I’m liable to fall out with one or two of my friends with this post as this is one of the most controversial topics discussed in Scotland. No, not politics, football or religion, but one thing more important that all of those, and something which brings all of those people together – I’m talking about our national drink, whisky.
If God was a Scotsman, and there is enough evidence to suggest that he is, then it makes perfect sense that he’s come up with something as beautiful as malt whisky. After time spent creating the mountains and lochs he though to himself, “I could do with a wee dram.”
It’s possible to take a tour of Scotland without ever leaving your room. I know, because I’ve done it several times. Simply gather a few friends, have each of them bring a bottle of malt whisky from a different part of Scotland and let the tasting and banter begin.
Even the most unsophisticated of palates will recognise the differences between them, – from the smoky taste of the peaty Islay malts to the light, watery feeling of the lowland malts.
But one area trumps them all – Speyside. Along the banks and nested in the fields of the River Spey area there are more than 50 distilleries, many of which are open to visitors and whisky tours.
A year or so back I spent 4 days at a small country hotel in Grantown on Spey whilst at their local whisky festival. What an education! The bonus was that William, the hotel owner, was a bit of an afficianado himself and was able to give me even more insight into my favourite tipples.
Speyside malts are characterised by a mellow smoothness and a warming, lingering taste on the tongue that stays just long enough to get your attention before blowing you a kiss goodbye. Oftentimes there is a subtle taste of vanilla and I swear you can taste the sunshine from the long summer days in every glassful.
If this all sounds somewhat romantic you’d be correct. Many a Scotsman, and women, have fallen in love with good whisky. It’s not something that I, or most, overdo, and like a fine cigar or wine, it is something to be experienced, savoured and is best when shared with companions.
And my absolute favourite? Well, it’s not a particularly expensive one, but if I had to take one last dram before I shuffled off this earth it would be a glass of Speyburn Bradan Orach Single Malt Whisky, with just the smallest of splashes of water to bring out the flavour.