The other night I dashed home from work and hit the bottle. Well, to be precise, I hit three bottles which confounded the dog, as normally my 6pm priority is her tea-time walk.
It wasn’t because I’d had a tough day, but because I had a dial-in tasting chat specially lined up for me with whisky expert Iain Allan, 38, the International Brand Manager for Glen Moray Distillery. The dog had to wait for her walk; and when it finally came, let’s say it was slightly wobbly.
I’m a beginner when it comes to whisky, no word of a lie. So I’d enlisted Iain’s help. Whisky is a spirit, made from malted barley, yeast and water. The colour comes from maturation in casks; the three styles I tasted with Iain had such variations in flavour, colour and aromas, owed principally to the length of ageing, and the types of cask used.
We began with Glen Moray Single Malt Classic (Sainsbury, and www.thewhiskyexchange.com, price from £20).
The master distiller picks the blend of the whisky based on specific characters of the casks available to him. Age isn’t important in this entry point whisky, but maintaining the same characters, taste and style is paramount.
The whisky is really light and simple, “stripped down” as Iain describes it, with a sweet malty vanilla nose. I found hints of pineapple and Iain agreed there is a definite tropical, citrus edge and some butterscotch too.
It is aged in bourbon casks and Iain explains: “We have flavour from two places; the spirit, and the character within it, then we put it in the cask and let the cask add to character.”
The classic whisky is taken and aged for a further eight months in tawny port casks which have been brought from Portugal to produce Glen Moray Single Malt Classic Port Cask Finish (www.glenmoray.com/shop or Spirited Wines, price from £25). Some casks, says Iain, are still “wonderfully fresh” with even a little bit of port still sloshing in them.
This is the colour of a dessert wine, a rosey blush colour and side by side with its sister the Classic, you can see just how much difference the short ageing has made. It has a summer fruit aroma, a strawberry note that shines through with a juicy sweetness.
I gave the glass a swizzle and more aromas came out, cinnamon, Seville orange rind, a little bit of spice. “The beauty of whisky is the aroma,” says Iain.
Burgundy casks, originally used for chardonnay, have brought their signature notes to Glen Moray 10 Year Old Chardonnay Cask Matured (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, around £25).
Explains Iain: “The casks are French oak and when you hit the finish the flavour is more nutty. In character it is very subtle, it is an elegant gentle whisky.”
It has a caramelised fruit character and a floral note, with a bit of candied peel. Add a drop of water and the flavours open up, the tiniest hint of palma violet and a little bit of lime.
Iain studied law but when he got a student job in a wine shop he fell in love with the whisky side, followed his heart and has been working at Glen Moray for ten years.
Does he have any advice for people like me, a little bit nervous of exploring whisky? He says: “If you’re not used to drinking whisky at first it can seem to be quite numbing on the palate. But dive in because it’s the greatest journey of flavours you’ll find.”
Glen Moray launched Glen Moray Classic Peated Single Malt in Morrisons on May 4, (from £22) and it will be in Sainsbury’s from the end of June.
Published in the saturday extra magazine May 2, 2015