Apr 21, 2009

I Have Seen Signs from the Future, and I'm Going to Have to Think on Them for a While

I think the rift in the space-time continuum that compelled me into The Celestial Kingdom so many months ago (and yes that story is wrapping up in all the blogs....not to worry) must still be open. Either that or there is a portal somewhere here in my new lands that I am sensitive to, but have not yet found. Why do I say this? Well in the last two days, I have received news from sometime in the 21st century. News that has set my teeth on edge. But news that also has me wondering.

The first: Scottish distilleries are making younger whiskies in order to attract those who "don't really like the taste of Scotch Whisky".


I'll just let you think on that for a few minutes.

Now after my initial shock, I did manage to make my way through the entire article, which you may find here in Scotland on Sunday. It seems that some whisky purists are actually thinking there is a place for young whisky (4 years old or so), but that it is not really worthy of a night spent sitting in front of a fire. Good for "an early evening drink", though.

Perhaps 4 year old whisky has a place in the 21st century, but here in the 19th? I think not. I think the spirits of my ancestors would haunt me for sure if I would change our Uisge Beatha now.

The second thing that has me pondering whisky this morning: distilleries in Japan making "excellent scotch".


Oddly enough - these folks are apparently making very good whisky as they are following the "traditional" method of distilling. The article from the Guardian is here.

My head, as you might imagine, is spinning. What does this mean for a distiller in 19th century Winterfell? Likely not much. But what of my children's children?

I need to think on this some more.


Rhianon Jameson said...

Though casting no aspersions on your Uisge Beatha, my lady, and agreeing entirely that the concept of releasing young whisky in order to attract non-whisky drinkers is inane (I would go with "cheaper" as a better explanation), I thought that most 19th century whisky was, um, not well-aged. Setting it aside for 8+ years is a difficult sell.

On the bright side, that means that your descendents, despite the disturbing trend you reported, have a bright future in the family business!

Eva Bellambi said...

Miss Jameson -
Thank you as always for your thoughtful comments. I am indeed fortunate that my family have never been ones to sacrifice quality, and we have been at this business long enough to have casks of the older whisky in rotation at all times. (But of course you are correct.)

Slainte! We shall share a cup of the 30 year Reserve sometime.

A. Tinlegs, Gnome said...

My tastes run to the whiskeys of Ireland and Tennessee but nothing less than 12 years in the barrel.

I think a four year old Scotch would be little more than rubbing alcohol flavored with a pinch of old moss.

My advice to those whose pocketbooks are so constrained as to render properly made spirits unaffordable is either to abstain or stick with Keystone Light.

A bit severe perhaps, but life is just to short to waste time on bad whisky.

Neb said...

I'm not a fan of spirits, myself, but I think this is just silly. I agree with Mr. Tinlegs when it comes to any food or drink: why buy something cheap and nasty, when a little bit of something good is so much more satisfying?

Also: if one doesn't like the taste of whisky, why would one drink it in the first place? Hello?

N Nadir Peterman

Mr. Fourway said...

There is nothing cheap or nasty about properly made young whiskey. (whisky) even an hour out of the still without the influence of wood a well handled properly cut whisky can be ambrosial... and drinking it will teach you a great deal about what exactly you are tasting when it has been in wood for a decade or more.

All fantasy and conjecture aside, the history of deliberate aging of scotch is extremely short.
Prior to the mid 1800s the distilleries in Scotland used and re-used barrels as the only convenient method of getting their product to market in bulk.

The barrel was filled, the whiskey was transported and sold at once and in some cases the drover returned to the distillery with the empty barrels.

In 1858 though the British dominion over India was established and India's new foreign rulers began importing the comforts of home, these included for many of the old Rajs whisky from Scotland.
The ocean voyage, from the frigid north atlantic to the sweltering tropics around the temperate horn and back up to the subcontinent with it's radical changes in temperature and humidity and constant motion fast aged the whiskey... by the time it was decanted in India it had taken on a rich brown color and the flavor profile was radically altered.

When these men returned home they found the fresh regional product less palatable and intentional barrel conditioning was born.

Eva Bellambi said...

Mr Fourway - thank you so much for your thoughtful, historical insights.

I always love learning! And that may include finding one of those young whiskies and giving it a try.