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Single Malts


DonWalsh x
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In Scotland, blended whisky (Bells and Grouse are very popular) is often mixed with water or lemonade (not the real sort, more a sprite-type drink) or even a very sweet soda called “Irn Bru”

http://www.geocities.com/athens/cyprus/6388/IrnBru.html

(comes with a jingle about this Scottish soda)

Mixing blended whisky with one of the above seems to be more popular with older people. (An aside, in Venezuela I saw people drinking whisky with Pepsi. They said the Pepsi was safer than the water.)

I’ve seen a couple of people in Scotland mix malts with water, but, in my experience, younger folk drink both blended and malts straight.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I remember going to a single malt tasting sponsored by one of our vendors as a promotional event. It was run by a Scot who was in the business. He claimed that aficionados add a few drops of spring water to single malts when tasting because the water "activates" (that's the word he used) the flavors. This did not mean scotch-and-water as in watered-down-scotch. This was just a touch of water he was talking about.

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To understand why water is added to whisky you might want to do a little experiment. Pour a shot of   whisky and nose it without water. One good way to "nose" whisky is to place the glass under your nostrils and breathe in through your mouth. This prevents your nose from being "burned" when nosing a number of different whiskies. Anyway, note the aromas you sense. Now add water equal to 40% of the shot you poured. If you poured an ounce of whisky add jsut under a half-ounce of water and nose again. You'll notice the difference immediately. The whisky will not have a more accessible aroma.

-----

All the best!

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The mid-morning single-malt tasting has been conducted by myself and three colleagues using Talisker, Poland Spring, and paper coffee cups. I assume you meant to say "The whisky will have a more accessible aroma." We all found that definitely to be true. Two of us also found it easier to taste. At 40-50% water the consensus was that it was too watered down. 10-20% water (these are very approximate measurements) seemed to create accessibility without dilution. Interesting.

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Preet Baba: You’re the kind of colleague I’d like to have.

You reminded me of something. Several years ago I invited a boyfriend (now my husband) to stay for the first time at my parents’ home in Scotland. As my boyfriend emerged from his bedroom one morning around 9am my mother said to him:

“Now, help yourself to your morning if you want one. I left it out on the table”

Boyfriend, who’s English, hadn’t the foggiest idea what my mother was on about.

“Excuse me?”

“Your morning dram”, my mother said.

He didn’t live that one down going instead for the coffee. Not real men, those English.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Yvonne, the question is would you hire Preet to work for you. :)

It's not a whisky story, but this seems appropriate here. Many years ago we traveled in France on a tight budget. We often stayed in little country inns, but skipped breakfasts which always seemed unreasonably expensive and made it a habit of stopping at the first cafe for coffee and croissants. Sometimes the first cafe was a ways off if one were in a rural location. One morning in Normandy we seemed to ride for miles before we spotted a simple stone blockhouse. We spotted the fuel pump first but slowed down enough to spot a cafe sign. We entered into a room more spartan on the inside than the out. Six bare tables and a bartop with a rack that contained a few small bags of nuts and potato chips. Shelves behind the bar were bare except for a few odd bottles. Someone appeared and asked what we wanted. My wife and I made our request for a cafe au lait and an expresso.  It seemed pointless to ask for the carbohydrates I find essential in the morning, but the woman asked what else I'd like, so I aksed what she had. As if I were some sort of fool, she rattled off "Calvados, Cognac, Rhum." Not wanting to offend by forcing the recitation for nothing and as we were in Normandy, I had a Calvados.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 months later...

Better late then never....

Since moving to Scotland I have been doing the whisky thing a fair bit, so here are my gleanings on the subject. There is always a ceramic jug(s) of water on the bar full of water to add to the whisky. If you add it or not is a matter of personal preference and depends on the whisky in question. With cheap whisky, well anything goes, except ice, as ice with whisky is only drunk by the vulgar apparently. Decent whisky is tasted without water then water (at room temperature, not chillled) added if wanted.

Adding water, even a little bit changes the character of the whisky, even just a few drops. Sometimes for the better sometimes not. At the Scotch Single Malt Society, tasting notes are given both with and without water. Some of the single malts you can get here are very high in alcohol (65%!!!), so diluting with water stops the alcohol from fixing your mouth, tongue etc. Adding significant amounts of water to cheap whisky only extends the time you have to taste cheap whisky.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm thinking of getting my dad a bottle of single scotch malt whiskey.  I've gotten him a sampler of the good ones before, but neglected to ask him which ones he liked.  My dilema is do I take a chance on getting one bottle of something popular that I think he might like, or should I just stick with something I know he likes, like a 12 yr old Jamieson Irish whiskey.  They did the scotch malt trail in Scotland a couple or years back, so the Scotch idea is appealing, but I could go either way.  What would you do?   And not knowing much about single malts, which one is universally loved?

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My personal favorite is Ardbeg from Islay. Although, it is from Islay it isn't over the top in tems of charcoal/smoke flavours, just sweet, rich and savoury. Yum. Even non-whisky drinkers enjoy it. Some other good bets are Highland Park produced in the Okneys and The Balvenie from Speyside.

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Blue Heron, unless you're confident your father likes malt in general, I would advise caution.  I think there's quite a gulf in taste between blended whiskies and malts.  This is even more pronounced if we get to an Irish whisky like Jamesons.   Jamesons, I would say, is a little sweeter and richer than the average blended Scotch, and really has none of the peaty, somewhat acrid flavor of a single malt.  It's all a matter of degrees, of course.  A Laphroiag, for example, is extremely peaty - redolent of seaweed - and an acquired taste.  I can readily imagine someone who loved Jamesons hating Laphroiag.  If you do go with a single malt, I would suggest one of the less fierce ones - maybe a Glenmorangie?  As for age, I think you have to be a committerd connoisseur to find much difference between 8, 10 and 12 years old.

Doubtless some of the fines-becs here will disagree.

(Edited by Wilfrid at 11:35 am on Dec. 10, 2001)

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Sorry for lurching into French.  Literally,a fine bec is a fine beak - it's an old, probably out-of-date, slang term for a gourmet with a sophisticated palate, and it has connotations of food snobbery.  Not that anyone at eGullet fits that description (especially not when people keep confessing to eating junk food and frozen candy bars - ugh).

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Thanks Adam and Wilfred for the wonderful info & article .  Just by chance, last night I happened to see Emeril do a show on scotch.  It was very informative as he had a couple of members of the Scotch Malt Society  explaining the differences between single malt, blended, different tastes/peatiness of single malts, etc....I learned a lot.  The single malts they were tasting were (17 yr old) Glengoyne (apple, heather, no peatiness, honey sweet notes); One that sounded like Inverlene that is no longer produced (made in 1 cask, pepper notes and over 100 proof); Macallan (spice, cloves, light peatiness, sweet and smoothest long lasting finish, aged in sherry casks); and Ardbeg (smokey and heavy peaty).  They explained that they always add a bit of water to the shot for the reasons that DB and PB mentioned.  With no water the alcohol sort of numbs the nose, or tongue, so by adding the water it reduces the alcohol, but not the flavor (in their words), plus some being 100+ proof are not advised without water.  The cutest explanation was that while aging in the cask, they lose about 2-3% each year (through the pores), but they called that the angels share.  I found it so interesting (a novice), that when I happened upon the same show a few hrs later, I watched some of it again.  The dishes they made w/scotch were Drunken Shrimp, Scotch Broth with Blue Cheese, and Roast Pheasand w/, Whiskey-Cumberland Sauce, and they were very liberal with the scotch (you know Emeril, and the Glengoyne rep was just as liberal with his scotch, too).

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It is so good to see the wonderful Ardbeg getting the praise it deserves! This is truly an amazing drink.

But everyone is quite right to exercise caution in recommending Scotch to others. While I thoroughly enjoy the 'big' malts such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Talisker (from Skye) they are not right for all occasions or for all palates.

Someone in this thread mentioned another classic, namely Highland Park which is more approachable but impeccably well made.

There are just so many great single malts .... and so little time!

Roger McShane

Foodtourist.com

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Blue Heron,

Look no further.  Check out the Knappogue Castle vintage selection Irish single-malt.  The 1992 vintage should still be available in stores and was awarded the Spirit of the Year award by Food & Wine magazine in 1999.  Will send along more details later.  Bottoms up and best of luck!

John

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John, I'm very intrigued by the Knappogue Castle 1992 Irish single malt.  I did a quick google search and it sounds lovely and might be just perfect for my dad.  Do you think one can find this in Seattle (I guess I could just call some liquor stores and ask), or would I need to mail order it?  

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John,  thanks for the help.  They had it at our liquor store, and I purchased 2 bottles for gifts.  It's even on sale thru Dec. at ฯ (reg. price ั, in Seattle).  It comes nicely presented with a small blue ribbon and gold medallion stating that it's the Spirit of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine.  Also a nice little card with a picture of the Knappogue Castle  and history.

Many thanks. Also, frohliche Weihnachten und ein gutes neues jahr!

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Blue Heron,

If you really want to impress pops and do a little research on the Knappogue I can send you some more information.  There were a couple of good articles done in the past that I have in written form but cannot find on-line.  Let me know.  In any case, if your father is a fan of Irish whiskey then he will love Knappogue and Santa might just be good to you this year.  Again, happy holidays, and let me know if you would like some more information.  Cheers.

John

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Ah yes, the troublesome H2O question.  I would guess that when dealing with Irish tradition it is not so much how one drinks whiskey, but in what volume.  I leave you with a typically Irish anecdote:

An Irishman who had a little to much to drink is driving home from the city one night and, of course, his car is weaving violently all over the road. A cop pulls him over.

"So," says the cop to the driver, "where have you been?"

"Why, I've been to the pub of course" slurs the drunk.

"Well," says the cop, "it looks like you've had quite a few to drink this evening".

"I did all right," the drunk says with a smile.

"Did you know," says the cop, standing straight and folding his arms across his chest, "that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?"

"Oh, thank heavens," sighs the drunk. "For a minute there, I thought I'd gone deaf."

Cheers,

John

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  • 4 months later...

For the definitive guide to Single Malt Scotch buy a copy of Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch.

(No, not that Michael Jackson)

Note that Scotch Whisky is spelled without the "e".

For a special Irish Whiskey (note "e") try Bushmill's Single Malt 16 yr. old 80 proof. About $56.

At all the single malt tastings I have attended, it was suggested that since these whiskys are bottled at different proofs, it is advisable to add small amounts of spring water to smooth out the bite and enhance the flavor and aroma.

The guide spells out all you want to know and more.

What a wonderful hobby!!! :biggrin:

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