Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Well Stocked Bar IX

"No married man is genuinely happy if he has to drink worse whisky than he used to drink when he was single." ~ H. L. Mencken

This post, part of a sub-series dedicated to Scotch Whisky, is dedicated to the distilleries of the Lowlands. This southernmost part of Scotland, along the border with England and as the name implies is relatively flat without the geographic challenges/advantages of other parts of the country. This region also includes Scotland's two largest cities Glasgow and Edinburgh, though neither is home to a whisky distillery. Auchentoshan is a short car ride outside of Glasgow and Glenkinchie is a quick trip outside of Edinburgh.

The character of Lowland Whisky is typically smooth and slightly more alcoholic on the palette as there are fewer tastes of salt, peat and smoke typical whiskies from the other regions. It is for this reason that the whiskies of the region are often referred to as The Lowland Ladies. It is the clean palette that to my mind makes this the Scotch whisky of summer and a fine aperitif year round.

There are only three Lowland distilleries still in production, they are Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, and Glenkinchie. For the connoisseur whiskies can still be found form the following Lowland distilleries even though they're no longer producing scotch whiskey: Ladyburn, Littlemill, Inverleven, and Rosebank.

Because there are only three bear with me as I devote a brief paragraph to each, a luxury not available to the previous regions.

Auchentoshan, established in 1823, is unique in that it is Scotland's only triple distilled single malt as opposed to the double distillation method used by all other distillers. This additional distillation produces a delicate, smooth and light single malt. It wasn't until 1974 with a change of ownership that Auchentoshan was available as a single malt, up until that point 100% of its product had been sold to blenders. Auchentoshan is named after 'corner of the field' in Gaelic.
The picture above shows the three pot stills currently in use at Auchentoshan. The shape of the stills are different from one distillery to another and even among the potstills at a single distillery. The unique shapes of the stills are one of the factors that define the taste of the malts produced. As mentioned Auchentoshan distills their whisky three times, once in each still. To the right of the photo you can see the "spirit safe" which receives the condensed spirit once it's been boiled in the stills. Each drop at Auchentoshan travels through this safe three times (for luck?).

Glenkinchie, nicknamed The Edinburgh Malt is located in the rolling farmland of East Lothian outside of Edinburgh. It takes its name from the glen (valley) of the Kinchie Burn which flows through the town. The Glenkinchie is slightly smokier and spicy than the other two Lowland malts and certainly worth a try.

Bladnoch, Scotland's southernmost distillery is nestled on the banks of the River Bladnoch in the town of Bladnoch, get the picture? It's product nicknamed, Spirit of the Lowlands has been produced, on and off, in this picturesque spot in Galloway since 1817. An interesting fact about this distillery is that the original still were sold to a Swedish company originally to make Whisky in the early 1900s. After ten years the product had failed to build a large enough fan base and was shut down and the three stills were sold. Two of them were purchased by Absolut and are still used to this day to produce some of their vodka. The third still is located in the Wine and Spirit Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

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