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Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine: Whiskey Around The World

March 10, 2015 7 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into the mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” and “Forgotten Vines”. The post I’m offering to you today was from the mini-series called “Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine”, and the subject of this post is Whiskey. Well, it is almost an original – I had to make a few small edits.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

In the previous post about Whiskey, we focused solely on Scotch, a malt Whisky produced in Scotland. The whole world of Whiskey (see, we are even changing the spelling from whisky to whiskey to accommodate the change) is much larger, with various kinds of whiskey coming the from different places all over the globe.

CoonemaraLet’s take a look at those places. We can and should start from Ireland – a close neighbor of the Scotland. Despite the “geographical closeness”, Irish Whiskeys are typically very different in style from the Scotch – to be more precise, they are much lighter. There are a few factors which define the lighter taste of the Irish Whiskeys. First, they are usually triple-distilled, versus double distillation process used in production of the Scotch. The next factor is reduced use of a peat smoke (actually, it is practically not used with some exceptions, such as Connemara, which is nicely peated). Lastly, many Irish whiskeys are made from the mix of grains as opposed to the malted barley used in Scotch production, which also leads to the lighter tasting final product.

JamesonIrish Whiskeys are probably the oldest distilled spirit produced in Europe – at least based on information in Wikipedia, with the first notices going back to the 12th century. While there are only four acting distilleries in Ireland, one of those four, Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the oldest officially recognized distillery in the world, tracing its history to 1608 (hence the name of one of their Whiskies, 1608). Each one of the four distilleries produces a substantial number of different lines of whiskey, so there is a good variety of the Irish Whiskeys available in the stores today. Some of the best known examples of Irish Whiskey include Jameson, Bushmills, 1608, Tullamore Dew – but of course there are lots more.

Let’s move to the United States, where a number of different whiskeys had being made for centuries. Some of the most popular kinds include Bourbon, a whiskey made out of the corn mash (mash should contain at least 51% of corn), and Rye Whiskey, which is, of course, made out of rye. As any other whiskey, American whiskey undergo a process of fermentation of the mash, distillation (usually single), and oak barrel aging. Sometimes a special filtration process is used in order to remove impurities and have softer tasting final product. Jack Daniels is probably one of the most famous examples of Bourbon, along with many others:

Some of the examples of the Rye whiskies include Old Rip Van Winkle, Whistle Pig and many others:

Whistle Pig Straight Rye

History of Bourbon and Rye Whiskey accounts for a few hundred years and includes interesting chapters such as Prohibition (you can read more about different kinds of American Whiskey here). What I have to mention is that today we are literally are living through the Whiskey revolution in the US – in addition to all the “traditionalists” in Tennessee and Kentucky, amazing Rye, Bourbon and Malts are produced in New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, North Carolina, Colorado – and these are only some of those I’m aware of, I’m sure there are lots of others. It will make it for a very long post if I will start naming all those Whiskeys, so let me just give you a few examples in the pictures:

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In addition to US, a number of other countries should be mentioned here as the world-class Whiskey producers (I would be curious to know if you would be able to guess what those are, so pause your reading for a moment). To answer my own trivia question, here are some of them – Japan, Taiwan and India (surprised?).

In all of those countries, blended and single malt whiskeys are made in the best tradition of Scotch Whisky. Whiskeys from those countries are quite rare and hard to find, but definitely worth seeking. One of the most famous Japanese Whiskeys is called Yamazaki and it is made as 12 and 18 years old single malts, using copper pot stills very similar to those used in Scotland. Another Japanese whiskey which is somewhat available in US is Hibiki, which is a blended 12 years old (there is also Hibiki 18, but it is even harder to find). Both Yamazaki, Hibiki and many others are owned by Suntory, a Japanese conglomerate.

Then there is Amrut, which produces whiskey in India, again using the Scotch methodology – with very good results. Amrut produces a number of single malt and blended whiskeys – for more information and tasting notes you can read this blog post.

With this we are finishing our exploration of the world of Whiskeys – and remember that paper exercise can not replace an actual experience which a good whiskey can bring. If you never had whiskey before, you need to resolve to try it now. For those who already knows the beauty of the Whiskey spirit – pour some of your favorite in the glass and cheers!

#WineWednesday or #WhiskyWednesday? No Matter, As Long As It Is Tasty

September 8, 2011 2 comments

If you follow social media, especially Twitter, I’m sure you’ve noticed big amount of #WW tags in the messages on Wednesday. This abbreviation stands for Wine Wednesday or Whisky Wednesday, depending on who and when is using it, and it means a special dedication to one’s favorite beverage of the day.

What is so special about Wednesdays and wine ( or whisky for that matter)? I honestly have no idea. I think any day is a good day for a glass of wine (or whisky), but may be people feel like they need a special declaration of sort “I will be drinking this Wednesday, instead of waiting for Friday”. Anyway, my take a simplistic one – any day is a good day for wine or whisky, as long as it tastes good. Sometimes, even that can be “bettered” – that is when you have a tasty treat and learn something new.

So on Tuesday (!) I tried very good Scotch and made a discovery (fine, not by myself, I was simply educated by my friend Zak). Until Tuesday, I thought that single malt scotch can come only from Scotland or Japan. Then I learned that it can also come from … India (ha, I’m sure you didn’t expect that).

Enters Amrut, the only Single Malt Scotch from India. Word Amrut means “Elixir of Life”, and actual scotch which I tried, was quite lively. Amrut scotch is produced in Himalaya, at about 3000 feet above sea level. The combination of the high altitude and tropical climate doesn’t allow for extended barrel aging – the scotch evaporates at much higher rate than it matures. Despite that, even in the young form, it really tastes like an actual Scotland classic.

I had an opportunity to try four different Amrut scotches, and here are my notes:

Fusion – nice and relaxed, very reminiscent of a Highland scotch, such as Glenlivet. Feels like it is 12 yeras old, while it is not

Cask strength – on the nose, first is a sensation of pure medicinal alcohol. Then it is very nice on the palate, with good oak notes. Feels like it has a lot of glycerine oils, I guess due to not being chill filtered.

Peated – feels like pure charcoal on the nose and the palate. It is different from Islay Scotches, I would call it “liquid fire”. Of course it is not surprising that the smoky component feels different, as I’m sure that Islay peat exists only on Islay – nevertheless, this was probably best of tasting Scotch.

Peated cask strength – it seems that “cask strength” should be the only difference with the previous one, but it appears to be an entirely different scotch – lots of sweetness on the palate, wood power comes only in the back – it doesn’t even feel peated. Again, substantial mouth feel of glycerin oils.

Amrut is making it’s way to US – if you like Scotch, I highly recommend you will make an effort to find it and try it. And let’s toast great discoveries, any day of the week – cheers!

 

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