Wednesday, September 16, 2009

he drinks a whisky drink

Let's do the whisky stuff next. I got back from Scotland with three bottles of whisky - all of which, rather miraculously, survived being in my luggage and thrown around on a seven-hour train journey from Glasgow Central to Newport via Crewe.

Each of these was bought in the distillery at which it was made - in the case of Oban this was just a visit to the distillery shop as the tours were fully booked, but at Glengoyne, which has the enlightened policy of not requiring bookings for parties of less than ten, we did the full tour. In fact we did the full "Tasting Tour" which not only gets you a look round the distillery but also samples of all four of their "standard" whisky bottlings (the 10-year-old, the cask strength 12-year-old, the 17-year-old and the 21-year-old). There is also, amusingly, a "Wee Tasting Tour" which isn't what you might think but is in fact just a reduced-alcohol-consumption version of the Tasting Tour (i.e. you only get two to try).

Anyway, I was so impressed with Glengoyne I bought two bottles - the standard 10yo at £26 and the 17yo at £49, which is comfortably the most I've ever spent on a bottle of whisky (actually I got a £3 off voucher with the tour so it was "only" £46). The Oban 14yo pictured is their standard bottling. The distillery is tucked away in the town centre and is very small, which means the volume they can produce is quite limited. They've made the best of it and tried to make this exclusivity a selling point, though - needless to say one of the ways they do this is by making the whisky quite expensive for a standard bottling at £34. But, what the heck, I bought one anyway.

Here's an idiot's guide to what they're like, just in case you fancy one:
  • The Glengoyne 10yo is very pale and light. Glengoyne make a selling point of using no peat to dry their malted barley, so it's all very smooth. Not unlike Glenmorangie in some ways, but tending more to the grassy and citrusy where Glenmorangie is a bit more vanilla custardy.
  • The Glengoyne 17yo is a fair bit darker (though still not as dark as the Oban, as you can see from the photo). Glengoyne mature their whisky in sherry casks so you get the usual fruity sweetness as you do in, say, Macallan, but a bit of darker woodiness as well. This is really, REALLY good stuff.
  • Oban's location on the west coast puts it between the Highlands and Islay and sure enough it's got a bit of Highland mellow cakiness but also some Islay peat smoke. It's very dark, and it's got an almost rubbery, licoricey element to it, which sounds disgusting, but isn't. Oban is also one of the 14 "Classic Malts", which sounds very grand, but is in fact some slippery marketing-ese that just means it's one of the 14 distilleries owned by Diageo, who also own all manner of blenders like Johnnie Walker, J&B and Bell's and presumably just slapped a copyright on the phrase "Classic Malts", the cheeky bastards.

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