We were pleasantly delighted to learn that the Kyrö distillery, which makes rye whisky, had recently set up shop in the picturesque municipality of Isokyrö in western Finland. The whisky industry is not immune to globalization. The success of distilleries like Melbourne’s Starward and Tel Aviv’s Milk and Honey proves that whisky can thrive anywhere there’s room for a barrel. I don’t know. Perhaps in the new year the whisky path will expand to include some unexpected cities. This is truly a global event.
The Quest for an Identity: Japanese Whisky
On our quest for real life, we learned an interesting thing about Japanese whisky. This has led to some brands passing off Scotch, Canadian, or unidentified whisky as Japanese to meet the soaring demand and inadequate supply. While it may be tempting to slap some kanji on a bottle and cash in on the trend, we advise against it. Eventually, rules will have to be tightened in this area.
Whisky, Millenials, and Money
We’re not the only ones cutting back on booze; several of our friends have done the same. So why is that? Constraints on disposable income and the drive to improve one’s health. However, we may know someone who is selling a Japanese whisky called “Koi,” so keep that in mind if you’re on the lookout.
Age Is Only A Number
The realization that whisky doesn’t have to be aged to be good came to us this year. We reflected on the eight-year-old Lagavulin we had tasted, which had held its own against much older whiskies. While older whiskies certainly have their allure, the vivacity, and youthfulness of newer ones can be just as enjoyable.
The Truth About Highballs
It was so hot in the summer of 2023 that highballs quickly became our drink of choice. Refreshing and adaptable, they quickly became a fixture in our daily lives. Whisky highballs are great for any occasion like relaxing after a workout, getting ready for a big meeting, or just hanging out. Mix two parts sparkling water to one part whisky, add ice, and garnish.
Whisky, Without the Wheat and the Guilt
It has been discovered that whisky does not contain gluten. The distillation procedure eliminates any trace of gluten even if the grains used to make the product contain the protein. So, whisky is still there for you, even if you have to cut off gluten.
The Mythology of the Bottle
In the heart of whisky conversations, there often emerge tales that extend beyond the drink itself, reaching into the realm of legends. Two distinct stories caught our ear, adding a layer of intrigue to our whisky discovery this year.
1. The Birth of a Blend in Kentucky:
While sipping on our beloved spirits, it’s easy to forget that sometimes the creation of a blend can be inspired by the most unexpected events. We mentioned a fan who made a trip to Kentucky, resulting in a new blend. But what makes this truly fascinating is the influence that regular enthusiasts can exert on renowned distilleries. Consider the audacity and passion it takes for a whisky lover to visit and communicate a vision for a new flavor profile. This demonstrates the evolving relationship between producers and consumers, where dialogue becomes a tool for innovation. It reiterates the significance of consumer feedback, and how it can sometimes lead to the birth of a new, iconic blend.
2. The Power of Presentation:
A bottle is more than just a container; it’s a canvas. Historically, whisky bottles, with their intricate labels, designs, and sometimes even the shape of the bottle itself, often narrate tales from the distillery’s past or hint at the flavor profile within. For instance, using kanji or fish symbols on a Japanese whisky bottle isn’t just for aesthetics; they’re symbolic representations. Kanji characters, being an essential part of the Japanese writing system, might allude to tradition and authenticity. In contrast, fish might symbolize freshness or the purity of the water used. It’s crucial to understand these visual cues because they add to the charm and provide a glimpse into the intricate world of whisky-making and branding.
This Never-Ending Pursuit of “The Best”
Can one name a “best whisky”? This year, we questioned the very concept of rankings due to our desire for the highly regarded William Larue Weller Bourbon. It’s all subjective, much like music or painting. Even still, we can’t help but wonder more about this bourbon, which has been said to be as exquisite as divine dew.
The Frequent Appearance of the Term ‘Glen’ in Scottish Whisky Brands
Why is this simple four-letter word so entwined with the very fabric of Scottish distilleries?
The term ‘glen’ means valley in Gaelic. Scotland, with its rugged terrain, boasts numerous valleys, many of which have been the birthplaces of iconic whisky brands. Historically, these valleys provided natural resources like pure water sources and barley-growing plains, crucial for whisky production.
Take, for instance, Glenfiddich. Nestled in the lush Speyside’s valley, its name translates to “Valley of the Deer” – a nod to its origin and the rich environment that nourishes its ingredients. Even today, if you visit, you’ll find the Glenfiddich symbol proudly showcasing a stag.
Then there’s Glenlivet, which means “valley of the smooth-flowing one.” This poetic description is a tribute to the Livet Valley, where crystal-clear streams snake their way through and play an essential role in the whisky’s distillation process.
This frequent ‘glen’ mention isn’t merely a marketing ploy. It roots these brands to their place of origin, anchoring their identities firmly in the Scottish highlands and valleys. Every time we sip on a ‘glen’ whisky, we’re taking a sensory tour through these valleys, immersing ourselves in the natural beauty and centuries-old traditions.
We realised that our understanding is only scratching the surface. Even if we can order a Scotch at our local pub with complete assurance, there are still some unanswered questions. Why does Scotland have so many ‘glens’? Is Hibiki 17 truly unavailable? These secrets will be revealed with time, study, and maybe a wee dram of alcohol.