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Like the fine wines of the world, the single malt whiskies of Scotland are grouped by region. Traditionally there were four whisky distilling regions, these regions have more to do with old regulations and taxation systems than anything else. The four main Whisky Regions of Scotland are Campbeltown, Islay, Lowlands and the Highlands. Speyside and the Islands are generally accepted as sub-divisions of the Highlands region. Each of these individual regional groups do to some extent produce many whiskies which are similar in their broad basic flavours, although there are certainly a few exceptions. Whisky regional characteristics are not quite as clear cut as with wines. You will find that many whiskies from the same region have similar characteristics in taste and style, but this is more of a guideline rather than a set rule. The final flavour of a whisky is determined more by the equipment used and the methods used to produce each whisky rather than by the geographical location of where the whisky is produced.
Campbeltown lies towards the end of the Mull of Kintyre peninsula on the West Coast of Scotland. Today there are only three distilleries producing whisky here, but in days gone by there were over 30 distilleries here. The Campbeltown single malts are very distinctive, tending to be full bodied, renowned for their depth of flavour and also for their slightly salty finish. With peat adding a hint of flavour similar to
that found in an Islay malt.
The Highlands is by far the largest of all the whisky producing regions and offers you the greatest variations of style. You will find some of the best known distilleries in this region. On the mainland in the Western Highlands there are only a few distilleries. The malts from these West Highland distilleries are much less peaty than the malts which are found in the Islay region, although you can detect a slight whiff of smokiness. If there was a common character shared by West Highland whiskies it is they tend to have a sweet start and dryish finish.
The character of the far North Highland malts are greatly influenced by the local soil and the coastal location of the distilleries. They tend to be light bodied whiskies with a spicy character and a dryish finish, sometimes with a trace of saltiness. Malt whiskies from the Central, Southern and Eastern Highlands are quite a mixed bunch. They are generally fruity and sweet but not as sweet as the malts found in Speyside. They are lighter bodied and sweet and just like other Highland malts they tend to have a dry finish.
Like Speyside the Islands are not officially a whisky region, the Islands is another subdivision of the Highlands Region. The Islands are a geographical region rather than a characteristic one. The Islands region includes all of the whisky producing Isles of Scotland namely Mull, Skye, Orkney, Arran, Jura and Lewis. The Isle of Islay is considered a region on its own. Due to the location of the Islands distilleries their whiskies tend to have a coastal feel to them. They are slightly more peaty in character than most highland malts but not to the extent of peatiness that
you will find in Islay malts. The peatiness is generally softer and sweeter than there stronger cousins from Islay.
There are eight distilleries on the island of Islay (pronounced Eye-luh). Islay is located in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The island is often lashed by sea winds and rain, these elements certainly have a say in the whisky produced their. Islays surface is very flat and consists largely of peat, which has a huge influence on the flavour of the whiskies produced here. Islay whiskies are the strongest flavoured of all Scotch whiskies and tend to be dry and peaty. They are renowned for their strong peaty smokiness which comes from the peat fuel which they use for
malting the barley. The character of Islay malt whiskies are very often described as being very smoky and medicinal, salty and sea weedy with a dry finish and sometimes with quite a bite. The smoky flavour of Islay malts can be an acquired taste, but if you have a taste for a smoky dry
malt then Islay malts are the malts for you.
The Isle of Jura distillery was built in 1810, and was rebuilt in 1876. Like many other distilleries Jura closed in 1913 during World War I but it did not reopen after the war due to a dispute between the building owner and the distillery machinery owner. Jura lay siilent until 1958 when it was
rebuilt and reopened by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries. During the period it was owned by Scottish & Newcastle the Isle of Jura malt became an important part of the Mackinlay blend. The number of stills doubled in 1978 and their stills are amongst the tallest in the industry a factor which contributes to a light and pure spirit.
Invergordon Distillers acquired the distillery in 1985, they then went on to become part of the Whyte & Mackay group. Isle of Jura is now one of the key distilleries in the Whyte & Mackay Group. The malt produced at the distillery in the early days was more peaty than it is today it was similar to Islay malts, today Isle of Jura is a lightly peated whisky with a gentle Island character.
The Lowland region lies South of an imaginary line that runs from Greenock on the West coast of Scotland to Dundee in the East. Most of the Lowland malts produced in this region end up in blends, but there are a still a few single malts available to try from this region. Malts from this region are light in colour and have quite a dry finish. The dryness comes from the malt itself, not from peat as Lowland malts tend to be produced with unpeated malt. You may also find a certain sweet fruitiness to the flavour. Lowland malts are regarded as an excellent aperitif.
Generally speaking, Lowland region whiskies are mellower than whiskies from the neighbouring Highlands, and are very much appreciated by those new to malt Whisky and experienced malt drinkers alike.
Speyside is not officially a whisky region but it is generally accepted as a subdivision of the Highlands Region. Over half of all Scotland’s distilleries are located in Speyside. Speyside malts are typically the sweetest of all Scotch Whisky Malts and many of the most popular single malts are produced in Speyside. The huge selection of Speyside malts offer a variety of strengths and can generally be broken down
into two categories, the heavy, rich sherry flavoured malts and the more complex light floral flavoured malts. Speyside malts are essentially sweet whiskies, although some can have a little peaty character with just a slight whiff of smoke. The list of malts produced in this region of Scotland is pretty overwhelming, but some of the better known names include Glenfiddich, The Macallan, Balvenie, Glenlivet, Glenfarclas, Glen Moray and Aberlour.
The word “whiskey” is an Anglicisation of the first word in the Gaelic phrase, uisce beatha, meaning “water of life” The phrase was a translation of the Latin term aqua vitae, which was commonly used to describe distilled spirits during the Middle Ages.
An American barrel aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn. The name derives from the French Bourbon dynasty which ruled France in the 16th century.
Rye whiskey can refer to either of two, different, but related, types of Whiskey. American Rye Whiskey, which must be distilled from at least 51 percent rye. Canadian Whiskey, which is often referred to as (and often labeled as) rye whisky for historical reasons, although it may or may not
actually include any rye in its production process.
Whisky production in Japan began around 1870, but the first commercial production was in 1924 upon the opening of the country’s first distillery, Yamazaki. Broadly speaking the style of Japanese whisky is more similar to that of Scotch whisky than other major styles of whisky. There are several companies producing whisky in Japan, but the two best-known and most widely available are Suntory and Nikka. Both of these produce blended as well as single malt whiskies and blended maltwhiskies, with their main blended whiskies being Suntory kakubin (square bottle), and Black Nikka Clear. There are also a large number of special bottlings and limited editions. Further, in recent years a number of blind tastings have been organized by Whisky Magazine, which have included Japanese single malts in the lineup, along with malts from distilleries considered to be among the best in Scotland. On more than one occasion, the results have had Japanese single malts (particularly those of Nikka’s Yoichi and Suntory’s Yamazaki) scoring higher than their Scottish counterparts.
The name Vodka is a diminutive form of the Slavic word voda (water). The word Vodka was recorded for the first time in 1945.
After rum’s development in the Caribbean, the drink’s popularity spread to Colonial North America. To support the demand for the drink, the first rum distillery in the British colonies of North America was set up in 1664 on Staten Island. Boston, Massachusetts had a distillery three years later.The manufacture of rum became early Colonial New England’s largest and most prosperous industry. New England became a distilling center due to the technical, metalworking and cooperage skills and abundant lumber; the rum produced there was lighter, more like whiskey. Rhode Island rum even joined gold as an accepted currency in Europe for a period of time.Estimates of rum consumption in the American colonies before the American Revolutionary War had every man or woman, drinking an average of 3 imperial gallons (14 l) of rum each year.
Gin derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries (Juniperus communis). Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient.
Tequila made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco. Aside from differences in region of origin, tequila is a type of Mezcal (and the regions of production of the two drinks are overlapping). The distinction is that tequila must use only blue agave plants rather than any type of agave. Tequila is commonly served neat in Mexico and as a shot with salt and lime across the rest of the world.
A distinctive kind of brandy produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France. It is distilled from wine usually made from a blend of grapes including Baco 22A, Colombard, Folle blanche and Ugni blanc, traditionally using column stills rather than the pot stills used in the
production of cognac. The resulting spirit is then aged in oakbarrels before release. Production is overseen by the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) and the Bureau National Interprofessionel de l’Armagnac (BNIA). Armagnac was one of the first areas in France to begin
distilling spirits, but the overall volume of production is far smaller than cognac production and therefore is less known outside Europe. In addition, it is for the most part made and sold by small producers, whereas cognac production is dominated by big-name brands.
In Larressingle, two centuries of tradition yield the single best-selling Armagnac in the United States. Larressingle X.O. Grande Réserve Armagnac is produced from a cross-vintage blend of distillates of at least 15 to 20 years of age or more, as opposed to the legal minimum of five. This complex, virile and long-lived Armagnac is elegant and refined on the palate, with a subtle, smoky bouquet
hinting of prunes and hazelnuts and a smooth, lasting finish.
A variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding winegrowing region in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime. Cognac production falls under French Appellation d’origine contrôlée designation, with production methods and naming required to meet certain legal requirements. Among the specified grapes Ugni blanc, known locally as Saint-Emilion, is most widely used. The brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as whiskies and wine barrel age, and most cognacs spend considerably longer “on the wood” than the minimum legal requirement.
Calvados is distilled from cider made from specially grown and selected apples, from over 200 named varieties. It is not uncommon for a producer to use over 100 different apples, which are either sweet (such as the ‘Rouge Duret’ variety), tart (such as the ‘Rambault’ variety), or bitter
(such as the ‘Mettais’, ‘Saint Martin’, ‘Frequin’, and ‘Binet Rouge’ varieties), the latter being inedible. The fruit is harvested and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider. It is then distilled into eau de vie. After two years of aging in oak casks, it can be sold as calvados. The
longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually, the maturation goes on for several years.