Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

Long about 9:00 PM on every New Year's Eve, Liquor Claus's father, Liquor Claus Emeritus will take down whatever bottle of Scotch he happens to be enjoying at the moment and offer a dram to all the menfolk present. Well, he would actually be more than happy to share some with the womenfolk present, too, but he knows by now that they won't take him up on the offer. Every year it's a different bottle; in years past, I remember Glenlivet, Lagavulin, and Talisker. This year, it was Strathisla 12 year old.

Strathisla is a Speyside distillery that is principally known for providing the heart of the blend for the Chivas Regal blended Scotch whiskies. The Chivas brothers were Aberdeen grocers in the middle of the 19th Century, and like many other Scottish grocers, they branched into Scotch blending. Almost from the very start, the malt whisky from the Strathisla distillery (also known as Milton and Milltown at various points in its existence) formed an important component of those blends. In 1950, Seagram, which had acquired the Chivas Regal brand at some point along the way, also acquired the Strathisla distillery, largely to ensure the availability of Strathisla malt for Chivas blends. Strathisla still doesn't have a huge capacity, and because it's so important to Chivas Regal and because Chivas Regal is much more of a cash cow for Pernod Ricard (the current owner) than Strathisla ever could be, it's still a bit difficult to find as a single malt. But find it (and share it) Liquor Claus Emeritus did.

My first impression was, "Wow, this Scotch is dry." Most liquor has at least some impression of sweetness, but not this one. And that was despite the fact that I could smell the nuttiness of sherry (which is typically although not always sweet) in the Scotch, indicating that it had been at least partially aged in used sherry butts. After a couple of minutes, I started picking up a good deal of malt, too, but that initial impression of dryness remained. I like this and would not turn down a glass (or bottle) in the future; but I don't think that I would seek it out again. But thank you, Liquor Claus Emeritus!

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