We probably owe the Celts a good debt of gratitude. Because, a good thousand years ago, they learned the art of distillation from the ancient Romans – and brought it to Scotland. And from that point every crop that could, would – with great creativity and commitment – be mashed and fermented in the huge copper stills. As the latin “aqua vitae” – water of life, these precious spirits were well cherished along the ancient Roman empire. In Scotland, the Celts called their water of life “uisce beatha” in Gaelic – or “uisce” for short. And later: “whisky”. After storing and maturing in wooden casks for at least four years, the first Scotch was born. Golden, fragrant and unique, the Scotch was immediately comforted with increasing popularity. And to this day, only Whisky crafted from Scottish tradition may bear the title “Scotch” – an indicator for superior quality and special craftsmanship. The additional “e” in whiskey was merely a clever idea of the Irish distilleries to distinguish their product from the Scottish spirits. Today, what may be labeled either way is solely dependent on the recipe and the used manner of preparation. Because good whisky is something genuinely special. Just as Humphrey Bogart so famously stated: “One must always be ahead of life by at least one whisky.” And that sums it up fairly neat.
When Daniel Whittington tells the story of whisky, you believe him. Not just because, with his Irish heritage and the furious black beard, he looks a bit like a pirate – but because of the heave gold medal chain around his neck: Daniel Whittington is professional whisky-sommelier and vice president of the “Whisk(e)y Marketing School”. All good reasons to believe and trust in the man. Especially when he opens up the “vault” – a massive walk-in storage room. Stacked from top to bottom with well over 650 selected whisky bottles to reinforce his credibility.
Taste lies in the eye of the beholder. Whisky is no different. Mashed from corn (bourbon), barley (malt), wheat (grain) or rye: different ingredients will result in various flavour profiles. But not until the spirit is matured in oak casks (also brandy, sherry and cognac barrels are (re-)used) it develops its characteristic colour and signature taste. A “blended” whisky combines different barrels of different maturities to create an especially unique and complex experience. “Whisky friendly invites you to find your personal favourite.”, knows the sommelier. Especially pleasant for the humble beginner: The Compass Box Hedonism Quindecimus Whisky. Limited to 6.000 bottles, this blended Scotch surprises with an abundant symphony of honey and warm wood notes over a flowery bouquet. What sounds like the description of a romantic painting will conjure an affected smile on the face of any whisky-freshman.
Who wants to truly “experience” whisky, does it out of a whisky glass. The curvature of the glass helps the curious nose to fully capture the volatile oils and fragrances. The smell opens whole new worlds of savour: Vanilla and butter biscuits. Cinnamon and mother’s apple pie. Peat and rugged leather. Salt and smoke. Diverse and compelling. Centuries of experience in the traditional crafting methods make for the unique profile. So when an old copper still would be replaced with a new, it was not uncommon for the master distillers, to hammer every dent and pump into the replacement to match the old one. When it comes to great taste, nothing is left to chance! Especially famous are the whisky-creations coming from the small stormy islands of Scotland. Proof in taste comes with the Isle of Jura “One and All“: a special limited edition Single Malt soft amber. And an agitative composition of black current, white chocolate and a lingering hint of sherry cask finish.
“Show me the way to the next whisky bar”, demanded The Doors. Who visits a good whisky bar, will always get served with a still water and a mysterious glass straw. Why? Because the combination of whisky and water can open whole new worlds of taste! A few drops of water from the glass straw can separate the oily from the water soluble components and bring out the full potential of the whisky. A matter of taste! Because – just as the magnificent Mark Twain once said: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whisky is barely enough.” Recommended for the adventurous: The Laphroaig Islay Single Malt 25yrs. Tastes thrillingly of stormy seas, salty winds and the vast Scottish highlands.
When one asks the whisk(e)y-sommelier Daniel Whittington what is the best whisky and how to best drink it, he laughs a pirate-laugh: “There is only one rule to it: The best whisky is the whisky that you like to drink. And the right way to drink it, is the way you want to drink it. And whoever says otherwise, is a pretentious braggart!” So with whisky it is actually utterly easy, really. If you have it on the rocks, with a few drops of water of neat: whisky is the high spirits of life. A certain soulfulness comes with it, a kilted Scotsman would agree. And soulfulness is best shared. And perhaps for that very reason, today one can experience whisky-creations from all over the world. For example from the Austrian oak cask: Pfanner Single Barrel Scotch Austrian Oak No.19 – limited to 500 bottles, this special creation combines centuries of Scottish tradition within a genuine whisky from the alps!