It's time for some warming winter fuel

If winter is not upon us, it's certainly pretty close. It won't be long before sunsets at 3pm will join the blasts of cold winds and hats and gloves that have suddenly become part of life in the past couple of weeks. Winter brings its own particular miseries, but many delights. Cosy nights in with candles and hot chocolate, Christmas lights rather than bedraggled flags decorating the streets near our house, winter cooking and the strange pleasure of a bracing run on a crisp and clear winter's morning.

But let's not forget one of winter's Princes: Whisky. Yes, that's right, Scotch Whisky, not it's Irish cousin Whiskey. When it comes to malted barley and water my heart remains in Scotland.

I'm sure distilleries across Scotland would want to challenge my winter/whiskey correlation and yes, whiskey is good irrespective of the month. But a wee dram on a cold winter's night is an absolute delight. Improved only by a roaring open fire and the company of friends.

In years past I've switched between three choices for my warming winter fuel: Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and the Balvenie Doublewood 12 yr old. Now I reach the point of decision. Break with tradition and select something new, or make a choice from one of three tried and tested faithful winter companions? Decisions, decisions!

Another addition to the 'things I miss about Scotland' is the paucity of a good bottle shop. Tescos & Sainsbury's may offer an attractive price, but there is just something wrong about buying single malt scotch three aisles up from the toilet paper. Luvians in St Andrews or Edinburgh's specialty Whiskey shops are sorely missed.

Recommendations, opinions and tasting notes welcomed.



November 9, 2008 at 4:13:00 PM GMT Quizbo said...

Nice post! I have to agree, there's absolutely nothing like a good Scotch whisky on a blustery and dark winter's night.

A personal all-time favorite winter warmer is the Laphroig 15yr. I could drink the 10 year like water, but there is just something so enveloping about the smooth, rich smokiness of the 15... a nice dram with a chunk of good dark chocolate and I'm in heaven.

Some other really nice winter warmers I've discovered over the years are:

- the Caol Ila 18yr... beautiful Islay malt with good, rich smokiness and a uniquely subtle sweetness to it. Really a whisky with superb character, even though it may lack some of the peat monster punch of a Laphroaig or Lagavulin (for mild peat-phobes like my father, that can only be a good thing!)

- Highland Park 18yr... wow, what a stunner. Costs an extra penny or two, but really a beautiful, rich malt that bring out so much of the character of the Orkneys. If there was ever a place that knew how to survive a long winter, it's the Orkneys!

- Aberlour a'bunadh... another slightly pricier one, but man, what an incredible gem this whisky is. There's really nothing else out there quite like it, and the Aberlour 10yr is so different you'd have a hard time believing they're from the same distillery. Bottled at cask strength (I think somewhere around 60%), this one can pack a punch, but what a welcome punch that is. Layer upon layer of caramel, sticky fruits (like tart apricots laid out in the sun), rich vanilla and a dash of fire... a super-classic whisky. No peat to warm your bones, but this highland blended pure malt has more than enough under its belt to make up for a lack of peat.

So enjoy my friend and happy hunting! Let us know which one you go for!


November 9, 2008 at 7:19:00 PM GMT Robbie Boyd said...

Glenmorangie every time (in the Scotch division anyway). The original is great, but if you can lay hands on the Quinta Ruban port cask aged... well that's just wonderful.

Another great winter drink is ginger wine - impossible to be cold drinking it and has the peculiar property of being the only drink I know whose strong flavour can be tempered by diluting with (cheaper, not good stuff) whiskey to make a "whiskey mac".