gavin smith

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Whisky News, January 2010

by Gavin D Smith

Malt Matcher

Following on from its Single Malt Whisky Flavour Map, Diageo has now launched an iphone application and online tool called the Malt Matcher. According to a    malt matcher
Diageo spokesperson, "The Malt Matcher is a new tool that cuts through the mystifying array of brands, regions, flavours and age statements that often face the single malt Scotch whisky buyer. It allows you to easily match a single malt to the individual tastes of your family, friends or colleagues. It means you can choose the right single malt with far greater confidence and, at the same time, demonstrate just how much thought you've put into it. "The Malt Matcher has been designed to help you find the perfect gift through one of three simple methods. If you already know the single malt that your friend usually drinks, but want to buy them a gift that is a little different, you can find matching malts that offer similar flavours. "Perhaps you know the region from which they enjoy their whiskies - for example, Speyside whiskies are generally sweet and fruity in character. The Malt Matcher can help you find those similar whiskies. Or, if you know the types of food they like, you can use the Malt Matcher to identify those single malt whiskies whose unique flavours best match that particular food." The Malt Matcher is available online at or as a free iPhone app, available to download from the iTunes store.

Illicit Still

illicit still    Abhainn Dearg (Red River) distillery on the remote west coast of the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis was first granted a licence to distil in November 2008, and is now operating a formerly illicit still in addition to its original, bespoke pair. The 27 gallons still was left at the entrance to the distillery (photo courtesy BBC), based in a former salmon hatchery, by an anonymous benefactor not long after Abhainn Dearg started production. Attached to it was a note saying 'Take good care of me." Lewis has a long history of illicit distillation, and rumour has it that several
unlicensed stills continue to operate in the island. Mark Tayburn, the distillery's owner and also a Stornoway-based scrap metal dealer, decided that it would be interesting to use the donated still to make whisky, but HM Revenue and Customs was less than excited at the prospect, until the intervention of local MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) Alasdair Allan. Allan says that "When I visited Mr Tayburn at his new distillery he mentioned that, in addition to his main still, he had also discovered an old illicit still and had thought about marketing whisky made in it. "Unfortunately, HM Revenue and Customs has for some centuries had a certain suspicion about stills of this type. After writing to the department, however, I am happy to say Lewis has now started producing one of Scotland's most unusual whiskies in almost certainly the country's smallest licensed still. Mark Tayburn is grateful to the Western Isles MSP for his assistance in obtaining permission to use the old still, and observes that he would like to see three (legal) distilleries operating in the Western Isles in the next five years. However, proposals to develop a micro-distillery on the island of Barra have so far not made it beyond the drawing board. "There has already been a lot of interest in the former illicit still," notes Tayburn. "I hope that this will help to put the Western Isles and the Abhainn Dearg distillery on Scotland's whisky trail."

Tasting Highland Park

Highland Park has recently produced a Tasting Collection which allows potential consumers to sample five expressions of the Orcadian single malt. The Collection comprises five 5cl miniatures of the most popular bottlings, namely 12, 15, 18, 25 and 20-year-old Highland Parks. Highland Park 12-year-old is described by its producers as "embodying a rounded, smoky sweetness to appeal to whisky devotees    highland park
and newer consumers alike. Highland Park 15-year- old is an exceptionally fine whisky with a remarkably complex nose, and the flavour from the rich, mature oak casks makes a truly smooth and satisfying malt. "Highland Park 18-year-old boasts rich, full flavour with hints of honey and peat, with a soft, long, rounded finish. Highland Park 25-year-old, neat to enjoy, is an immense vanilla sensation with the characteristic honey sweetness developing into complex aromas of cinnamon, nuts and dark fruit. The fifth in the Collection, Highland Park 30-year-old, bursts fudge sweetness together with complex aromatic spices and dark chocolate orange." The Highland Park Tasting Collection builds on the popularity of an existing three-malt tasting pack of Glenrothes; a 'sister' malt in the Edrington stable. It offers an excellent opportunity for consumers to choose their favourite Highland Park, and at £42.50 for what is, effectively, a third of a bottle of whisky, the Collection is reasonable value, bearing in mind that a bottle of 30-year-old retails for around the £190 mark. Presented in a tasteful, windowed box, complete with tasting notes for each expression, the Tasting Collection is available from specialist retailers or online at

Thinking and drinking

whiskey philosophy    We whisk(e)y drinkers like to think of ourselves as a comparatively sophisticated lot, insisting that whereas the consumption of lager tends to lead to anti-social behaviour, imbibing a few choice drams brings on a mood of quiet, philosophical contemplation. This view seems to be borne out by one of the latest whisk(e)y-related books to be published, namely Whiskey & Philosophy. Subtitled 'A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas,' and edited by Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P Adams, this fascinating US-published volume features a foreword by Charlie MacLean and essays by more than 20 authors. Many are American, but among the UK contributors are Andrew Jefford, Ian Buxton and Dr David Wishart. Some writers take the title very seriously, using philosophers such as Hegel to explore the concept of the 'ideal' whiskey, or Husserl to explain phenomenology, while Ian Buxton tackles the issues of
'Provenance and Authenticity' in a manner that even a 'whisky-pages' reviewer can readily understand. Similarly, David Wishart features 'The Heritage of Scotch Whisky' in a very readable manner. Overall, this is an absorbing, intelligent and original potpourri of a book, with something for everyone with an interest in whisk(e)y, no matter what their level of understanding of 'philosophy.' Whiskey & Philosophy, John Wiley & Sons Inc, £14.99. Buy at Amazon for £9.74.

Dressed to Kilt

With Burns Night fast approaching (25th January) fans of the Bard and of Scottish tradition in general are starting to clean the haggis stains off their kilts and re-learn the words to Tam o'Shanter. As a writer who celebrated whisky both in verse and consumption (only within recommended sensible drinking guidelines, of course) Burns is warmly regarded here at 'whisky-pages.' Never a man to slavishly follow accepted conventions, Burns would perhaps have approved of a radical new 'Whisky Kilt' design, particularly as he was such an admirer of the French Revolution, and the kilt is the brainchild of French whisky connoisseur Regis Lemaitre. Find out more at    whisky kilt


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