Wanted’s gallivanting guide to six of the finest
First published in Wanted Magazine December 2017
Whisky, the so-called nectar of the gods (justifiably so!), originated in Ireland and Scotland, where over centuries it was passionately nurtured from humble beginnings to the globally popular drink that it is today. We browsed through the collections of these two countries to find a few of the best.
The Glenlivet, Scotland’s first licensed distillery and industry groundbreaker, is synonymous with Scotch whisky and its history. ‘’THE Glenlivet is THE ORIGINAL’’, says South African brand ambassador Isaac Pooe. ‘’It’s been the Original Speyside Single Malt since 1824, setting the benchmark in taste, heritage and exploration ever since. This is the reason I enjoy hosting private tastings so much – I get to reveal the story behind our whisky, and the tenacity of George Smith, the founder, whose passion for his craft made me fall in love with whisky in the first place’’.
At the helm since 2009, Master Distiller Alan Winchester has ushered in a raft of progressive expressions from the Guardians’ Chapters and the Alpha to the extension of the Nadurra range, helping to entrench the brand as one of the world’s leading single malts. It’s the inception of Founder’s Reserve though that’s been the most compelling development of recent years: a multi-vintage whisky that triumphs in the ambitious trifecta of affordable, accessible, and interesting.
Nose: citrus fruit, sweet orange; Palate: zesty orange, pear, toffee apples; Finish: long, creamy, smooth
Wanted says: fruit compote in silky porridge
Equally special amongst the country’s gems is Aberlour (pronounced Aber-lauer). Founded by James Fleming in 1879, there’s a deep sense of continuity and tradition at this distillery. The acclaimed A’bunadh, a mouthful in every sense, was recreated from a bottle dating back to 1898. And distilling chief Douglas Cruickshank, along with most of his team, has been forging these exceptionally balanced whiskies for some 25 years, not least the metronomic 12YO.
Nose: Soft and rounded, with fruity notes of red apple; Palate: A fine sherried character, balanced with rich chocolate, toffee, cinnamon and ginger spiciness; Finish: Warming and lingering – sweet and slightly spicy
Wanted says: a ripe plum of a whisky that’ll never let you down
Across in Ireland it’s single pot stills that preside, rather than single malts. This once dominant style, made from both malted and unmalted barley, is staging a rousing comeback, led by the Midleton Distillery. Crafted by a team under various “Masters” including Billy Leighton (Blending) and Brian Nation (Distilling), Midleton’s muscular pot still portfolio is making the rich, fruity and spicy band of the flavour spectrum its own.
The backbone of the style, especially during its hiatus, Redbreast is now the world’s best-selling single pot still. The range numbers five delicious, aged expressions, but the 12YO remains the paterfamilias, exercising authority over both its stable and style with sheer force of character and weight of credibility.
Nose: A complex spicy and fruity aroma with toasted wood notes evident. Palate: Full flavoured and complex; a harmonious balance of spicy, creamy, fruity, sherry and toasted notes. Finish: satisfyingly long, the complex flavours linger on the palate.
Wanted says: Every day is Christmas with this baked melange of dark fruits
The Spot Whiskeys were named after the method of identifying the age of the casks used for their maturation i.e. by daubing them with a spot of coloured paint. Yellow Spot, with its unusual mix of Bourbon, Sherry and Malaga cask influences, delivers a succulent sweetness is that is almost uniquely special.
Nose: Mown hay & cracked black pepper. Red bell peppers, nutmeg, clove oil & green tea. Sweet honey & peaches from the Malaga casks. Palate: Honey sweetness with pot still spices. Flavours of fresh coffee, creamy milk chocolate & Crème Brûlée. Notes of red apples & toasted oak. Finish: Sophisticated & complex with a sweetness throughout. a mix of red grape & dry barley on exit.
Wanted says: a dripping honey pot infused with fruit and spice
Powers whiskey dates back to 1791 when James Power established a distillery at John’s Lane in Dublin. Since then it’s built a reputation for bold to bursting, flavoursome whiskeys, one of latest exponents being the Signature Release.
Nose: Crisp herbal notes with touches of nutmeg, fig and black pepper corns. Sweet vanilla, followed by succulent berry fruits. Palate: Vanilla with black licorice and cinnamon reveal fresh fruit – melons, green apples and pears – followed by crisp barley. Finish: Long and wonderfully complex honey and spice.
Wanted says: a punchy combination of orchard fruits and sweet spices
Its eponymous brand is also the distillery’s most premium, with good reason. Whereas the others are overtly demonstrative, Midleton runs to subtlety, complexity and refinement. The Barry Crockett Legacy takes its name from the distillery’s long serving, now retired Master Distiller, a pivotal figure in the resurgence of Irish whiskey.
Nose: Elegant aroma of vanilla and toasted oak complimented by a touch of lime, succulent green berries, pears and green sweet pepper. Palate: Light pepper carries onto fresh citrus, limes and mandarin orange sweetness. A hint of cinnamon with vanilla and oak reveals its years spent in American oak. Finish: The full spectrum of flavours lasts well into the finish, slowly fading to expose the clean American oak foundation.
Wanted says: sweet creaminess and autumn leaves one moment, treacly honey, tart fruits, and tangy candy the next, it reveals one delight after the next – drink it in slow reflection of time well spent