The thought of sipping on fine Scotch from a sparkling glass conjures up a certain rich ambience….muted music, the clinking of crystal and intriguing conversation. Historically thought of primarily as a man’s drink, Scotch now attracts women in increasing numbers, as they too enjoy the rich amber liquid as it caresses the taste buds with amazing flavours.
Scotch whisky is actually malt or grain whisky made in Scotland, in a manner specified by law. All Scotch whisky was originally made from malted barley until commercial distilleries introduced whisky made from wheat and rye in the late 18th century.
On a brilliant summer day, I ventured into Monashee’s private liquor retail store in downtown Vernon to meet with Jackie Dreger, who oversees the Scotch products in the store. She led us into a beautifully appointed room that houses their premium Scotches and wine, in the centre of this newly-designed space.
“Scotch has been just a little intimidating and mysterious for years, and I spent a lot of time in the company of men, with very few women Scotch drinkers on hand! I want to take the mystery and intimidation away for women, through education and events and creating exposure,” she explains.
By law, Scotch must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. It is divided into five categories: single malt Scotch whisky, single grain Scotch whisky, blended malt Scotch whisky, blended grain Scotch whisky and blended Scotch whisky. There are also five regions in Scotland where Scotch is made – The Highlands, The Lowlands, Campbeltown, Speyside and the Isle of Islay.
We turned our attention to Bruichladdich Scotch from the Isle of Islay. A classic Scotch, it is floral and complex. It is Trickle distilled from 100 per cent Scottish Barley. This Scotch matures for all its life in the warehouses on the shores of Loch Indall and is bottled at the distillery, using Islay spring water. It is natural whiskey, non-chill filtered and colouring free. They are, as they say, unashamedly experimental. Challenging convention is in their very DNA.
As Jackie pointed out, all Scotch is whiskey but not all whiskey is Scotch. The barrels in which the Scotch is aged have been previously used to age Sherry, Bourbon, Rum, Sauternes or Madeira.
In Monashee’s beautiful new store, Jackie has two types of Bruichladdich Scotch for our private tasting. The Scotch is terroir-driven and all of the work involved in creating it is done by hand. There is no automation or computers involved in the production of these sumptuous bottles. The first, The Classic Laddie, consists of 50 per cent alcohol by volume.
Each bottle has a code on it, and when you enter that number online, you’ll receive incredibly thorough information regarding that specific bottle of Scotch. Details such as the type of barrel it was aged in and what the blend is comprised of are just some of the facts you’ll learn.
The Classic Laddie is an unpeated single malt, which means it is made from a single type of grain. You’ll find smoky hints of caramel and butterscotch and a silky feel in the mouth.
The second Bruichladdich Scotch is the Port Charlotte, named after a town near the distillery. A single malt, it has 40 ppm of peat and 50 per cent alcohol. It is a cuvee as well. The Port Charlotte is reminiscent of bonfire, butterscotch and white pepper.
Peat is organic vegetation that forms in a bog, which is smoked on perforated metal sheets. The Distiller dries it out and smokes it for a number of hours or even days, depending on the degree of peaty flavour he wants in that particular Scotch.
Jackie said that the Distiller who created these products has since retired, and she laughs at the occupational hazard of being a distiller.
“If a distiller is making a twenty or thirty year old whiskey, he’s got a long wait!”
Gez McAlpine, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich, will be in Vernon in October to lead a master class. You’ll have the opportunity to taste and learn about their wonderful Scotch, whether you’re a new Scotch drinker or have been enjoying its distinctly delicious flavours for years! You’ll taste five or six different Scotches, including the newly-released Black Arts. Check the Monashee web site for times and details, at www.monashees.ca .
Whether you’re cuddled up in front of a roaring fire in the winter, or sitting around the backyard fire pit in the summer, it’s a great time to enjoy Scotch. Like wine, you’ll enjoy it the first time you sip it but your pleasure increases as your knowledge about the product expands. There is a lot to learn about Scotch, but then again, a crystal glass and a bottle of Port Charlotte or The Classic Laddie is all you need to set yourself on this journey of the senses.