The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2011

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Page 112 of 128

Stream ELEMENTS OF TASTING Consciousness of DISCOVERING THE ESSENCE OF SCOTCH TERROIR by W. Blake Gray S cotch single malts are the world's most interest- ing whiskies. Like wine, they're very different based on location. But why? What makes up the terroir of Scotch? First, we must stipulate that terroir and delicious- ness are not related. The Dalmore makes several elegant scotches enhanced through the judicious use of barrels that previously held madeira, sherry and port. That's not terroir, even if it tastes great. The most obvious factor in the terroir of wine— soil—doesn't matter in scotch because barley is now mostly grown in central locations by contract farmers. Moreover, unlike with wine grapes, it's hard to tease out the difference made by barley varieties. I tried one delicious scotch made from a single variety—The Glenlivet Nàdurra Triumph 1991; "Triumph" was the barley. But it's too late to make more, as farmers have moved on to higher-producing varieties. That shows how little respect is given to barley. Could it be the way the barley is malted? Islay whiskies are famous for peatiness because islanders needed to burn peat to heat their stills. That's terroir, right? Perhaps 30 years ago, but not anymore. Only six distilleries in Scotland do their own malting. Most scotch makers now order barley malted to the formula they request, with peat accurately controlled in parts per million. If a Speyside distillery wants to make a whisky more peaty than Ardbeg, there's no reason it can't. Many believe the place where the whisky is aged plays a role. From Springbank's website: "This salty, fresh trademark of Springbank's has to do with its Laphroaig dammed the Kilbride stream to assure a continuous supply of the water throughout the year. 112 / the tasting panel / october 201 1 The Glenlivet stream. PHOTO COURTESY OF LAPHROAIG

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