Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold

Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold 01Distillery: Dalwhinnie
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Someone once told me that if you need to freeze a drink before you consume it, it’s probably not very good. Yet here we have Dalwhinnie telling us that we should drink their precious spirit straight from the freezer. Being Scotland’s highest and coldest distillery, you may expect the folks at Dalwhinnie to know a little something about subzero temperatures. Indeed, the spirit for Winter’s Gold is distilled exclusively during the winter months, when the cold temperature of the water and the stills results in an extra smooth drop of whisky. Although I doubt whether the impact on the flavour really is noticeable, there’s no denying that Winter’s Gold is beautifully marketed by Diageo.

The idea of serving a dram chilled and having it slowly warm up as you’re drinking it is quite enticing. Adding warmth is like adding water, it changes the flavour of the whisky. I’m eager to try this dram, yet somewhat daunted by having to review a whisky that’s constantly changing. I drank Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold straight from the freezer, with an extra dram at room temperature for comparison.

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Scotch Whisky Regions

Scottish Whisky Regions Tasting

Tonight I was invited to host a tasting for a group of 25 whisky enthusiasts at the local tennis club. As is almost customary for an introductory whisky tasting, we decided to journey through each of the Scottish whisky regions to sample what its distilleries have to offer. Although the Scotch Whisky Association formally only recognises five whisky regions, I decided six whiskies is better than five, so we added the Islands as a separate region.

What I find amazing about whisky is that it’s made using only three ingredients, which are transformed into a wealth of different flavours, the variety of which is truly mindboggling. Tonight’s line-up traverses this spectrum from grassy, delicate Lowland all the way to peaty Islay. While each of the whiskies was chosen because they embody their region’s style, they have also received different types of maturation, further adding to the diversity on offer. You can find a short description of the whiskies below, including a link to the full review. Slàinte!

Scotch Whisky Regions Tasting

A fantastic line-up, ordered from left to right

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Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve

Glenlivet Master Distiller's Reserve 01Distillery: The Glenlivet
Region: Speyside
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Part of Glenlivet’s Travel Exclusives range, the Master Distiller’s reserve pays homage to Alan Winchester, Master Distiller at Glenlivet since 2009. He decided to craft a triple cask matured whisky, which was first aged in traditional American oak (used as the standard cask for most Glenlivet expressions), followed by a first-fil bourbon barrel and ex-sherry European oak. The result is a whisky with a wide-ranging flavour palette that’s very easily drinkable. Nevertheless, as a NAS bottling, this dram has likely not aged for very long, and this youthfulness means that the sophistication found in more mature Glenlivet expressions is sadly lacking.

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Fettercairn Fior

Fettercairn Fior reviewDistillery: Fettercairn
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 42%

A little known distillery, Fettercairn is situated in the eastern Highlands, south of Aberdeen. Initially operational as a grain mill, it was converted into a licensed distillery soon after the 1823 Excise Act made legal whisky distilling a profitable option. Although the distillery actually produces around 1.6 million litres of alcohol per year, the larger part of this disappears into blends, most notably Whyte & Mackay. In 2010 however, Fettercairn was rebranded as a premium single malt, of which Fior is one of the main expressions.

Gaelic for ‘pure and true’, Fior is a fusion of older sherried whisky (around 14-15 years) mixed with young, heavily peated spirit from first-fill bourbon casks. The peated whisky supposedly makes up only 15% of the total mix, providing Fior with wonderfully subtle smoky undertones. Although blends provide a vital stream of income for many distilleries, Fettercairn Fior is another great example of the pure joy that single malts can bring to the table. I hope we can expect more big things from this small Highland distillery.

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