Dear retail industry, it is now December. Now it’s Christmas time. G’day guys. Malt Liquor Mitch back with another unbroken streak of malt liquor posts.
The terroirs of Scotland, as with all great liquors, play a huge part in the character of the palette. The English-neighboring southernmost region of the Scottish Lowlands, that was once densely populated with distilleries of whisky and gin. And to this day, still pumps out many thousands of liters of whisky annually. That are known to produce the more fruitier of the whiskies Scotland export. The self-explanatorily named Highlands, that reach as high as four thousand feet above sea level. For all my searching on the internet, it has gone without saying what affect, if any, the thinner oxygen, cooler temperatures and the more moisture-laden air from the passage of the clouds, the high altitude has on the barley distilled into whisky. But the Highlands are known, the world over for inherently possessing notes of honey and oak. The patch of northern sea-facing land amongst the Highlands, Speyside, that boasts two thirds of all the labels in Scotland. That vary from fruitier, sweeter malts, to heavy peated whiskies. The area Campbeltown, that lies on the furthest point on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula that jets some ninety kilometers outwards from the mainland of the United Kingdom, surrounded by prevalent sea breeze. That taste potent, rugged, and somewhat brackish. Gone thankfully, are the days when demand was so high that the distilleries of the region just rolled out for sale whatever old malts they had at the time, no matter how good or bad they were. From which the myth was birthed that many labels scandalously aged their malts in barrels used for herring. True or false, the days when this could be believed are bygone. And then, there’s the soil from which this week’s terroir hails; the islands of Scotland. So much a distinct terroir of scotch, that such whiskies hailing from the islands off the northwestern coast that they fall under a classification, referred to simply as “The Islands”. That exist, nourished by the ocean air, and the fertile soil supported by this.
This week’s malt is another blended whisky. This one, a positive point on the conversation of blended whiskies. A blend of a combined total of six whiskies. Each one from a different distillery on a different island of Scotland. So called – The Six Isles. Distilled from the isles of Mull, Jura, Arran, Skye, Orkney, and the most famous scotch producers of the lot; Islay.
The Isle of Islay, with a total of eight distilleries of whisky and gin on the six hundred and twenty square kilometer island, has a long and rich history of producing scotch. Distilling whisky on the island, was said to have harked back as long ago as the fourteenth century, as introduced by monks. Adapted from practices, like many other areas of the old world, observed being implemented in eastern Europe to produce medicinal substances, essential oils, and brandy. And has been the producer of many a well-received bottle over the years. So was the obvious first addition to this, the aspiring accumulative blend of contributions of all the best island distilleries of Scotland. Combined with malts from islands like the Isle of Skye – A sole distillery sits on an island of rough, rocky mountains. That produce whisky, apparently, said to embody these same rugged qualities. The Isle of Jura – Another sole distillery, that on paper at least, appears to hail from a bit of a one horse town. It’s said that the Isle of Jura, the distillery’s namesake, at three hundred sixty six square kays, has only one distillery, one road, and one pub, and a total human population of less than two hundred. Sounds nice and quiet. The Isle of Mull, another sole distillery island. Is also known for it’s cheese. The Orkney Islands, that are bested only by the Shetland Islands as the furthest north territory of the United Kingdom, home to two distilleries. On the island of Kirkwall is to be found, the distillery of Scapa. And further north, the distillery of Highland Park. And finally; the Isle of Arran – Home to yet another distiller with a whole island to itself; Lochranza.
On first impression, this whisky definitely talks the talk. Arriving in a robust, glossy tin case. Listing all of it’s foibles, bragging-rights and places of origin. Claiming to be “A true reflection of the Isles”. Saying “Scotland is home to over 140 inhabited islands, however today malt whisky is distilled on only a few of these islands. “The Six Isles” is a unique vatting of casks of single malt whiskies selected from six of these distilling islands…” “…“The Six Isles” is a sensory voyage through the malt whiskies of the islands of Scotland”. I’d avoid phraseology like sensory voyage, just quietly. ‘Round these parts, we call them benders. But jokes aside, the tin box, is a very encouraging addition to the acquisition of the bottle. Most bottles, Scotch, top-shelf whiskeys, even some Cognacs, don’t even go to the trouble of selling their bottles packages in such a well appointed, chocolate box-style tin. Last week, we had a very, royally-appearing elegantly designed bottle, but packaged in a fairly unimpressive plain cardboard box. Six Isles, is the opposite. The packaging is impressive, the bottle, in contrast is quite drab. Little more than a workaday, wine bottle-style bottle. Albeit, attired with a little boastfulness. The terroirs listed, in addition to another blurb on the back label “Voted the ‘Best New Scotch Brand’ in Jim Murray’s 2004 Whisky Bible, The Six Isles is a sensory journey not to be missed”. So let’s take a sensory journey/voyage.
I unwrap the foil and uncover the cork, the same pale beech color as the liquor it houses. I pop it open, without knowing what specifically to expect. A thick, warm fog of peat escapes from the neck. Copious in it’s presence. Dark, brackish and moist. Notes of oak, peat, moss. Sincerely, there have been scotches that have been plainly unambiguous about their usages of smoking peat and the amount of presence it entails in their malts. But none embody the individual scents that the process of smoking wet, decaying vegetation, moss and rotten old wood must include. A big breathe in, and you’d think you yourself were there to witness it in person. The palette is as copious in smoke as is the nose. If not more. I feel as though I should exhale this, rather than swallow it. A relaxing, easygoing entry. I’d go as far as saying mellow, parallel to a silky Irish whiskey. But an exit that sparks of spice. A swish around in the mouth, leaves you wondering if this whisky has any spice at all, but a lazy gulp smacks some sense into you.
To summarize: I may be jumping the gun here, but I cannot recall off the top of my head. But surely this will serve as testament and authenticity to my opinions regarding this label. This scotch, must be the best ideal of a Scottish whisky I have had to date. Embodying all the qualities I seek in a scotch. Smoothness, pedigree, style, and an impenitent, gruff and vaporous smoky quality. A definite recommended drink. As I shall too continue to. Cheers