WITH St Andrew’s Day falling on a Friday, (November 30), the long weekend to celebrate Scotland’s patron saint promises parties aplenty, bagpipes, traditional food and whisky galore.
Indeed, with a growing number of followers across the world seduced by Scotland’s most famous export, the celebrations will extend far beyond the rolling green Borders and River Spey.
To appreciate the distiller’s art of crafting a malt out of grain, water and yeast, the characteristics from this beguiling golden liquid can be grouped into four flavour camps: delicate, smoky, light and rich.
Whisky must be matured for a minimum of three years and the different aromas and tastes are achieved by small variations in the process, such as where the distillery draws its water, and the length of maturation in oak or sherry casks.
If nosing isn’t your day job, a dash of water in a tulip-shaped glass will increase the aromas, mellow the depth of flavour and heighten the drinking pleasure.
The Arthur Bell & Sons distillery was one of many to settle in Speyside and tap into the quality of the water from the mountain springs in the Scottish Highlands.
A blend of malt and grain whiskies, Britain’s favourite whisky has released a Limited Edition Bell’s Whisky (£16.29, 70cl, Morrisons) to raise money for Help for Heroes, with a donation from each bottle going to the charity. Rich, nutty and lightly spiced, drinking for a good cause has never tasted so good.
Supplier of malt for the Bell’s blend, Dufftown has only recently produced its own single malt. Dry and biscuity, try The Singleton of Dufftown 12 Year Old (£29.99, 70cl, Sainsbury’s) with its sweet marmalade nose, rich candied fruit flavours and long, warm finish with a trace of brown sugar.
The first licensed distiller on Speyside in 1824, Glenlivet is renowned for its smooth and gentle single malts. Nosing with the best, it’s hard to resist the honeyed taste and dry, clean finish of The Glenlivet 12 Year Old (£24, 70cl, Waitrose). Made from unpeated malted barley, it’s delicate floral nose, exotic fruits and subtle spice on the nutty finish makes this expression extremely appealing.
The world’s best-selling brand, Johnnie Walker recently launched Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old (£70, 75cl, Waitrose), a Speyside blend of malt and grain whiskies matured for 18 years. The bottle is dressed in a trendy platinum banner to attract younger, affluent drinkers and has a signature smokiness to rival the Blue Label range. It’s soft and peaty with slow-baked apples, malty cereal and notes of vanilla and sweet almond, with a whiff of smoke on the lingering finish.
Beyond the Speyside whisky trail, on the west bank of the Spey, The Macallan was the first distillery to fashion the trend for aged whisky when it started releasing vintage bottlings in the 1980s. Ironically, its latest release, The Macallan Gold (£34.97, 70cl, Asda), is an ageless single malt defined by its colour rather than how long it spends in oak and sherry casks.