To honour and celebrate World Whisky Day, last year we sent Mark Hughes - the lucky winner of our exclusive Private Barrel Competition – to Scotland, to help our whisky panel select the next release in our Private Barrel Co. label.
On Mark’s first day he visited Edinburgh, the historic capital city of Scotland, where he walked the Royal Mile in the heart of the city and had a tour of The Scotch Whisky Experience. There he enjoyed tasting some single malts whilst browsing through the 3000+ whiskies on show in The Collection.
It’s best to use a glass that has a narrow opening as this will channel and concentrate the aromas of the whisky towards your nose. Common whisky glasses are the Glencairn, with a tulip shape; The Copita Nosing Glass, with a stem; or a more traditional tumbler.
Swirl the whisky around for a short time, so to allow oxygen to get to the liquid and evaporation to begin. Allow the spirit to settle, then put your nose to the glass and breath in, letting the aromas circulate your nostrils. Repeat this a few times and think about what the aromas remind you of.
Don’t drink the whisky too fast, rather savour it in your mouth to get the maximum flavour and benefit. Different parts of your tongue and mouth respond to different flavours, so make sure to pass the whisky over all areas of your mouth to gain full effect.
Once you have swallowed the liquid, what do you notice? Do the flavours linger for a short or long time? Is it dry or smooth? And can you pick up any new flavours as the whisky slides down your throat?
On the second day, Mark was blown away with his visit to the award winning Loch Lomond Distillery which was voted Scotland's Single Malt Distillery of the Year, where he got to see firsthand the wide range of whisky styles that the master distiller is able to produce from the 4 different types of stills they have on site.
Barley contains the starch that needs to be converted into soluble sugars to make alcohol. This happens when the barley undergoes germination by being soaked for 2-3 days in warm water and then traditionally spread on the floor of a malting house. It is then turned regularly to maintain a constant temperature. When the barley starts to shoot, germination is stopped by drying it in the kiln where barley becomes malt that’s ground down in a mill.
The ground down malt is now added to warm water, obtained from a pure source, to extract the soluble sugars. The liquid combination of malt and water is called the ‘mash’. It is put into a mash tun and stirred for several hours, resulting in a liquid called ‘wort’. This process is carried out 3 times with the water temperature being increased to extract the maximum amount of sugar.
The wort is cooled and passed into large tanks called washbacks. Here the yeast is added and the fermentation begins. This fermentation normally takes around 48 hours to run its natural course. The liquid at the step is called ‘wash’ and is low in alcohol.
Firstly, the wash enters the larger still and is heated, where the liquid vaporises and rises up the still until it reaches the neck where it condenses. This liquid is called ‘low wines’ which are then passed to the second smaller ‘spirit’ still. In the spirit still, the alcohol is split into 3. Alcohols from the beginning (‘foreshots’) are very high in alcohol and very pungent, alcohols from the end (‘feints’) are weak but also pungent. It’s only the alcohol from the middle (‘heart’) that’s used.
The spirit is put into oak casks and stored, where it must mature for a minimum of 3 years. During the maturation, the flavours of the spirit combine with the natural compounds of the wood casks, which gives the whisky its own characteristic flavour and aroma.
When savouring this finely selected 10-year-old single malt scotch whisky you'll find aromas of pineapple and lemon zest on the nose, taste hints of orange marmalade, sliced apple with honey and vanilla syrup on the palate, and experience a finish that's long and rich with warming cinnamon and clove spice.
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