1. Spirited Scotland

Spirited Scotland

The country’s Scotch whisky remains one of the finest expressions as far as the dark spirits category goes

By: | Published: August 2, 2015 12:05 AM

SCOTLAND HAS always managed to be in the news. First, it was because of the referendum voting and the second time—a not-so-pleasant instance—was when a Japanese single malt was adjudged the best in the world, with Scottish ones barely making their presence felt in the top 10.

As is wont with such declarations, the world’s affections for whisky shifted a good many latitudes to the east and everyone started stocking up on Japanese single malts like it was some life-endowing elixir on extremely short supply.

Well, Japanese whisky isn’t bad at all, but one award does not a trophy case make. Scotland, the land that gave birth to this marvellous beverage, will remain the epicentre of most malt activity in the world. And their whiskies, even though some people may have felt differently, remain one of the finest expressions as far as the dark spirits category goes.

So all the award has done for now is that it has managed to draw an inexorably large amount of attention to Japanese malts. Some other countries, too, are enjoying the ripple effects: Taiwan comes racing to mind. India, too, has had its brush with glory via single malts. Oh, and it has made Japanese whisky even dearer, as if we weren’t already paying a fortune for fairly average stuff that comes in bottles reminiscent of laboratory tincture vials from a failed 1970s experiment.

But back to Scotch, which remains stable as ever. In fact, recently, four new ones have been spotted on shelves around India and may soon be found at a bar near you. As a principle, I don’t do reviews, but am happy to share what I like about each of them. Here are then Scotland’s latest envoys to India:

Black Bottle
USP: A blended whisky from Islay!
The name says it all. It’s a fun, easy whisky for those times when you don’t want to break the bank for a generous pour. That said, it is a fairly complex sip and I loved how peat has been used to introduce an element of richness. All the Islay distilleries contribute to the making of this one, making it even more special.

Speyburn
USP: Whisky from the most photographed distillery
Yes, visuals don’t affect the taste, but be assured that it is a great daily dram to unwind with. Easy, citrusy, fresh and light, it is the kind of whisky you bring out when someone says they don’t like single malts.

Old Pulteney
USP: Northernmost distillery
OK, they only recently lost this title, but there are only a few villages down south. Being aged near the sea makes for an oddly salty (mineral) taste, which is rather distinct. The palate is definitely pronounced and this is something that seasoned malt enthusiasts will cherish.

Balblair
USP: Vintage single malt
Imagine a single malt that comes from a single vintage as opposed to the usual blended stuff. Of course, it is aged adequately, but there is no fix on the age. It is released when it is ready, sometimes even twice: first in its youthful exuberance and perhaps a second time when more mature. This comes real close to the single-cask stuff that is highly coveted in the malt world.

To add to these, there is also a Scottish gin with local botanicals (heather, apples) and that will only further the appeal of, to plug in a poor pun, the spirits of Scotland and possibly even help draw attention back to the mothership of single malts. Your move, Japan.

The writer is a sommelier

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