December 2013 Archives
It's merely 2 days until Christmas. You have many people you want to shop for, and there is a whisky lover on your list. You've already gone into your local store a couple times and have left empty handed because no one could help you make heads or tails of the selection and whether or not it would be enjoyed by the person you are buying for. Where could you possibly turn for help?
Well, this is one of those places. The first thing you'll need to do is make a list of what they have on their shelf at home. See a lot of Glenfarclas or Macallan on their shelf? That means you have a fan of sherried whiskies that you are buying for. Are there names like Elijah Craig, Maker's Mark, or Bookers staring back at you? Then you've got a bourbon fan on your hands. Are you staring at a myriad of bizarre sample bottles with hand written labels filling every nook and cranny of the room while 3 other shelves hold full-size bottles that are open, and another room holds the closed ones? Then get out of my house!
All jokes aside, the label on a bottle, tube, or tin will be your first indicator of what you should be looking for. In fact, the best way to read a label is often in reverse. For instance if it says "Single Malt Scotch Whisky", then the bottle contains whisky, made in Scotland from malt (a process by which barley is allowed to sprout before roasting called "malting"), from a single distillery. Whereas "Blended Scotch Whisky" refers to whisky made in Scotland that uses a blend of different distilleries and types of whisky. Other things that you will find noted on the label could include the region of Scotland the whisky is from (Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, or Island), cask type (most commonly sherry or bourbon), an age statement that lists the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle, and the type of whisky it is such as Canadian, Irish, Bourbon, or Scotch.
Once you have attended to looking into the contents of your subject's cabinet, turn your attention to thoughts of their favourite flavours. Both in terms of food, and if you can think of them, whisky. Do they enjoy smoked foods like pulled pork or beef brisket? Look for something with "Islay" on the bottle and you'll have a very good chance of bringing home a smoky whisky. Do they have a sweet tooth that sees them looking at the dessert menu before the mains in a restaurant? Then a whisky from the Speyside region will likely be a big hit with them.
Want more specific recommendations? Then read on...
Mortlach is perhaps one of Speyside's most unknown distilleries outside of anorak circles. It is the backbone of Johnnie Walker Black Label, renowned for its meaty texture and unique 2.8-times distillation, and just about impossible to find outside of independent bottlings. Although, that availability is set to improve with parent-company Diageo's recent announcement of an £18M investment in the facilities and a launch of 4 single malt expressions down the road.
Thankfully we don't need to wait for the mother ship to cast some casks in our direction, as independent bottlers Wemyss have delivered a single cask expression worth hunting. Matured in a puncheon (a cask size between a hogshead and a port pipe) of unidentified origin since 1990 and bottled in 2011, this whisky has a little something for everyone, and a whole lot of rich, sweet flavours for the Mortlach fanatics among you.
Despite the fact that we could not obtain a formal bottle picture, and in spite of the fact that the LCBO couldn't even be bothered to put up a picture of the proper label on their site, if you find a bottle bearing the label shown here, what follows is that which awaits you.
Glen Elgin was founded by a former manager of nearby Glenfarclas distillery in 1898 and is located in Longmorn within the Speyside region of Scotland. Since the 1930s most of Glen Elgin's production has been used for blending and perhaps is most famously known for being a component of the well-known White Horse blend. The Diageo-owned distillery produces only one single malt whisky for sale to the public; a 12 year old that forms part of the popular Classic Malts Selection. Bottles of Glen Elgin are a rare sight on LCBO shelves and, when we saw the Duncan Taylor Dimensions expression, we leaped at the opportunity.
While blenders may have praised this whisky's qualities for years, the general public has had to rely on Independent Bottlers to showcase Glen Elgin's versatility and range as Diageo only offers one standard offering of the single malt. Duncan Taylor & Co was established in 1938 and originally operated as a merchant and broker of Scotch Whisky casks to the industry before eventually becoming an award-winning independent bottler. The Dimensions series is their "super-premium collection" that focuses on rare single malt and grain whiskies ranging from 10 to 39 years old. This bottle of Glen Elgin is Batch 001 and was distilled in 1999, aged 12 years, and then bottled in December 2011 at 46% ABV.