Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Well Stocked Bar VII

"Whisk(e)y is for drinking; water is for fighting over."
Attributed to Mark Twain
Photo of Strathisla Distillery dusted in snow.
Yesterday's post was dedicated to blended scotch whisky. This post begins a discussion on the various scotch producing regions and the varied single malts they produce.

Below is a map showing the commonly accepted scotch producing regions. Each distinct region produces varied malts but like wines each region has its own terroir influenced as much through the ingredients: water, malted barley, peat (burned to dry the barley), as the place where the barley is malted and the whisky ages in the barrel.

I think the logical starting point in the discussion of scotch regions is Speyside as it is the largest producer of single malts with 46 active producers, more than half of those in the whole of Scotland.

The region is defined by the river Spey which cuts through the area. Most distilleries were located to take advantage of a good source of clean water; in the Speyside region many distilleries use water straight from the river Spey and its tributaries. Geographically Speyside is part of the Highlands but for the purpose of classifying whisky is considered a separate region due to its size and the clear differences in the characters of Speyside as opposed to Highland whisky.

Within the Speyside region are five subregions: Elgin, Glenlivet, Upper Spey, Dufftown, and Rothes. Among these Glenlivet home to The Glenlivet is perhaps the most famous as The Glenlivet its most famous distillery produces the most popular single malt sold in the US market.

The defining characteristics of a Speyside malt are a degree of sweetness, a light to medium body, fruity, leafy and honeyed notes. Some whiskys also exhibit aromas of citrus and flowers like roses.

Following is a partial list of the Speyside distilleries, among them some of the most famous and long lived malts: Aberlour, An Cnoc, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balmenach, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Cardhu, Cragganmore, Dailuaine, Dallas Dhu, Dufftown, Glen Elgin, Glendronach, Glendullan, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glen Keith, Glenlivet, Glen Moray, The Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Inchgower, Knockando, Linkwood, The Macallan, Miltonduff, Mortlach, Speyburn, The Speyside, Strathisla, Tamnavulin Glenlivet, Tomintoul, and Tormore.

Among the list is my favorite single malt and distillery Strathisla (pictured above). It is believed to be the oldest distillery in the Highlands built in 1786. First called Milltown then Milton before being renamed Strathisla, the spirit they've produced has long been known as Strathisla. Chivas Brothers bought the distillery in 1950 after the previous owner, a Mr Pomery, was found guilty of tax evasion. The water source at Strathisla, 'Fons Bulliens' has long been highly regarded; Dominican monks used the same source to produce beer in the 12th century. Strathisla is also consistently ranked as the most beautiful distillery in Scotland, and I can personally attest to the quality of the distillery tour having been the first visitor of the seaons some years back and receiving a personal tour from a wonderful gentleman named Leslie who had been working in the whisky business for more than 40 years.


Pigtown-Design said...

Can't wait til you get to Campbeltown! I have friends there and there are some diving whiskys in that area.

Have you ever had Scarpa? It's hard to find, but excellent.

Athenaeus said...

PD - I must confess in all my trips to Scotland I've never visited Campbeltown. I'm studying up, but please correct me if anything doesn't seem quite right.

I have had Scarpa, but it's been quite a while, but as I recall it was quite enjoyable. I need to keep an eye out.

Pigtown-Design said...

that should have been divine... not diving. i smashed my index finger moving the cabinets, so am having issues typing.