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Tasting whisky

I don’t drink whisky that often, and the last whisky I drink is always my favorite. Jura, met at dinner at the Governor Hotel, remained a favorite for a long time. It was described by John Lamond, Master of Malt, in The Malt Whisky File published by Canongate, as “Colour Pale straw with very slight green tinges. Nose Full, pleasantly dry Flavour Very delicate, lightly smoky with a pleasant oily nuttiness Finish Very smooth and lingers well," which just goes to show that everyone experiences a whisky differently. In my memory there is not a trace of oil, but a distinct feeling I inhaled ions, and that the scents of the Atlantic, which breaks on the other side of Jura, had infiltrated the casks slumbering in the warehouse.

I know only enough about whisky to be an admirer of it in small doses. The making and judging of whisky is an ancient and intricate craft. The File remarks that an “educated” nose “can detect more than 150 separate flavours or characters.”

Tonight, on Burns' Night, I drank Glenmorangie, made by one of the smallest of all Highland distilleries, founded, like many of them, in the 19th century (though records of a distillery on Jura go back to 1502). Mention is always made of the water used in distilling a whisky. Glenmorangie’s water comes from springs in the Tarlogie Hills.

The Glenmorangie I drank was a mere ten years old. Consequently the Angel’s Share, the whisky that evaporates from the cask, was small. "Colour Light gold Nose Fresh, medium-bodied, steely with floral notes and a touch of peat Flavour Light, fresh, slightly smoky with an oily creaminess Finish Sweet with good length."

There was not a hint of oil, but there was softness, like soft, fine rain, and I can attest to the length. Perhaps this is because Glenmorangie has gone to the trouble of buying an oak forest in the Ozark mountains of Missouri to ensure the continuous quality of its casks.

The very first whisky I drank at one of my life’s most memorable meetings was The Macallan. Until that remarkable engineer Thomas Telford built the bridge at Craigellachie in 1814, the whisky distilled at the old farm distillery was a popular feature of the river crossing. In 1824 Alexander Reid founded the licensed distillery that is the ancestor of The Macallan.

The makers of The Macallan use sherry casks for maturing their whisky. I can still see the deeply amber color of the single malt in my glass, and recall the surprisingly strong, full-bodied taste (I had never drunk whisky before) and see before me the dear, reserved face.

Slainte (Cheers!)


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