JOHN McCHEYNE INTERVIEWED
"The miracle of a single barrel is that the taste of a single moment is captured." p>
Today we speak of the five whiskey regions Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. How are they different?
The classification has grown over many generations and summarizes certain flavors. Accordingly, Highland whiskeys are considered to be particularly spicy, with Speyside, for example, sweetness and fruitiness are associated, with Islay varieties notes of peat. But it's also about marketing. You can find Speyside peated whiskeys, of course, and unpeated lslays. Regional thinking emerged over time in response to the demand from blenders who expected certain flavors from distilleries. But distilleries in all regions can and are innovative. Also, some say that there is something very fascinating about the location of a distillery that cannot be repeated anywhere else.
The SMWS presumably does not have any regional focus - but which origin do you particularly value?
I really like lslay whiskeys and especially Laphroaig. This is where the feeling that I was talking about comes into play. The Laphroaig distillery was the first distillery I ever visited - in 1983, the year SMWS was founded. It's a great story - I'm looking forward to telling it to our German members. The visit back then was a very nice, friendly experience. Every drop of Laphroaig reminds me of that.
How is the Scotch industry doing right now?
Many say that bourbons and Irish whiskeys are booming right now. But Scotch sales are actually going up, a total of 7.8 percent and single malt in particular by 11.3 percent. The latter has become a huge phenomenon that distilleries have to go to great lengths to meet demand. You can also judge the situation by the fact that there are currently more than 120 distilleries in Scotland. 16 of them have opened in the past two to three years alone and further openings are foreseeable. In the UK we have 900 billion liters of rain a year. We go to great lengths to turn as much of it into whiskey as possible! Especially since we grow more barley per hectare of land than in any other country.
Are there any innovative developments?
We need to respect the rules in force about what whiskey is. Some other countries, unlike Scotland, have less strict guidelines or no guidelines at all for what can be called whisk (ey. For example, we are not allowed to add flavorings. Of course, our distillers experiment with barley varieties, yeasts and peat, or the production process. In particular, they rely on working with different barrels for innovations. Most single malt distilleries have different styles on offer.
Would you say Scotch is better than American or Irish whiskey?
Some will say I'm biased. But I like the idea that this is a broad field and that some varieties from the USA, Ireland or other countries are excellent. It is always difficult to compare - for example, when looking at a premium US bourbon and an entry-level Scottish blend. Scotch has advantages because of its history, the method of distillation and the enormous variety. Whiskey has been part of life in Scotland for hundreds of years. But I would never say: "Never try anything else"! The Westland Distillery in Seattle / USA, for example, produces a great single malt, and the John Paul Destillery in India also produces first-class whiskeys. I have also drunk bad scotch, on the other hand. It happens, but not often.
Which non-Scottish whiskeys have surprised you the most in recent years?
The aforementioned Westland, but also Armorik from France or the whiskey from Mackmyra in Sweden, St. Gorges in England and the Irish Midleton Barry Crockett. My favorite German whiskey is Slyrs - maybe the SMWS will buy a barrel one day.
If you could only buy one SMWS bottle - which one would it be?
The one with the number 29.156 - of course a Laphroaig, this one was stored in a sherry barrel. Unfortunately, it's sold out. I wish I had bought a box. Well, on the other hand we experience new taste revelations every month at SMWS.
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