Raise a wee dram of a fine single malt with the old man
Every father, in candid moments, cannot help acknowledging a soft spot for a wee nip of fine Scotch whisky. Scotland native and now Pittsburgh-based barman John White offers insights to Scotch whisky's potent, enduring charms.
“When I thought about hobbies, stamp collecting did not appeal to me and I can't play bagpipes,” he says. “I don't care much for haggis and I don't play golf. But I do appreciate and enjoy a good malt whisky with friends.
“Each single-malt distillery produces a distinctly individual and concentrated style. The resulting broad spectrum of flavors makes it exciting to try a dram or two. Enjoying a single-malt Scotch whisky is sort of like Christmas morning and opening a package.”
In “The World Atlas of Whisky” (Mitchell Beazley, $34.99), Dave Broom outlines five “core” aroma and flavor profiles for single malts — fragrant and floral, fruity and spicy, malty and dry, rich and round, and smoky and peaty. Experiencing and appreciating the profiles requires knowing a bit about each distillery's location and methods for creating their bewitching nectars.
Single-malt Scotch whiskies come mainly from the Highlands and islands northwest of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The rugged, remote landscapes boast scenic, hilly walks and plentiful water.
“Highland streams, which we call burns, give pure, clean water, which is key in producing great Scotch,” White points out. “It also is a great land for sheep and barley.”
Barley provides another key single-malt Scotch ingredient. Each distillery uses “malted” barley steeped in water to induce germination. Drying the malted barley in heated kilns stops germination and begins converting starches into fermentable sugars.
According the White, the kiln fuel helps to determine the final whisky's character. Most, but not all distilleries, use fragrant peat.
“The type and amount of peat, which is basically condensed vegetation, influences the final aromas and flavors immensely,” White says. “With the island single malts, sea air and brine penetrate the peat, conveying iodine notes in the final whisky. Other whiskies have more smoky or floral traits.”
Next, producers “mash” the malted barley with hot water to create the “wort.” The wort ferments in the “washback,” creating a beer without hops. Thereafter, double distillation in copper-pot stills yields fiery, clear condensate alcohol ready for finishing and refinement. Aging in barrels adds color and complex aromas and flavors.
“Some whiskies age exclusively in used American bourbon barrels. Others age in used Spanish sherry barrels,” White says. “Some age in a combination of both types.”
Single-malt Scotch whiskies typically mature for at least 10 years and often for 12, 14, 16 years and longer before bottling. Longer aging mellows the spirit. Artistry comes in adding small amounts of older whiskies to hone the final whisky's personality.
To appreciate a single-malt whisky's distinct character, White recommends using a clean, tulip-shaped glass and pouring the whisky at room temperature.
“Then add just a wee bit of distilled water to release the whisky's intense aromas,” he advises. “Smell it. Taste it, and savor the long aftertaste. Good malt whisky is not meant to be guzzled.”
With Father's Day approaching, bring a wry smile to the old boy by inviting him to share a “wee dram” of a single-malt Scotch whisky. If by sad misfortune he's no longer with you, lift a glass in his memory.
Laphroaig 10 Year (4569; $49.99): Made on the Isle of Islay (pronounced “ eye-lah”), Laphroaig (pronounced “ la-froyg”) presents intensely peaty and smoky traits. And because the whisky ages near the sea, distinct iodine qualities tease the palate and linger pleasantly along with hints of licorice and black pepper.
The Dalmore 12 Year (3432; $46.99): From the northern Highlands' wilds on the shores of a narrow sea inlet called the Firth of Cromarty, The Dalmore embodies fruity and spicy “core” flavors. Dark plum, cinnamon and honey aromas greet the nose. Candied citrus and caramel flavors envelope the palate before refreshing, spicy citrus carries the finish. “Just a lovely experience,” White notes.
Glenfiddich 12 Year (7916; $43.99): From the Highland's eastern Speyside region, Glenfiddich exemplifies the floral-and-fragrant camp. Green apple and pineapple aromas open to sweet vanilla and lingering mixed-fruit flavors.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nearing season’s midpoint, Steelers still have issues to sort out
- Rossi: Fleury is, and will remain, Penguins’ soul
- Ross brothers ordered to pay fine, remove debris from Christmas display
- Testing legs, giving backup goalie a chance are Penguins’ priorities
- Police seize phones of some Norwin High School students
- Justice blames feud for his ouster; chief of court admits he did seek to remove him
- Social Security benefits to go up by 1.7 percent
- Steelers film session: Watt kept under control
- Penguins notebook: Newcomers get 1st taste of rivalry with Flyers
- Calgon Carbon poised for explosive growth
- Injured Pitt center Rowell plays well-rounded role on campus