approach by choosing a terrain and climate completely different from those of Scotland. Torii chose the region of Yamazaki, on the outskirts of Kyoto as the birthplace of Japanese whisky.
The Hakushu Distillery was founded in 1973, half a century after Yamazaki. Keizo Saji inherited his father’s vision in his quest for innovation and constructed this second Suntory distillery. Keizo Saji, the second Master Blender, inherited his father’s quest to push the boundaries of what a Japanese whisky could be. He had searched all over Japan for high quality water that will become the most delicately aromatic to produce whisky that people would love. After searching with tenacity to the headstreams of rivers and deep into rugged mountains, he found Hakushu. The Hakushu Distillery is without question one of the highest distilleries in the world, built amidst the deepest forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake in the Japanese Southern Alps.
Hakushu is the highest operational distillery in Japan, towering over its competitors at a height of more than 2000 feet above sea-level. It is a Suntory distillery and, while not quite as globally famous as Yamazaki, the quality of single malt whisky produced here is nothing short of outstanding. With four distinctive seasons, the clear air and cool, humid climate of Hakushu’s vast forests allow the distillery to produce high-quality whisky through a slow, unhurried process.
The majestic forest that surrounds the Hakushu Distillery shelters an abundance of plant varieties reflecting the many expressions of Japanese nature. The malt whiskies born here are simultaneously blessed with a very particular microclimate within verdant forests. Hakushu is known to use one of the most pristine water supplies in all of Japan, the reserves at the base of Mount Kai Komagatake. The water offers rare purity, only made possible by filtration of rain and snow through thousand-year-old granite rocks, but with a very low mineral content and is much softer than that found elsewhere in the country, and this helps the distillery to create a refreshing, crisp and well-balanced range of expressions.
The original Hakushu distillery was expanded with another distillery building called Hakushu Higashi (east) added in 1981. The original west wing was gradually mothballed.
Hakushu 12 Year Old: Its 12 YO lightly peated whisky is comprised of three types of single malts. The components are a non-peated whisky aged in American oak, a non-peated whisky aged in ex-sherry/ Spanish Oak, and a peated whisky aged in American oak. As such, the peat level goes down to a mild 7-9 ppm. In 2013 and 2014, it brought out 3,000 bottles of heavily peated NAS single malts (48% ABV) which, at $2000/- each, sold out in a day.
Hakushu distillery uses different styles of oak barrel to age their single malt, but mainly hogshead, which, according to the distillery is, “suitable to the clear air and cool humid climate.” Green and fresh, cool and earthy, the 12-year old from Hakushu is lightly peated and very delicate in its flavour profile. In fact, moist peat and cool mint gently hold up the bouquet of flowers and cereal notes. The light and fruity style of the whisky is quite similar to the Yamazaki 12, but the smoke, which is more rich body than intense fire, really makes up for any lack of richness. The price has increased considerably over the last five years with the inventory of Japanese whisky getting tighter and tighter.
Hakushu 18 Year Old: This rare release from Hakushu illustrates why this is one of the most interesting malt distilleries in Japan. Hakushu means “white sand banks” named after the mineral depoists in the streams that feed the distillery. This deeply fragrant whisky has a refreshing aroma that calls to mind fruit and hay. The complexity on display is very impressive and at this subtly peated whisky is an underrated Japanese icon.
A massive step up in quality from the standard Hakushu 12 yrs, this 18yo is amazingly well-defined (as we've come to expect from Japanese whisky) with deliciously rounded fruit and cereal flavours, at times surprisingly reminiscent of the finest Irish potstill whisky. This is a whisky that is so smooth, well-balanced and complex that it comes incredibly close to perfection. Made up from a selection of carefully matured whisky, that has been under the eagle-eye of the master distiller for at least 18 years, this refreshing dram has it all.
Both sherry influences and bourbon influences can be detected through rich fruits, citrus, honey, apricots and sweet dark chocolate. These are all supported by that lightly peated character that also brings slight floral notes to the table. The peat opens up with more time spent in the glass and a little burst of lemon juice makes itself known too. All the while, very gentle cinnamon and cloves hide in the background, but are certainly detectable to a trained nose.
Its crisp and vibrant feel, unique in a single malt whisky, enlivens and liberates your senses. The extensive and delightful range of notes, combined with the unparalleled smoothness, have led the Hakushu 18 Year Old to pick up multiple awards throughout the years.
Radhakrishna R. Jagdale set up Amrut Laboratories in 1948 and soon changed it to Amrut Distilleries. 56 years on, his grandson launched Amrut Whisky, the first Indian single malt brand. He created Amrut Fusion in 2004 and, in 2008, was so entranced by it that he submitted it for assessment to global Whisky-guru Jim Murray in 2009. It was voted the 3rd best Whisky in the world by Murray. He did so, after tasting over 4000 whiskies from all over the world. This was the piece de resistance of the 64-year-old Bangalore-based Amrut Distilleries, but forging a new path appears to be a company policy.
Interestingly, young Jagdale started it all as an MBA student in Newcastle, UK, in response to his father’s challenge to market an Indian single malt in the very home of the spirit, in Scotland.
Conforming to the tough European Union packaging norms took a lot of time and effort. But it was all worth it. Entered later in a competition in Glasgow, the host at Glasgow’s famous Pot Still whisky pub served Amrut to a set of connoisseurs. Each person named a different region of Scotland as the likely place of origin, but they were unanimous in their appreciation.
What sets it apart from other Indian liquor brands is its target market. India has always been a huge whisky market, but at the lower end. Amrut wanted to move from quantity to quality, and the biggest challenge was to gain acceptance from the luxury whisky market in Europe.
That is why they set aside a portion of their blends for ageing, and hold brand-building activities all year long. This includes consumer tastings in the form of prominent whisky exhibitions and tutored tastings across the world.
Amrut Distilleries has numerous products in its single malts portfolio so far, starting with Amrut Single Malt, Amrut Peated Single Malt, Amrut Single Malt Cask Strength, Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt and Amrut Fusion Single Malt. After the UK, the brand made a foray into Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries two years later and finally hit North America in April 2010. The line-up is currently sold in 22 countries. Some 8,000 cases are sold in the UK alone every year.
The success of Amrut in the Western markets is to a great extent because of endorsements from people who matter. Besides Murray, the Whisky Advocate magazine has awarded back-to-back World Whisky Awards to Amrut Fusion and Amrut Two Continents. There is a growth of brown spirits in the market, which has lead to consumers wanting to try new spirits. Japan lead the way and now there are single malts from Australia, Taiwan, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, France and also the US.
And no, you don’t have to take a flight out of the country to sample this magic. The Fusion and all other Amrut Single Malt brands have been introduced in Karnataka State, with others to follow. About 5,000 cases are made available annually. Of course, the late India-focus and the low visibility of the Amrut single malt brand in the country did not go down well with experts and market watchers here. Especially since its other whiskies like MaQintosh and Prestige, along with Old Port Rum account for annual sales of over four million cases.
Despite the global accolades, a brand that is not available on the shelves in a vibrant market like India will continue to remain a wannabe in the global marketplace. Perhaps that’s why the company is now eyeing the Delhi and Mumbai markets in an attempt to expand the Indian footprint.
Awards Galore 2019: Amrut Distillery scooped up two special category awards at the 2019 Bartenders Spirits Awards. India’s Amrut Distillery’s Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky bagged a gold medal and seized the “World Whisky of the Year” award at the 2019 Bartenders Spirits Awards that took place in San Francisco, on May 19. Amrut Distilleries also picked up “World Whisky Producer of the Year”.
Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky gets its name from the fact that it uses two barleys: Indian and Scottish – with the latter being peated. It comes from Amrut Distilleries, the Bangalore-based company which introduced the first single malt from India to the UK in 2004. Amrut’s Indian barley comes from the Punjab and the distillation takes place in the tropical garden city of Bangalore at 3000ft. The barley from Scotland is also distilled in Bangalore and both are matured there separately. After they have reached their peak, the two whiskies are married in the bourbon casks in proportions which give both a subtle peat flavour and a rich fruity flavour from the Indian barley. This is bottled at 50% abv to reflect the depth and finish of the whisky.
This rare combination of Indian and Scottish elements means Fusion has a really excellent mouthfeel and palate, combining oak, a hint of vanilla, fruit and the sublime peat. The public obviously agreed with Murray when Fusion was launched in June 2009: the first consignment was sold out within few weeks of its release. The next batch was completely pre-ordered before it even reached the UK.
Crafted in Bengaluru, India, Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky has a very heavy, thickly oaked and a complex nose. You can also smell some curious barely-sugar notes in there shrouded in soft smoke. Though the delivery of this single malt whiskey is controlled at first, it is massive. The smoke on the nose turns into a warm, full-blown peat as vague sherry trifle notes with oaky vanilla are introduced. It also has barley-fruitiness to make for a bit of a free-for-all. For extra food measure, the flavours develop into a really intense chocolate fudge middle which resonates through the palate. There is a slight struggle at the finish as the mouthfeel gets a bit puffy with dry peat and oak. There is a molasses sweetness to see the malt through to a satisfying end, though. The spices, rather than lying down and accepting their fate, rise up and usher this extraordinary whisky to its exit.
Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt Whisky 70cl / 46% ABV
The new 46% Amruts are a very different proposition to the pleasant but unexciting original release. At the higher strength this 24ppm peated effort fairly fizzes along the tastebuds. This is excellent - hugely improved stuff from a distillery coming along in leaps and bounds.
This particular expression is one of their best. As there is no peated barley in India, Amrut sources it from Scotland, having it peated there to their specifications before being shipped to the distillery in India. The peat dissipates somewhat during the journey. The peated barley is mashed, distilled, aged, and bottled at Amrut, and after spending around 6 years in used bourbon barrels, this peated single malt is diluted to 92 proof for bottling.
On the nose, this peated single malt was rife with citrus and peat—a sweeter sort than one might expect—as well as salt pork (how did that get there?!) and low notes of caramel. Breaking it with ½ teaspoon of water brought the unusual savoury notes to the forefront, followed by a grassiness, which, combined with the savoury was almost like chives.
Though it was a hefty 46% ABV, the mouthfeel was under the tongue, mostly. The Amrut Fusion blends this (25%) and their single malt (75%).
All in all, the company is confident that its single malt segment to be a big revenue generator in the next few years, targeting a sales turnover of Rs 600 crore by 2020-21, up from the current Rs 384 crore. Amrut hopes to scale up to 40,000-50,000 cases internationally. They plan to take the Prestige blended whisky off market, enabling them to increase their supplies to the Single Malt direction.
Kavalan takes Yilan County's old name. A land of blessings, it was here that entrepreneur Mr. Tien-Tsai Lee dreamed of a new whisky homeland and a ‘century-old’ distillery to last generations. His ambition to create Taiwan’s first whisky took him across the old world to the sacred distilleries of Scotland and Japan. He knew to compete, Taiwan must be world-class, and this tested every sinew of his resolve. Kavalan brings together a highly skilled R&D team which takes on the legacy of renowned whisky specialists. It is backed by King Car Group and its more than 40 years of beverage experience and knowledge.
Kavalan Distillery has been pioneering the art of single malt whisky in Yilan County, Taiwan since 2005. Kavalan sources the mineral-rich meltwaters of Snow Mountain and is aged in a unique combination of intense heat and humidity together with sea and mountain breezes. All these facets combine to create the quality, smoothness, and fruity character for which Kavalan is known.
Kavalan is the distillery that put Taiwanese whisky on the map. Only operating since 2005 they have wowed the world with their young but full flavoured whisky, concentrating on their signature flavours of tropical fruit. Kavalan released its first bottling in 2008. Quickly winning awards for its single malts, Kavalan has been rising in popularity since its opening and has been enticing drinkers around the world since its first whisky launch. Known for its tropical-fruit style, it has won a host of prestigious awards in a very short time.
Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Single Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky: Fino, Spanish for 'Fine', is the driest and palest of all varieties of traditional sherry wine. Traditional Fino wine is usually dry and is best consumed shortly after the bottle is opened in order to avoid losing its flavour. Kavalan's Fino, matured in the finest Fino Sherry butts, however, provides mild sweetness that excites the palate.
Whisky has many flavour descriptions that vary from light to full-bodied. As long as you know how to balance the flavour, it will be very easy to do food pairings with whisky. Light-bodied, sweet and vanilla-flavoured whisky is very suitable to pair with seafood, fish, dried berries and dishes with parsley and basil. For example, Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry Single Cask Strength and Kavalan Bourbon oak Single Malt Whisky.
Kavalan Distillery Reserve Peaty Cask Single Cask Strength
Matured in rare, special and hand-selected casks. Kavalan Distillery Reserve Single Malt Whisky was available exclusively at Kavalan Distillery and showrooms in limited quantity. The first release in the collection, Kavalan Single Malt Peaty Whisky is the very first peaty whisky from Kavalan. Retaining Kavalan's trademark subtropical fruity flavours and peerless texture, it will surprise and delight whisky connoisseurs. This single malt will definitely impress the collectors of rare whiskies and aficionados that are eager to discover new drams. A true collector's piece!
It offers a prophecy of things to come, as well as an intermediary way-station, as Kavalan is currently aging whisky distilled from a peated mash bill. Cask strength at 52.4%.
Future releases of the Kavalan Distillery Reserve series will likely be even more tantalising!
Paul John’s much awarded and internationally acclaimed whiskies BRILLIANCE, EDITED, BOLD, CLASSIC Select Cask, PEATED Select Cask & KANYA are available in 38 countries globally. Each of their expressions is made from the finest 6-row barley, and crafted to perfection in Goa, India. Their distillery in Goa has the best of new-age technologies and traditional process, and has gone on to win the Asian Distiller of the year award for three consecutive years.
NIRVANA is an unpeated expression bottled at an ABV of 40% and is an expression for those willing and keen to experience single malts, especially for the first time. Its exotic richness is sure to captivate whisky connoisseurs and amateurs equally.
Paul John believes in taking the hitherto untrodden trail and often experimenting with different cask finishes, creating rarities. The OLOROSO, a limited edition, was the result of such an effort. This soft delicate single malt enriched with intense flavours, was finished in Oloroso casks and is a definite choice for any whisky enthusiast’s collection. The appreciation received from the launch of the earlier limited Oloroso Single Cask encouraged them to introduce the Oloroso and PX expressions as part of the Select Cask range and are bottled at 48% ABV. Paul John OLOROSO, finished in Oloroso casks, owns sublime flavours reminiscent of dark chocolate and Melton Hunt Cake while the PEDRO XIMÉNEZ comes with layered aromas of fig, apricot and hints of banana. These whiskies owe their flavours to the handpicked Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks in which they are finished.
The Paul John Zodiac series celebrates Indian Astrology. Each Zodiac release by Paul John Whisky, possess characteristics unique to that zodiac sign. The first to be launched of this series is the KANYA by Paul John. Ruled by Mercury and symbolised by the virgin, Kanya is the dignified Indian counterpart of the highly appealing Virgo, the sixth zodiac sign of the universe. With its earthy, feminine sensuousness, this deep amber expression personifies the intrinsic characteristics of the KANYA. Created in India, Paul John Whisky has won more than 250 awards in 8 years and continues to strive to enrich the experience of every sip.
Paul John’s Mithuna Whisky has been declared the 3rd Finest Whisky in the World by esteemed whisky reviewer Jim Murray in his acclaimed manual for 2021. Mithuna by Paul John is the second expression of the Zodiac series of Paul John Indian Single Malt from John Distilleries Pvt Ltd (JDPL). Mithuna scored a 97 and has also been awarded Asian Whisky of the Year 2021, while its predecessor in the Zodiac series, Kanya by Paul John, was named Asian Whisky of the Year in the 2018 edition of “Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible” with a score of 96.
A non chill-filtered, unpeated whisky at 58% ABV, it is matured in American virgin oak casks and finished in ex-bourbon casks. It is named after the Indian counterpart of the 3rd Zodiac sign Gemini. Renowned for contradictive strengths, the characteristics of Gemini are epitomised by this Indian single malt as mesmerising layers of austere, dry tannins are challenged in equal measure by resplendent sugars and mocha on delicate oils.
One never tires of Goa. From exploring its various personalities, its past, its present, its sheer decadence or perky cheer, for the true explorer, Goa always has a surprise tucked up its sleeve. Much like the Paul John Select Cask Peated. This Single Malt astonishes even a seasoned whisky aficionado. Unexpected flavours balance each other, offering the perfect tipple. It is a wholesome Goan experience, packed into every sip.
Nose: The smoky, sweet and earthy fragrances have mellow resonances of spice.
Palate: As the crisp Muscovado and Demerara sugars create layered nuances, the smokiness of the Single Malt sets in, creating a perfect balance. A hint of spice radiates from the hickory and Dominican-style cocoa.
Finish: The delicate finish of this Single Malt has notes of Dominican cocoa laced with the tart edge of marmalade.
Colour: Golden mahogany.
Pairing: This extremely complex whisky needs food that can complement it well. Tender, juicy steaks and blue cheese can help you unravel every nuance of this magnificent malt from Goa.
THE GLENLIVET NADURRA PEATED WHISKY CASK FINISH 61.5% ABV
In 2004, The Glenlivet thought of a whisky that looked backwards as much as it did forwards, viz. Nàdurra. It captures the original passion behind George Smith’s distillery and is the purest expression of The Glenlivet, being bottled at cask strength without using chill filtration, nor adding caramel (‘Nàdurra’ being Gaelic for ‘natural’).Back then Nàdurra also meant first-fill bourbon 16 year old, of course, but last year they shook things up to create a range of no age statement “cask experiences”. First came the launch of a first-fill Oloroso Nàdurra, followed by a virgin oak Nàdurra. The third addition will complete the set.
The latest release in the series isn’t a NAS first-fill ex-bourbon cask expression, but that’s exactly where most of its maturation takes place. It’s then finished in casks that previously held heavily peated (Speyside peat) Scotch whisky. It’s an interesting one as it addresses the fact that if you’re setting out to create a whisky that George Smith would recognise, you do have to appreciate that peat was used at the distillery in his day. Glenlivet today is unpeated (whilst it has been suggested in the last few years that they may look into very small runs of peated spirit there’s nothing to suggest that stocks exist, certainly not at bottling age), so using peated casks for a finishing period is a novel solution even if it bends ‘natural’ somewhat.
This Nàdurra single malt is slightly different, however. It smells and tastea heavily peated but the malted barley used to distill this whisky was totally unpeated, dried most probably using gas energy heating or coal fire. So where does the peat reek come from? This expression of Nàdurra has been matured for an unknown amount of years (The Glenlivet won’t say, hence its NAS status), in oak casks having previously contained whisky from heavily peated malted barley. These casks have imparted such a heavy peaty smoke character to this whisky, most drinkers would simply assume that this malt had been made with peated malted barley!
The marketing guys at Pernod Ricard are spinning a yarn about how this Nàdurra is close to the original taste of Glenlivet whisky which they claim was distilled from peated malted barley back in the early 19th century. As they state “…we set out to create a whisky that George Smith [the founder of Glenlivet distillery in 1824] would recognise…”
“Our latest expression in the Nàdurra family boldly draws its inspiration from The Glenlivet’s historic whisky-making traditions in which peat smoke was used to dry the malted barley, lending a smoky flavour to the whisky. Unlike its two siblings, the Nàdurra Peated Whisky is finished in casks that previously held heavily peated Scotch whisky, giving a gently smoky twist to the classic, smooth and fruity house style that The Glenlivet is known for.”
All this marketing “shpiel” would only make some sense if the casks they used have come from a Speyside distillery containing whisky made from peated barley where the peat was locally sourced from peat bogs in the Speyside region, as the original Glenlivet surely must have been.
THE ENGLISH WHISKY CO.
Over time, the distillery has grown and today not only are they the oldest and most awarded English distillery, but also mature all their casks and bottle all their whisky on site. This ability to keep the entire process from start to finish on their own site enables them to ensure the very highest quality in all of their products. The distillery releases its drinks under two brands. ‘The English’ which is their range of single malt whiskies and ‘The Norfolk’ which consists of their grain whiskies and liqueurs.
Creating anCnoc Peaty : When Knockdhu Distillery opened its doors back in October 1894, peat was most commonly used as a source of fuel throughout the Highlands. There’s no doubt whisky made at Knockdhu was initially peaty but as time and technology moved on so did the production methods and with the dawn of specialist maltings the Knockdhu Distillery gradually moved to the unpeated style associated with anCnoc Single Malt Scotch Whisky today. Today, in homage to this malt’s peaty origins, Knockdhu has crafted a truly remarkable Peaty range.
Throughout the Scottish uplands, most extensively in the north and west, you will find the heart of the peatlands. Remote and isolated yet rich in iconic wildlife, this environment rules the landscape and provides a valuable fuel for the whisky-making process. Knockdhu Distillery, established in 1894, is one of the most enchanting in the Scottish Highlands. Bounded by an abundance of natural resources wonderfully suited to whisky making, the distillery lies in the shadow of nearby Knock Hill - home to springs of pure, clear water - and sits on the doorstep of a region rich in barley and peat. A natural resource, peat was historically embraced as fuel to fire the still and dry the barley for the distillation of whisky. It is traditionally cut by hand using several traditional cutting tools.
Peatiness can be controlled by the amount of peat burnt and the humidity of the barley. Peat smoke produces chemicals called phenols and it is by its phenol content that a whisky's 'peatiness' can be measured. This phenol content is expressed as PPM (parts per million) and to ensure consistency, Peatheart uses barley malted to 40PPM.
CUTTER: The Cutter is a hand tool used to cut peat from less wet, shallower bogs. This means the peat it reveals is drier and therefore more easily burnt producing a whisky that has a medium-heavy smokiness, in this case, with a phenol content of 20.5 ppm.
FLAUGHTER: The Flaughter spade is used to remove the top layer of peat which is richer, more rooty and produces more reek. This gives a heavier, smokier flavour to the whisky, in this case, with a PPM of 14.8.
PEATLANDS: ‘Peatlands’ are found throughout the Scottish uplands most extensively in the north and west in areas with mild slopes and inadequate drainage. This environment governs the landscape of the gently rolling moorlands, particularly in the north Highlands. This 9 PPM product is a regional exclusive available in Eastern & Western Europe and Scandinavia.
RASCAN: The Rascan tool is used to break up the top level of rough ground and prepare the land for peat harvesting. It clears the heather turf to expose the peat used to produce a whisky, in this case, with a PPM of 11.1/
RUTTER: The Rutter spade is used to size and separate the peat blocks producing a turf that is slow burning. This peat creates less reek and therefore gives the whisky a more fragrant smokiness, in this case, with a PPM of 11.
TUSHKAR: The Tushkar spade has a long blade that cuts down through the peat, producing a turf with a medium to slow burn. This peat creates and adds a complex but medium smokiness to the whisky, in this case, with a PPM of 15.0
PEATHEART: One of their smokiest offerings to date, Peatheart has a phenol content of 40 PPM which results in an intensely warm yet smooth finish, at 46% ABV.
Colour: Pale amber
Nose: An initial smoky burst surrenders to a surge of fruitiness. Ripe pears and the citrus notes of apples and limes with just a touch of tobacco in the background. The nose is balanced yet an undeniable smoky sweetness prevails.
Taste: Smoke laced with leather and sweet stewed apples. Chocolate is there too, perfectly complemented by sweet vanilla and zesty lemon. The finish has a lingering warmth with a floral smokiness.
Deep in the musty darkness of the large traditional warehouses at the BenRiach Distillery, row upon row of the finest oak casks rest slowly maturing, awaiting the day to become the classic Speyside character people cherish; the uninterrupted inventory of exceptional Speyside Single Malt dating back as far 1965. Only the finest quality of spirit is filled into each cask and that only the best casks are selected to enhance the exceptional character of the whisky. This whisky, reflecting the skill, knowledge and experience that has gone into the making of The BenRiach, is testimony to the many years stretching back to the 19th century during which the distillery built its reputation. Few distilleries in Scotland hold such a history and few today can have such an exciting future.
BenRiach is known for its bold approach to whisky making, distilling single malt whisky from both peated and unpeated malted barley. Thanks to this progressive, ‘dual distilling’ heritage, BenRiach enjoys a rare collection of old peated Speyside Single Malt Whiskies. BenRiach is one of just two remaining Speyside distilleries to seasonally produce whisky using malted barley from its own traditional floor maltings. The distillery has earned a reputation for innovation by using many different types of cask for maturing and finishing whisky. Whiskies are non-chill filtered for richness of flavour and are natural in colour. Benriach has numerous aged casks waiting to be bottled.Over the years, they have come out with both peated and non-peated versions, from 28-40 years old. Some 1975 casks were sold and apparently went to Asia. Better known are the 1976 versions, from 28-40 years old. Quite prominent is the first official 1976 single cask ever to be bottled, for Craigellachie hotel. This single cask of 1976-vintage Benriach was released as part of the distillery's 12th batch. Made with peated malt, this was aged in a bourbon barrel for 38 years and has notes of baked apple and cinnamon.
BenRiach Authenticus 30 Year Old
: BenRiach Authenticus 30 Year Old
is the headline act. It’s the oldest edition on the Authenticus range, which is
rather unusual up in Speyside as it’s peated. The peat comes from the
North-East of Scotland, so will be quite different to Islay peated
whiskies for example. Also, Benriach, which owns peated stock dating back to
1975, was “the first Speyside distillery to release a peated expression
since WW2”, and that was back in 2004. So in short, it’s an old peated
Speysider, and there aren’t many of those around.
Benriach 25 Year Old Authenticus Peated Malt:BenRiach Authenticus is the second oldest expression in the heavily peated range crafted from three different types of cask: American Bourbon casks, Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks and Oloroso Sherry casks. Richly peated malted barley is used to produce this fascinating single malt, which brings ripe pineapple, fresh mountain herbs and a huge blast of sweet peat. Bottled at 46% ABV and of natural colour.
BenRiach started doing peated runs in the 1970s – some of the legendary 1975 single casks were peated. As far as known it wasn’t until 2007 that they were all released, and with Latin-sounding names. Remember BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus, Maderensis Fumosus, Heredotus Fumosus or Curiositas?
Maybe because of their long experience, BenRiach’s peated malts are among the best from non-Islay distilleries. Nowadays BenRiach uses the same ppm as Laphroaig, around 45 ppm (using the colorimetric scale).
Benriach 21 Year Old Authenticus: At the top was the 21 YO Authenticus, until it was upgraded to this BenRiach 25 Years Authenticus in 2012, now overtaken by a peated 30 Year Old. Perhaps the upcoming BenRiach Temporis 21 Years (matured in four oak types) is also an indication of a reworked peated upper range? The Temporis would replace the 17 YO Septemdecim. It’s lived in four casks: bourbon casks –presumably for most of its life – before being decanted into virgin oak, Pedro Ximénez and red wine casks. This clearly isn’t whisky that has lived independently for two decades in each of those cask types, because as we see the spirit is quite pale – and virgin oak especially should have seen to that. So one can only presume that there was some finishing involved – where it had gone from bourbon (for a brief period through each of the other woods).
That’s about a third of Benriach’s peated single malt Scotch whiskies. The more affordable and easier to find whiskies are in the 9-12 year old range.
Benriach Curiositas Whisky: Benriach Curiositas is a very nice peated main-lander, which represents great value for money, and is a worthy competitor for the entry-level peaty beasts from Islay. Interestingly, this one surprised a few of the attendees who thought they didn't like peated whisky, until they tasted this one!
As you can probably guess, the name is Latin for 'curiosity' (most of Benriach's peated malts are given Latin names, to set them apart from the rest of the range), which refers to peated Speyside malts being a little uncommon, although that's not so much the case these days. Benriach use malt peated to around 55 ppm for their peated expressions, quite a high level for a main-lander, which is beaten only by Benromach's Peat Smoke. This is peat from the mainland of Scotland though, so it doesn't have the medicinal or coastal flavours from the Islands. Which is probably why it suits the non-'peat head' a little more than some. It should be noted that there is a 40% version of the Curiositas, but that was only for the UK market, while the rest of us enjoy the heavy 46% version.
Benromach Peat Smoke: The Speyside region isn't renowned for heavily peaty whiskies, but that doesn't mean there aren't any to be found! This example from Benromach, aptly named 'Peat Smoke', is one of the big ones, and is reputed to be one of the best. It is distilled from barley peated to an impressive 67 ppm , a number similar to (or even higher than) that used by the Islay distilleries. Being a Speyside malt though, and being made using local barley and local peat, it is of course rather distinct from your typical Islay.
Benromach only produce one batch of their 'Peat Smoke' whisky per year, with this latest release being distilled in 2005, and bottled in 2014. This is also their most heavily peated batch yet, at the aforementioned 67ppm, and the first to carry their spunky new packaging. As with all Benromach whisky, Peat Smoke has been matured in first-fill casks, exclusively ex-bourbon in this case.
Benriach Smoke Season Joins The Portfolio
The “smoke season” is the
time of year when the distillery focusses on the production of peated whisky.
In the 19th century, heavily peated malts were popular in Speyside, and
Benriach revived this tradition with the use of peated malt. When malting the
barley, the peat used is from the Highlands and not the islands; it is
instrumental in forming the character of the peated whiskies there. Shaped by a
large proportion of heather and trees, it differs in its composition from island
peat and provides the distinctive aromatic, slightly sweet highland smoke.
Benriach is always looking to push the boundaries of what is possible in Speyside single malt. With an intensely peated spirit batch distilled every year, they never stop exploring how the fruit and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in a range of eclectic oak casks, either amplifying or transforming the perception of peat. Smoke Season is the result of exploring 100% intensely peated malt, batch distilled and matured in 1st fill bourbon barrels combined with a high proportion of charred and toasted American Virgin oak casks.
Crafted exclusively from intensely peated malt distilled in Smoke Season, the spirit is reminiscent of barbecue smoked fruit in a pine forest. American virgin oak and bourbon barrel maturation develop sweet caramel smoke and cinnamon spiced roasted apple, with hints of charred orange peel and hickory, concentrated at the bottling strength of 52.8% ABV. Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery calendar, and this new addition gives both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet and smoky character of Benriach single malt, crafted in Speyside, a whisky-making region rarely associated with peated malt.
THE BALVENIE : THE WEEK OF PEAT
For one week every year, The Balvenie distills a batch of peated malt, resulting in a whisky rich in its distinctive notes with an extra layer of delicate smokiness. Distillery Manager Ian Millar spotted a week’s gap in the distillery schedule while on a trip to Islay. Eager to experiment with The Balvenie profile using what he had learnt from his trip, he ordered a batch of Speyside peat for the kiln and built a peat burner on the side for ‘extra peatiness’.
‘The Week of Peat’ is nothing new. In fact, it’s the only week of the year The Balvenie makes whisky the way it used to be made – using smoke from a heavily peated furnace, like in the very old days when every farm burned peat from the land (and made whisky in a pot over the fire). They got their peat from the north-east Speyside village of New Pitsligo, close to Fraserburgh. A peat-burner was added to the side of the kiln. Trialling the burner in the early days allowed them to get up to 30 ppm phenols. Due to the strong influence of peat, they had to separate the remaining low wines and feints, basically low-alcohol spirit, and store them in a tank until the following year’s peat week, so there is a year-to-year link between one peat week and the next.
The original peated Balvenie was made in the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. In 2002, they first decided to bring peat back to answer the query: why don’t they take a week out of the year to make peated whisky? Just do it. It made sense to do it in a week – generally at the end of summer or winter, when shutting down for maintenance at the distillery.