Saturday, February 11, 2012

2012: a whisky odyssey

Right, more whisky. Don't mind if I do.

These are both bottles acquired in different circumstances over the Christmas period which I'm just catching up on. Firstly, Balvenie Doublewood. This is one of the readily available (this bottle was from Tesco, bought on the way over to spend New Year with fellow Munroists and whisky enthusiasts Jenny & Jim) entry-level malts from the Balvenie distillery, Signature being the other. The distillery is in Dufftown, the spiritual home of Speyside whisky, and is owned by Grants who also own Glenfiddich.

Doublewood is a bit like the Glenmorangie Lasanta featured here last time in that it gets a lengthy period of maturation in bourbon casks followed by a short blast in sherry casks at the end. They're a bit cagey about exactly how long it gets in the sherry casks (the label says "a few months"), but it looks like less than the two years the Lasanta gets.

Anyway, a nice big sniff reveals the usual toffee and fruit cake stuff you'd expect from a sherry-matured Speysider, plus something fruity and sweet over the top; strawberry Chewits maybe? This instructional video says they do apply a bit of light peating to their malt, but I don't think you can really tell. It's less sweet than that when you drink it, perhaps nearer the more polite Speysiders like the Cardhu and the Knockando than the really thick dark ones like the Lasanta or the Aberlour. It's very nice though.

Secondly, Highland Park. Now I know this one has technically featured here before, but I really only referred to it in passing a couple of times, and as I have consistently banged on about it being my favourite ever since I thought it would be worth expanding on that a bit (not to mention verifying that it was still the case). As luck would have it my lovely wife bought me a bottle for Christmas, so that all worked out quite nicely.

Highland Park distillery is in Orkney, and is the northernmost distillery in Scotland. This is the standard 12-year-old; as always many other expressions are available including the multi-award-winning 18-year-old and some ludicrously expensive limited editions. Now your man in the video there says that you have to seek out the peat smoke in the 12-year-old as it isn't obvious - I disagree as it seems completely obvious to me. It's not as much of a karate chop to the gizzard as you get with, say, the Caol Ila or the Laphroaig, but it's definitely there. You get other stuff as well, though, a bit of fudgy sweetness and a blast of the same sort of meaty seaweedy cabbageyness you get with the Tobermory and Ledaig and to a lesser extent with the Old Pulteney. Same sort of story when you drink it, except it's even zingier and peatier - still not as much as the Islays, but more than the coastal Highlanders like the Ben Nevis and the Clynelish.

The late great Michael Jackson - no, not him, the other one - once described Highland Park as "the greatest all-rounder in the world of malt whisky" and that sounds about right to me. Is it still my favourite? Yes, I think so.

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