G’day guys. The sun is heating up and the grass is growing brown and crisp, the bush is alight, the mercury is soaring, and…stuff it, I’m too bloody tired for poetry. It’s hot outside, so hot it isn’t funny. All you hear in the news these days is about bushfires. So here’s a little bottled escapism from cool and frosty Scotland.
This week, I went in search of a nice single malt scotch. It’s no secret that single malt isn’t cheap. Granted, a scotch can be blended, and still be a very indulgent dram, but single malt sits atop a self-made empire of quality that can justify squeezing a few dollars extra out of drinkers. There’s a cloud of confusion amongst drinkers nowadays, about what the true definition of what a single malt is. So, let’s break it down. A single malt is a whisky fermented entirely from malted barley, that is no combination of blend of other whiskies originating from other distilleries, but is the culmination of any number of batches from a single distillery. Not to be confused with a single barrel whisky, that can trace it’s origin back to a single barrel of whisky. A bottle of single malt may trace it’s origins back to a single distillery, but not a single barrel or a single batch for that matter. I’d be pleasantly surprised if you could find anything that fits that description that doesn’t come with a price tag with three digits. This all hinges on the labor-intensive practice of malting. Immersing the grains of barley in water and then laying it out on the floor of a huge room, turned and aerated to simulate outside the soil the conditions of germination. Creating the unique malty taste, and boasting higher percentages of starch. The germination of the grains is then halted by cooking. Converting the starches inside the malted barley into sugars, for the yeast to turn into alcohol. With beer, this process differentiates by roasting the barley in an oven, giving stout it it’s robust, earthy texture, rich dark colour, and roasted aroma. With Scotch, the barley is cooked in a kiln, smoked with peat. Peat, being a composite material of decayed plant matter, clay, soil, moss, caused by waterlogged conditions underground, common in the United Kingdom. Traditionally used as a combustible material since before the time of the Roman Empire. Giving whisky it’s trademark smokey flavor. And onto fermentation and distillation.
So this more involved preparation brings forward a heftier pricetag. But it got me thinking – How cheap can you get a single malt scotch whisky? And does quality deteriorate as a result? Well I went to see. I had a squiz at the scotch section of my local Dan Murphy’s, and in doing so, discovered this; The Ardmore. I bought for the fairly reasonable price of fifty eight dollars. What I thought at the time had to have been the cheapest single malt scotch I had gotten my hands on, until I wanted to be absolutely certain that it was the cheapest sold before I said it online. Turns out one I had already drunk, the Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask Finished beat it by eight dollars. I recommend it, has a savory, pastry aftertaste. In contrast to the majority of other single malts that usually range from sixty dollars all the way up to, and beyond a hundred dollars. So what about this label? The Ardmore hails from the Highlands, a terroir that takes up the majority of Scotland. Sitting a comfy six hundred meters above sea level, by the village of Kennethmont, in the scotch-nurturing area of Aberdeenshire. Founded in the year eighteen-ninety-eight, by that scotch label, William Teachers and Sons. By the highest point of the northern railway, that allowed for the mountain top distillery to succeed. Drawing mountain spring water for the whisky from Knockandy Hill, a fifteen hundred feet high mountain spring. With all this talk of the great, picturesque mountains of Scotland, it’s understandable that they chose to make their mascot an eagle. A golden eagle, soaring over the map of the Kennethmont on the sturdy tin and pressed paper case of the scotch case the bottle arrived inside.
So let’s take the bottle out for a look. A straw, butterscotch yellowish malt, smooth and sedate in appearance. A flat black cap atop the subtle bulb of the neck contrasts a white, topographical image of the Scottish highlands. The bottle christened “Legacy”, but below bears a message I find troubling. The label states, “Lightly Peated”, worrisome to me, preferring heavy peated scotch. But, we’ll press on. The nose upon opening is a generous scent of peat, backed up by chocolate, almond, hazelnut, and digestive biscuits. Poured over ice, my concerns that the peat is advertised as light so far are unfounded, as poured over ice the scotch lets off a reassuring breath of smoky flavor. So to taste. The scotch is, actually, quite sweet and sedate. The peat, is not overpowering, but it is certainly not absent. A very light and unintimidating opening flavor. Refreshing, clean, fresh and sweet. Intensifying into a hearty, malty and full-bodied scotch. With a hardy and gruff aftertaste of chalky, smokiness.
So to summarize; A true blue, authentic single malt scotch whisky. To answer my own earlier question; you need not break the bank to acquire a true single malt scotch whisky. A more than adequate scotch is available, no corners cut, for under the as to be expected sixty dollar mark. A true, classy but indisputably masculine whisky.