Malt Whisky

This page is no more than a very personal and brief introduction to the fascinating subject of malt whiskies. A blaggers guide to the water of life, how to sound knowledgeable in one easy lesson.

At the Annandale we stock about fifty single malt whiskies, a couple of vatted malts, a single grain and a breakfast whisky!

We have found that keeping more than fifty bottles on the shelf you inevitably end up with some old bottles with dried up stoppers and a couple of shots in the bottom which are well past their prime. It is a bit like offering too many wines by the glass or ‘meals served all day’ unless there is a huge turn over it is to be avoided, the whisky equivalent of yesterdays rissoles.

New distilleries are becoming like London buses nothing for ages then three no four in a row. Abhainn Dearg on Lewis is the latest. It will be available in the spring 2011

Daftmill Distillery in Fife is Scotlands newest distillery yet to produce but watch this space

Kilchoman, a new distillery has opened on Islay and the first expression is now available. Hopefully we shall be able to obtain a sample shortly.

Our namesake the old Annandale distillery in Annan is soon to be awakened from a very long slumber.

A few Scottish Technical Terms for the visitors:

To drink is to swallow or ‘to have a wee swally’

To be thirsty is to be dry or in extreme drought, hence ‘a droughtie fellow’ is one in need of a drink.

If you offer to buy a drink an affirmative reply could be ‘Aye,a half and a half’. That is a half of whisky (i.e. half a gill about 75cl) and half a pint of heavy(beer). Only a half a pint of heavy is taken as there is a danger of becoming full prematurely, as opposed to being ‘fou’ and the aim is to be full and fou simultaneously.

The following are some of the malts that we stock on a regular basis. Where possible links have been put to the relevant distilleries. The larger the companies the worse the web sites plus the more information they require so in some cases we just gave up.

The Areas

For simplicity Scotland has been divided into three areas, namely, the Islands especially Islay, the Highlands and the Lowlands

Islay has seven malt whisky distilleries all of which produce peaty malts. That is that phenolic taste, TCP, creosote, tarry taste, call it what you may. If you can remember the names of the seven Islay (rhymes with tiler) distilleries you are on the way to becoming connoisseur. Shortly this group is to be augmented to eight in all as Kilchoman (pronounced kilhoman) becomes available.

Ardbeg

Bowmore

Bruichladdich ‘Brewk-laddie’

Bunnahabhain ‘Booner-harven’ bh and mh is a v soundso from abhain to avon a river mouth of the river

Caol Ila ‘Cool- Eela’

Lagavulin vulin is a mill bit like the French moulin hence laga-voolin mill in a hollow

Laphroaig ‘La-froig’

Other Islands

Highland Park over looks Scapa Flow, Orkney. Scotlands most northerly distillery.

Lochranza Arran

Jura

Oban

Talisker, Skye

Tobermory, Mull and Ledaig their smoky malt pronounced Ledjig. The d becomes a j sound, think of the Irish word eejit for idiot.

Lowland Malts

Lowland malts are far less well known and fewer in number than their Highland and Island cousins so if you can familiarise yourself with half a dozen or so lowland malts there is a fair chance that anything else is from the highlands and probably Speyside.

Auchentoshan (triple distilled)

Bladnoch just down the road from Moffat, Scotlands most southerly distillery. Until Annan awakes? Those familiar with the childrens song Aiken Drum will know of the Brownie of Bladnoch

Glenkinchie

Glen Scotia

Ladyburn

Littlemill a personal favourite

Rosebank was once described as the worlds best “Breakfast Whisky” by a local farmer, Arthur McPhail, having been out lambing all night in wind and rain he insisted that a half of Rosebank was the perfect receipt for a brief nap before going back on the hill for another twelve hours.

Springbank

Highland Malts

The main malt producing area in Scotland which in turn is dominated by the river Spey hence Speyside malts. My own recommendation are Cragganmore, Glenfarclas and Dalmore.

Aberlour

Balvenie

Carddhu dhu means black, dark or even hidden

Cragganmore

Dalmore

Dalwhinnie

Deanston

Glenfarclas

Glenfiddich

Glengoyne

Glen Keith

Glenlivet

Glenmorangie morangie rhymes with “m orangie” not “more angie”

Glen Moray

Glenrothes

Glenturret

Knockando

Macallan

Glen Ord

Pulteney Distillery was built by William Johnstone of Dumfriesshire. He changed his name to Pulteney on marriage to the heiress of the Earl of Bath. An interesting man he was a patron of both Robert Adam and Thomas Telford. It was Telford who built the distillery.

Royal Lochnagar how deep is Lochnagar? Its a mountain

Drumguish

Strathisla

Tamdhu tam is a hill+dhu black,dark hill

Tamnavulin

Tomintoul

Tullibardine

There is always a debate on whether to put water in your whisky or not. The quality of water is important, we are lucky here in Moffat the Annandale water is excellent. The bar fly who usually drinks nothing but woddy and lemonade will wax lyrical on “the only thing to put in whusky is muir whusky” but generally it is accepted by those in the know that a splash of water opens out the taste. This is important when comparing whiskies of differing strength such as the 105. Cask strength Glenfarclas is 105% proof or 60%ABV so it tends to adhere to the gums if tried neat.

The story goes that percentage proof spirit which is the old way that the alcoholic strength was measured could be checked very simply. The exciseman always carried a flint lock pistol. If he primed the pan of the pistol with black powder and dampened it with 100% proof spirit or stronger the pan would ignite if the spirit were less that 100% it would not.

So now that you are familiar with a large proportion of the distilleries of Scotland remember to keep your powder dry. I offer you a toast that the ship builders of the Clyde used at the end of a hard days.

“Swarfega”

Jimmy McKeyboard