Although Scotch whisky is the most famous of all whiskies, few know the secrets of this popular spirit.
Celts who inhabited parts of the European mainland and Scotland called it uisge beatha whish the English usurped to whisky.
Both Scots and Canadians spell it as whisky, and Americans and Irish whiskey. There are also rye whiskies mostly produced in Canada, although practically all distilleries use corn, and other grains, Irish, American (including Bourbon), Japanese, and Indian.
Scotch whisky may be produced in Islay, Lowlands, Highlands, and Campbelltown, and can be blended or single malt.
Blended whiskies contain large amounts of grain whisky distilled in Coffey (columnar stills), whereas single malts are made from malted barley exclusively and distilled in alembic-style copper stills. Blended whiskies may contain as much as 99 percent malt and one percent grain whisky, or 99 percent grain and one percent malt. This explains why some blended whiskies are inexpensive and others so much more. Approximately 90 percent of all Scotch whiskies are blended products, aand the most popular of all brands is Johnnie Walker Red Label produced by Cardhu and exported to 200 countries worldwide. There are also Black-, Green and Blue Label Johnnie Walkers which are aged longer, are smoother, contain more single malt, and cost much more than Johnnie Walker Red Label.
Scotch is one of the top 10 United Kingdom exports with 10 billion US Dollars annually (2008 figures).
The secret of Scotch is the climate of Scotland. Indeed barley grown anywhere can be ad is imported, although much of what distillers use originates in Scotland.
The whisky is aged mostly in previously used Bourbon barrels, or sherry casks. Now several distillers use old Bordeaux, Burgundy, Port, Cognac, and even Rhone Valley wine barrels in an attempt to create new flavours.
The minimum barrel age of Scotch is two years for the domestic market, and three for exports, although most, if not all whisky sold today, is much older than the minimum requirements. While distillers produce and market most of the Scotch, there are blenders that buy bulk whisky and blend their own brands.
Whisky must be marketed and advertised constantly. Distillers and marketers discovered this in 1990’s, when buoyed by high volume sales, they neglected marketing activities and experienced significant losses of market share.
Eventually, single malt sales made up for sales losses in value. Today, there are now millions who are single malt aficionados.
Scotland’s damp climate imparts a unique flavour to the aging whisky and the location within is responsible for a very specific flavour.
Islay whiskies are aged close to the sea smell of iodine and seaweed.
Old whiskies taste smooth and are more appealing as the spirit loses two-and-a-half percent of volume per year and this coupled with capital invested in the aging product renders old whiskies expensive. The older the whisky the more it costs.
There are whisky brands up to 25 years and older, but most connoisseurs claim 18 years of aging to be the optimal length.
Of all export markets the U S A is the largest and most lucrative, containing approximately 100 million bottles annually.
Most Scotch brands are chill-filtered to render them free of haze and brilliant in colour. Un-chill filtered whiskies contain more phenolic components and flavour.
Distillers may add up to two-and-a-half percent by volume caramelized sugar for colour stabilization and consistency.
Scotch whisky aficionados both in Scotland and elsewhere in the world enjoy whisky neat with a little of water, to unlock aromas. For those interested in experiencing Scotland, and Scotch, there are organized tours to several distilleries to experience the unmatched scenery, gain a lot of knowledge, and taste a range of whiskies.
By law, blended whisky may contain up to 99 percent grain whisky, and one percent malt, or the reverse. Consumers must be aware of this and be careful if a bottle is priced very attractively.
Here are a few single malt whiskies you might want to try:
The Macallan 25 years old $ 699.95
Highland park 18 years old $ 139.95
Chivas Regal 25 years old (blended) $ 329.00
The Glenlivet 25 years old Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish $ 89.95
Aberlour 16 years old $ 89.95
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or $ 92.65
Glekinchie $ 79.95
Bruichladdich Classic Edition $ 79.95
All above prices are L C B O (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Brands available in selected stores.
For more information log on to lcbo.com.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.