Posts Tagged ‘Scotch’

Scotch

June 17, 2008

Not the highlight of the visit to Scotland, but certainly one of my favorite stops, was to a distillery.  Yes, the place where they make that precious amber liquid called Scotch by most of us… and merely whisky by the Scots themselves.

We found a distillery offering tours southeast of Edinburgh (which, for some reason i never understood, is pronounced ‘Edinboro’ by the locals).  The Glenkinchie distillery has been in business a couple hundred years and offered us a true education about the Scotch making business.

Thinking we’d get some cheesy little video and see some handbuilt models of the process, we were pleasantly surprised to actually walk through the distillery, seeing all steps of the process on the way.  Including, as seen in this picture, the yeast vats… and our guide opened the lid on them.  Get too close to them and you could get knocked on your ass by the fumes!

There are some eleventy-seven different brands of Scotch, each with it’s own unique taste.  That taste is affected by the water of the region, the amount of peat used in drying… or smoking… the malt barley, the size and shape of the copper stills, and finally, by the casks used to ‘mature’ it*.  

As to that latter, the casks are of oak or poplar or other hardy woods** which by themselves add a certain flavoring to the Scotch.  What was surprising to me was that they (well, Glenkinchie, anyway… can’t speak for the others) only use casks already used elsewhere.  For example, the casks Jack Daniels uses for their whiskey maturation are used only once… then sold off to folks like Glenkinchie.  Glenkinchie also uses casks previously holding sherry wine.  Each of these ‘pre-soaked’ casks, then impart a hint of that flavor to the Glenkinchie whisky… for 10 or 12 years (less or more years and the Scotch just doesn’t taste ‘right’).

And, of course, my favorite part of the tour was the tasting room.  Ahhh… it did indeed make this man’s eyes water and mouth drool.  They, of course, first offered us tastes of their own brand.  But, for the purpose of ‘education’ (and who can deny themselves a good lesson now and again?), they also offered quite a variety of other brands from other parts of Scotland so that we could taste the differences.  One brand, for example, uses lots of peat in the smoking process and, to me, smelled like something you’d burn in a kerosene heater rather than drink.  I’ve heard it’s an ‘acquired taste’.  I think i’ll let someone else do that acquisition.

Unfortunately for me, i was the designated driver (the Girl Child having lost her license during an unfortunate pickpocket experience in Istanbul).  i didn’t let that stop me from having three… or was it seven?… samples of Scotch before leaving.

And with a wistful farewell (and a hope to return), we say goodbye to Glenkinchie Distillery.

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*There are quite a few folks at work i’d like to put in a cask so they’d actually mature.

**hehehe…i said ‘wood’