Few years back, I poured a whisky hack a dram of Islay’s Ardbeg, special bottling from Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin, Speyside, and challenged him to name the region and distillery. He considered. “I’m not sure of the distillery,” he admitted, “but it’s definitely Speyside.” And I respected his instinct, because he was more than half right. This was an Ardbeg that had been matured and bottled, not at the distillery on the Hebridean Island of Islay, but on the mainland in the Speyside region of The Highlands. Whisky, you understand, gathers somewhere between 60-95% of its flavour from the barrel and its surrounding atmosphere.
Whisky maturation cannot be an exact science, but housing the spirit in porous wooden barrels on Islay for 10 years or more guarantees that the whisky – and the barrels – will be saturated with the Island’s distinctive terroir. If you have been there yourself, you will remember the salty, seaweedy and medicinal tang, carried on the sea-soaked wind, that can be licked from your lips within seconds. Obviously, these pungent flavours are missing from any whisky that has been shipped to the mainland warehouse straight from the distillery’s still. This variation in flavour occurs with Sherries, too. Those matured in the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda have a much saltier flavour than those matured further inland.
Special bottling of malt whiskies by a top notch companies like Gordon & MacPhail are excellent drams to buy, drink and test whisky aficionados, but if you want to taste the true terroir of malt whisky. It must be matured and, if possible, bottled at the distillery. End of.
Ardbeg 10 Year Old Malt Whisky, Islay, Scotland
Laphroaig 10 Year Old Malt Whisky,Islay, Scotland
Laphroaig is one of the benchmark brands for smoky peaty whisky. Not as assertive as an Ardbeg, but it still delivers barrels of pungent peaty flavour!
Competing Brands: Bowmore, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Caol Ila & Bruichladdich.