What’s this?! That map down there doesn’t look much like Scotland!
Well spotted – we’re exploring Japan this time around. The land of the rising sun has an almost century-long whisky tradition which was begun by the founder of the Nikka Whisky company, Masataka Taketsuru, in 1920. Many Japanese whiskies are world-class; this Nikka “Pure Malt” Taketsuru 21 has won several awards and as I write this, the 17-year-old version has just won “Best Blended Malt” at Whisky Magazine’s World Whiskies Awards. It’s not just Nikka either; Suntory has an excellent line of single malts, especially from their Yamazaki distillery (I highly recommend the 12-year-old or the 18-year-old, both superb).
I love getting to try new stuff, especially if it’s not easy to find here in BC. This Talisker falls into that category – usually this bottling is only available in duty-free stores in airports or at a few UK specialty shops. A friend of mine was traveling back from England last week, and generously offered up the meager duty-free allowance you’re given in Canada to my constant quest for new whisky. I asked him to grab the 57° North if he could find it which he was good enough to do. So thanks, Simon!
Talisker is famously the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, up in the north-west of Scotland. Built in 1830, it suffered a devastating fire in 1960 and had to be rebuilt. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence with distilleries; in fact while on a tour around Aberlour it was mentioned that most originally built in the 19th century have suffered fires. The milling process is especially dangerous as it results in a fine haze of suspended particles that is actually explosive. No flash photography of an operating mill if you visit a distillery, please!
Ever feel that there’s just too much whisky out there? A common question that is seen frequently around the internet, and that I’ve been asked myself, is “Well, I’ve tried a <Glenfiddich/Glenlivet> 12 year old and quite liked it; what on earth do I try next?” In this article I’ll attempt to answer that. Typically the questioner is looking for good quality but also good value too; after all, it’s often an expensive risk buying a bottle of whisky that you haven’t tried. Keeping the cost down is always worthwhile!
As part of Hopscotch last year, I was lucky enough to attend a “Scotch and Chocolate” tasting at the amazing Legacy Liquor Store. One of the selections was this Coopers Choice bottling of a Knockdhu 10-year from 1998 (which was paired with a Madagascan dark chocolate if you’re interested!). It stood out immediately as a very different experience to the other whiskies at the tasting, and I bought one of the few bottles available immediately afterwards. So what was it that made it so memorable?
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at the origins of this delicate and delicious spirit. Knockdhu is not one of the major single-malt distilleries and you could be forgiven for being unfamiliar with it. Located in Aberdeenshire in the tiny village of Knock, the distillery was built in 1893 and and began production in 1894. Knockdhu was producing spirit for almost a hundred years before closing in 1983 during a widespread slump in the Scotch whisky industry. Happily, it was bought some time later by Inver House Distillers and re-opened in 1989. These days it produces single malts under the name “anCnoc”, as the name “Knockdhu” was considered too close to Knockando, another distillery not too far away.