I became more or less seriously interested in whisky and everything around whisky in the autumn of 2014 when a trail running friend and I visited the Glenkinchie distillery south of Edinburgh. We planned a weekend filled with trail running in the Pentland Hills and around Arthurs Seat, but in that weekend we both became whisky “believers”. We truly believed, from that moment, that the Glenkinchie whisky we tasted was “heaven on earth”.
We tasted much more whiskies ever since from different regions and many well-known distilleries. We both developed our own preferences. I like more the whiskies from the islands and Mark is more into the Speyside whiskies. Still being rookies we always try to convince each other that the latest whisky we both discovered, is the best in the world; peated, unpeated, double wood, triple distilled, distillers editions, independent bottlers, bourbon, Oloroso, PX, cooperations with “authentic Italian wine houses”, Christmas editions and so on and so on. Our discussions never end… and we enjoy our conversations and tastings very much.
But… since a little time I am living with a question in my head about:
“What is the real whisky?”
Do I like real whisky, or do I prefer something that doesn´t feel like “the real stuff” and what does that mean?
My personal opinion is that “the real whisky” is made from regional barley, grown on acres around the village or town where the distillery is. With water from a nearby source and aged in European oak whisky casks and aged in warehouses on the site. That should give the whisky a taste which is really particular for that specific distillery in a specific region. But I also have noticed that my nose and taste is not so well developed as I would like to. Many of the whiskies taste the same to me, mostly very elegant and light (how I would describe them) with at the most hints of other herbs than barley that also grow on the fields.
And now my confusion…
I like the peated whiskies s and whiskies made out of marriages of bourbon casks, Oloroso / XP casks and other types of oak casks the most. They offer a more “bold” taste, easy to describe, easy to taste and easier to compare and like or dislike. But way down inside I don´t see that type of whiskies as “the real whisky´s” as I described them.
I see those whiskies more as marketing whiskies, needed to offer the distillery a taste to distinguish from other distilleries, to offer them their own well recognizable taste… As I said; I like whiskies with bold well-pronounced tastes more than the elegant whiskies, but is it “the real whisky”… If I go by my rules I think the more elegant whiskies are the real ones but if I follow my taste and my preferences. I like the bold peated taste and the taste that originate from marriages of different case type…
Is there anyone out there that understands my questions and confusion? Is it a strict matter of “following the rules” or is it only taste that counts?
“Hoping to get some of your questions and thoughts that hopefully offer some light in my darkness”
In the meanwhile… enjoy your drams and kill your bottles slowly.
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