The High Road

3/31/15 -

Sitting in the multistory steel and glass atrium of the soon to be re-opened 5 Beekman Street, you can’t help but notice the drive and the confidence that marked New York at the end of the 19th century. It was a similar boundless industry and optimism of bold spirits that raised the copper stills and the smoke stacks of some of Scotland’s relatively unheralded, if not downright unheard of distilleries. The whisky from these stills has been prized by master blenders in Scotland for over a century, but it is only in recent years that they have started coming into their own as single malts.

If a great spirit can be masterfully distilled, then it can even be more easily ruined or brought low by poor cask maturation or by other poor choices before bottling. Scotland’s cool and maritime climate offers ideal conditions for aging spirits in barrel, so if distillers make the effort to source quality casks then new make spirits have an excellent chance of coming out the other side of cask aging held high by the power, grace, and refinement that have built the reputation of the Scottish dram.

It is at this final stage that our featured single malts really distinguish themselves. Chill Filtration before bottling has long been the common practice of most of Scotland’s distilleries for the purposes of rendering their drams more palatable to a wider public and to prevent their whisky from turning cloudy, particularly if ice or cold water were added. However, there are two notable flavor prices to be paid for this pairing down.

Even light chill filtrations (moderate temps of 50°F and durations under 3hrs) have been shown to reduce the presence of a family of aromas known as nerols, which can contribute notes of rose and lemongrass. Moreover, although many of the long chain fatty esters that may make a whisky cloudy are not particularly aromatic, they do play an important role as enhancers of aromas that are already present.

None of the following single malts have been chill filtered. All of them have been bottled at above 45% abv, which allows them to hold more aromas and coincidentally allows them to remain uncloudy at room temperature. They are all bolder and truer expressions of place and they offer a master blender’s view of Scottish distilleries.

Beginning with the Speysides, Glenlossie located 10km south of Elgin, was founded in the late 19th century by John Duff, a man who crafted light, ephemerally floral whisky through the redistilling of condensing vapors inside the still via purifier pipe. Glentauchers, on the outer edge of a cluster of distilleries around Keith, has long been prized by blenders for its honeyed and spiced drams. Since its malty rebirth in 1992, this Speyside distillery has released a growing number of good value single malts.

Our first Highland single malt comes from the Edradour distillery, in idyllic Pitlochry, retains much of its original, Victorian era, distilling kit. Andrew Symington, the driving force behind Edradour, also helms Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky, an independent bottler that has championed a range of non-chill filtered single malts.

Moving north along the A9, Clynelish, found in the North Sea golfing town of Brora, is a Highland malt that shows the difficulty of grouping stylistically varying malts within a broad and roaming geographic category. In fact, modern Clynelish is the ideal dram for the peat head that has matured into a more restrained and nuanced whisky lover.

Finally, a Cinderella story from the west coast Isle of Mull, once shunned as a penny-pincher’s single malt, Tobermory has retained its affordability while dramatically raising its quality. The time of these hidden drams has come and with it a rekindled age of exploration of Scotch whisky! David Salinas

You have successfully subscribed!
This email has been registered