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Mad Men, Single Malt Scotch, And Perpetually Stocked Bars

Article by Mark Etinger

When I watch Mad Men I get jealous. Not of the world they lived in. With the amount of tumultuous changes and some of the gut wrenching set backs of the 60’s, it would have been hard to just relax and have a good time. Besides that, there was no cellphones and nothing on television half as good as Mad Men. It was not the seemingly widely available and often promiscuous women either. I am totally intimidated by the opposite sex. What they did seem to have was fully stocked bar at all times. It clearly does not seem to matter where the characters on Mad Men are they all appear to be constantly surrounded by the best single malt scotches, vodkas, gins, and whatever other high quality brands of booze were around.

It was as if they were all in a perpetual state of casually drunk, not often hammered into the wall by a bottle of single malt scotch whiskey. Instead these old cads coast from room to room, business meeting to business meeting, social event to home, always with a glass of single malt scotch or a Crown Royal whiskey. They always seem to manage. Obviously living in that kind of reality would get unhealthy but it is fun to dream.

Also, just because you are not tossing back a bottle of Grey Goose vodka by 3 pm does not mean you can’t have a fully stocked bar in your home or office. Having a drink or even a few is a classy act and a great opportunity to share with a guest or potential business partners and clients. Having a bar loaded to the gills with Glenfiddich, Chivas Regal, Jack Daniels Whiskey, Disaronno Amaretto, Macallan Scotch, Glenlivet Scotch, and all the other brands everyone loves can make you the champion at throwing parties or just of entertaining a few choice friends.

A fully stocked bar is a thing to get excited about. It is one of the many indicators that you have arrived as an adult. Being a grown up is not all good but these kinds of exciting pleasant for all parties involved milestones definitely are. I love a good drink and I love a good bottle of liquor. Each one seems to tell a story, if not about its self than about you and where you have had it, how it affected the night who you were with. Why not stock your liquor cabinet with some memories?

scotch whisky review 112 – Johnnie Walker Green Label

… arguably the best of the entire Johnnie Walker range
Video Rating: 4 / 5

Chivas Regal – 12 YO Blended Scotch Whisky

Director of Brand Education for Chivas, Alan Greig, discusses the flavour profile of Chivas Regal 12 Years Old. This tasting was photographed in Strathisla Warehouse three tasting room in Keith, Scotland
Video Rating: 4 / 5

The Macallan Brand : Single Malt Scotch Whisky

A short promotional film from the Macallan about their brand and the famous Single Malt Scotch Whisky they produuce.
Video Rating: 4 / 5

scotch whisky review 145 – Johnnie Walker Red Label (1960’s V 2010)

an interesting comparison of two generations of one of Scotch whiskies most enigmatic brands, and the top selling Scotch Blended Whisky in the World.
Video Rating: 4 / 5

William Lawson’s – No Rules Great Scotch

advertising William Lawson’s – No Rules Great Scotch

whisky review 115 – Grant’s Family Reserve (Blended Scotch)

…. A big selling Whisky in many Countries around the World.
Video Rating: 4 / 5

Why They Call It The Famous Grouse Scotch Whisky

Famous Grouse
Ask the Edrington Group’s master blender, John Ramsay, what makes his drams different and he immediately proposes marriage. In the whisky-making sense, of course. Marriage used to be normal practice for blenders: before bottling, malts and grains would be brought together for a period of mingling. Most firms have abandoned the art, but Edrington sticks to the old ways, marrying its blends for six months and at reduced strength.

‘The bean counters in most firms decided it wasn’t helping the bottom line,’ says John. ‘But we ran an exercise to see if we were getting a benefit from marrying, and we were.’ It’s all down to maximizing flavour.

‘When you add water to cask-strength malt, some components become unstable,’ he continues. ‘We give that time to settle, which means we can give the final blend a light filtration. If you don’t do this you’ll have to give it a harder filtration to get that stability – and then you lose some flavour’.

The process is made more complicated by his insistence on marrying blocks of blends. ‘We’ll combine malts and grains; reduce, marry and have Blend One,’ he explains. ‘Then we repeat the exercise and get Blends Two to Four. When it comes to bottling, rather than just using all of Blend One and then moving on, we’ll use some from each batch. It’s a form of whisky solera’.

But we skip ahead. Edrington’s brands (which include Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark -which they blend for Berry Bros – Lang’s Supreme and Black Bottle) start their lives as the new make samples from a host of distilleries, and are nosed by John every day. Then, like every blender, he has to work out how much new make to lay down, to satisfy potential demand for any of the brands many years down the line. It’s this ability to assess new make and mature spirit that sets blenders apart.

John can stick his nose in a glass of Glenrothes 5-year-old from sherry wood and know if it fits ‘the wee picture in my head’, and also how that whisky will behave when combined with thirty others. While some of us may be able to pick out a few malts at a blind tasting, a blender knows not just what it is but whether it fits within the right parameters according to age and wood. It’s an awesome ability, but this modest man hasn’t allowed it to go to his head.

These blends are very different creatures: they don’t just have different core malts, the wood recipe has also been carefully plotted. The sherry wood in the delicate Cutty comes from American oak; the richer Lang’s uses Spanish oak and Grouse uses both. ‘You want a fragrant sweet aroma in Cutty, so you use American wood and a Speyside malt like Tamdhu for sweetness, with some Bunnahabhain for freshness. Grouse is Speyside-based as well, but there is a lot of influence from Highland Park and the mix of sherry from Spanish and American wood’.

He uses a very Scottish analogy to describe the art of blending. ‘It’s like putting together a good soccer team. You need a strong central core, then you can tack the stars around that. It’s useless if you haven’t got that central core right.’ But the unsung, hard-working midfielder in all the Edrington blends is North British grain. ‘We use different grains: some for commercial reasons, but also to give different characters in the blend. We’ll use Strathclyde when it’s younger, as it matures quicker. North British ages well, so it will be used in older blends -it also rounds out the wood influence on older whiskies.

‘A blend is a bit like a pasta with sauce,’ John concludes. ‘The grain is the pasta, edible but bland, and the malts are the sauce – a bit strong on their own, but together they’re a great combination.’ CUTTY SAR1C first made in 1923 by London wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, Cutty Sark was specifically made as a light-flavoured blend that would appeal to the American market, even though Prohibition was in force. It was smuggled into the United States by one Captain William McCoy and became so popular that people began demanding ‘the real McCoy’ as their choice of bootleg liquor.

TASTING NOTES

Cutty Sark Gentle, light nose with oat, butter, icing sugar and some delicate raspberry. A mix of cream and grass, with a touch of lemon sherbet on the finish. * * *

BLACK BOTTLE
Originally conceived by Aberdeen tea merchant Gordon Graham in the 1870s, Black Bottle passed through many different hands before landing in Highland Distillers’ lap in 1995. John Ramsay has since reformulated it to be ‘the malt with the heart oflslay’ and uses all seven Islay malts in the blend. It’s a brand to watch.

TASTING NOTES

Black Bottle 10-year-old
Islay personified: ozone, ginger, ripe fruit and ginger. With water, an intense smoky perfume leaps out, then mingles with soft cakey fruit before a blast of salt-spray halfway through. Stunning.

FAMOUS GROUSE Perth wine merchant William Gloag started blending whiskies in the 1860s, to warm the cockles of the huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ set. In 1896 his nephew, Matthew, created The Famous Grouse. It remained a little-known classic until the 1970s, but since then has become Scotland’s favourite dram, number two in the UK, and is spreading its wings into export.

TASTING NOTES

The Famous Grouse
A fat, juicy, succulent nose with a bint of menthol, lavender and a drift of smoke. Lovely weight on the palate, which is sweet, lightly spiced and tinged with peat. * * * * (*)

A Top Name In Scotch Whisky Is Chavis

Trying to get a blender to explain what his or her job involves is never easy. Not because they are secretive, far from it. They’re almost relieved to have a chance to tell their story.

It’s just that the intricacies of blending are complex that strange analogies have to be employed: orchestras, football teams, actors cars, cakes, houses – all appear in the blender’s lexicon. Colin Scott, master blender at Chivas Brothers, is a master of the art. Created by firm of high-class Aberdonian grocers who began blending whiskies in the 1840s, Chh Regal has been Seagram’s flagship Scotch since 1949. It is Colin, however, who has overseen the recent explosion of Chivas brands, including the superb 18-year-old a^ the awesome Oldest.

Colin feels it’s important not to get hung i over numbers. ‘How many malts and grains I go into the blend isn’t important,’ he says. ‘What is important is always having Chivas the glass.’ The one constant is Strathisla. ‘Making a Chivas blend is like building a house; with malts as the bricks, grains as th”j mortar and Strathisla as the foundation. Chivas Regal is one shape of house, 18-year old is grander and Oldest is a castle!’

They may be individual brands, but then is a distinct family resemblance. ‘The brand have a thread running through them … richness, smoothness and roundness of flavours. You use different bricks to chang the flavour profile, while retaining the character,’ says Colin. ‘That means manipulating the range of available flavou (different malts, grains, wood types, ages) and creating different but similar teams. Chivas 18- isn’t 12-year-old aged for a further 6 years, it’s a different team.’

To make matters more interesting, each team is in a constant state of flux. ‘Consumers don’t want to see character or quality alter, but to preserve them you mu make changes,’ urges Colin. ‘If you have one pot of whiskies to use in a blend, you must j always also have another pot which thou contains different whiskies will have the same flavour as the first. Because you knc what is in each of the pots, you know wh any differences are and can therefore find ways to narrow any gap between them.

That second pot is like footballers sitting on the bench. We know how they perform, so are job is to make sure what ever ones we use they’ll make chavis. CHIVAS The Chivas brothers owned a high-class grocery business in Aberdeen and started blending whiskies (for, among others, the Royal household) in the 1880s.

Regal appeared at the turn of the 20th century and was another light Spey’side-dominant blend to make it big in the United States during Prohibition. It was bought by the Canadian distiller (and one-time bootlegger) Sam Bronfman in 1949 and is still a major player in the US and Far East markets.

TASTING NOTES

Chivas Regal 12^year-old
Deceptive weight behind the apparently light mix of grass, apples and cereal on the nose. A grassy, almost mossy start to the palate, it crisps up deliciously mid-palate. * * * (“)

18-year-old
A magnificent melange of currant leaf, orange pulp/peach cobbler, barley malt and turfy smoke. The palate explodes with flavour, but always in that elegant, restrained family style. * * * * * Oldest

The finest in the range. Peatier still, with a rich, complex mix of citrus notes (tangerine, lemon) heather, fruit and spicy grain. Stunning. *****

The Scotch Whisky categories – an overview

Article by Pip Martin

Many moons ago, I remember standing at the back of a Johnnie Walker Whisky tasting session in Harrods wine department. Believe it or not this tasting, like most of the other staff tastings we organised at Harrods, took place between 9-10am in the morning (before the store opened). This often meant that (despite our best efforts) we were slightly steaming when the store opened, never the best state in which to look after the Harrods Gold Card customers… During the tasting, the brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker made reference to one of his Whisky samples and (quite grandly) referred to it as a “battered malt” – at least this is what I thought he said. Being quite green at the time, I asked the wine and spirits buyer (standing next to me) what a battered malt was. Cue much laughter and ridicule – “Battered Malt” was in fact “Vatted Malt” – a style of Whisky that contains a number of different Single Malt Whiskies (and will never contain any Grain Whiskies). I thought at the time that the Scotch Whisky industry should probably win an award for arcane lexicon, but this was probably just my pride. The main categories of Whisky are important to know, as through them, you have the beginnings of a tasting roadmap to this most particular of drinks. Usefully in 2009 the Scotch Whisky Regulations officially defined five categories of Scotch Whisky. Firstly, you have your Single Malt Scotch Whisky, a Scotch Whisky produced at a single distillery from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and by batch distillation in malt stills. In a neat bit of forward thinking, from 23rd November 2012, Single Malt Scotch Whisky must be bottled in Scotland. Macallan, Talisker, and Lagavulin are all well known examples. Secondly there is Single Grain Scotch Whisky. This is a Scotch Whisky distilled in a single distillery from water and malted barley with or without whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals, and which does not comply with the description of a Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Invergordon is perhaps the best known Single Grain Scotch Whisky (it’s jolly nice). Thirdly (and by the way there is no hierarchy here) you have your Blended Scotch Whisky, which is a blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which have been produced at more than one distillery. Johnnie Walker are famous for their range of (predominantly) blended Whiskies. Contrary to popular belief these are not inherently inferior Whiskies (the price of Johnnie Walker Blue Label will make your eyes water, if the drink doesn’t), they’re just, well, different. Fourthly (stay with me) you have Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, a blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which have been produced at more than one distillery. The observant amongst you will realise that this and Vatted Malt are in fact one and the same. Johnnie Walker Green label is a well known Vatted Malt. Vatted Malts have also (perhaps confusingly) been called Pure Malts in the past. Lastly, and not least, there is Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, a blend of Single Grain Scotch Whiskies which have been produced at more than one distillery. Ballantine’s Vitality (made mostly for the Far East) is a good example of this style. From November 2011, every bottle of Scotch Whisky released onto market must display one of the above categories prominently on their label. Anything that provides useful substantive information to consumers is, in my opinion, a Good Idea. The other key of course is to remember (and subscribe to your heart if you are really interested in Whisky) Scotland’s distinctive regional styles (Highlands, Islay, Cambeltown etc). This all leads us neatly on to the differences in style – the taste, flavour, character, what have you. This my friends, we will cover in part 2… Pip Martin