TASH MCGILL LOOKS BEYOND THE WHISKY STEREOTYPES AND FINDS THERE’S ONE THERE FOR EVERYONE.
Whisky is the most romantic of all the spirits, whether you like an old-fashioned or modern kind of love story. What other drink pulls together ancient traditions, the importance of terroir, modern innovation and thoroughly local spirit? Whisky is a long, slow love affair that requires time, attention to detail and a little mystery. While distillation takes between four and seven days, the clear spirit is then gently laid down to sleep for at least two, three or ten years. Once the master distiller is satisfied that the whisky has reached optimal flavour, its amber glow is bottled and released into the world. Whisky drinkers once fell into almost comical caricatures: older gentlemen who drank Scotch whisky only and judged it by age and peat, or American cowboys or heavymetal lovers who slugged back Jim Beam bourbon or Jack Daniels and Coke.
Thankfully, the world of whisky is now truly global and there’s an open door to a rich spectrum of flavours, experiences and expressions. In Japan, whisky is made from an altogether different barley strain and blended for perfect harmony between the notes, while back in Islay, Scotland they are pushing the peat profile to extremes. Across the Atlantic in the United States, they now make single malt whisky from local barley on the West Coast and go rye-heavy in parts of the South that used to be known for their corn-heavy, syrupy sweet bourbons. In India, whisky is made in the Scotch tradition but falls into the honey-sweet and gentle spice category. Even here in New Zealand, we’re taking ancient traditions from our Celtic heritage but combining traditional distillation with mānuka smoke, local malted barley and then ageing our spirits in New Zealand wine casks. You may not have found a whisky you love yet, but that may just be because you haven’t met the right one for you.
Tash’s top picks….
(AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND)
This marriage of whiskies aged in traditional American oak with spirit aged in barrels formerly used for New Zealand wine is an exemplary expression that takes whisky to a new and interesting place. You’ll be mesmerised by caramel, sea salt, berries and a gentle, comforting spice.
A grand lady of traditional sherrycasked whisky, the A’bunadh is bottled at cask strength and batch made, intended to be savoured long and slow. It’s layered with raisin, rich fruit-cake notes with warm hazelnut and almond characters from the sherry cask.
An utterly complex whisky from Islay, the Uigeadail was voted the favourite Ardbeg by a committee of devoted fans. Traditional Ardbeg notes of dark chocolate, bitter coffee bean, lemon, sea salt and peat are married with old sherry casks for a well-rounded but multifaceted dram.
NEW ZEALAND WHISKY COLLECTION
(OAMARU, NEW ZEALAND)
OAMARUVIAN 18 YEAR OLD
These remnant barrels from the old Dunedin Willowbank Distillery were poured into American oak ex-bourbon casks and French oak wine barrels before ageing again and being blended for bottling. Another version of wine-finishing, in this bottle you’ll taste rich toffee, Dunedin sea salt, a little licorice and dried fruit before a melting buttercream finish.
(AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND)
MĀNUKA WOOD SMOKE
Made with 100% New Zealand–grown malted barley and then smoked with mānuka, this is still a young whisky. While it has some years to mature yet in the barrel, this ‘progress report’ has already won Gold and Silver medals on the world stage. It’s worth drinking now so you can also enjoy a later release. Smoke, cinnamon, clove and mānuka oils make it truly special.