I had pleasure to be asked to sample four Scotch whiskies with a common theme recently. Each had been matured in multiple cask types – a practise becoming more common in the Scotch whisky industry as it adds multiple layers of complexity.
The derivations on show were not immediately revealed to us, adding a pleasurable element of deduction to the proceedings. I left guessing the distillery to my more knowledgeable companions, but it was obvious to all that the sherry-matured style dominated this whisky. The colour was a deep amber, and the nose had tempting caramel sweetness and lots of dried fruit. The palate confirmed these flavours, with the only surprise being a crisply acidic finish. Glenturret, spiritual home of The Famous Grouse, are masters of maturation, and this richly sweet single malt amply lives up to that reputation.
By contrast with the heavily sherried nature of our first whisky, our second was elegant and light in style. A golden colour, the nose was estery, with pear drops and fresh fruit dominating. Matured in a mixture of sherry butts, bourbon casks, and bourbon hogsheads, Longmorn Distillers’ Choice is easy on the palate and lightly spicy on the finish. One to enjoy neat rather than diluted, the whisky exuded a relaxed, summery sophistication. It must also be added that Longmorn’s presentation is second to none – a truly stylish bottle for a stylish dram.
A rich antique gold in colour, this whisky drew admiring utterances from several in the group on the first sniff. Little Bay possesses a sweetness that may send some into the whisky equivalent of hyperglycaemia, but most will surrender to its candy floss charms. Those who do so will be rewarded with a whisky with a lot more complexity to share, with oiliness, nuttiness, cereal, and orange all coming through on the palate. It also surprises with a powerful intensity at the back of the throat. Little Bay’s bottle is as pretty as a picture; perhaps deliberately, the pastel colour of the neck foil is reminiscent of the wrapper from a chocolate mini Easter egg.
We ended on something of a show stealer. Pale in colour, this malt smelled beautifully of toffee and marshmallows, but seemingly without the high artificiality sometimes associated with very sweet aromas. On the palate, the rich sweetness was confirmed, but a distinct smokiness gradually revealed itself, into a finish that was described by one person, in the nicest possible way, as ‘chewing tabacco’. I’d never tasted a whisky with a distinctly peaty palate that was undiscernible, at least to me, on the nose. This was explained to me by the fact that the barley used was not peated, but the whisky had been partially matured in casks that had previously held peated whisky. Glenlivet Nadurra is a sumptuous treat, and proof, as was the entire session, that a centuries-old industry still has the power to surprise.