The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
13.00, 16.00, 19.30 (run ends 31st Aug)
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society offers a tutored tasting of three single malts in their lovely premises on Queen Street – what’s not to like?
Four of us – three men, friends, and me – were tutored by Francesca, a whisky-lover who was keen to share her knowledge and opinions with us, but was never didactic or patronising. She gave us a brief history of the Society, encouraged us to share our own knowledge and experience of whisky – which was of varying levels – and talked us through the basic steps of How To Taste – colour, nose, taste: with as much water as you like!
Each dram was a single malt from a single cask, and at cask strength. Two were Speyside and one Lowland: the former were made solely from barley, and the latter was a ‘grain whisky’ – distilled in the traditional way, but using a mixture of grains: this is the backbone of blended whiskies. They were all different ages – 26, 14, and 34 years old respectively: a Glentauchers, a Glendullan, and a Cameron Bridge: all new to me, and all very different.
I learned many interesting facts, among them that US law forbids using casks for bourbon more than once – hence they are a very useful and reasonably cheap source of casks for whisky distillers, who used to use sherry casks as standard until we stopped drinking so much sherry and thus made the casks less widely available and more expensive. Francesca believes the cask plays biggest part in creating the flavour of a whisky – and exactly where the cask stands during maturation can play a big part, so that casks that sit side by side can produce very different whiskies. And oh my goodness, Glenfiddich are trying IPA casks for some of their whisky: wonder what that’s going to taste like?
We spent a very enjoyable hour sipping our three drams, and exchanging opinions on them – we each had our own favourites – before Francesca left us to take as long as we wished to finish our drinks. The men left in search of lunch, and I wove my way to the bus stop to get to my next show: cask strength whisky needs to be treated with great respect!