So what adult beverage do Wine Supervisors drink when they’re not drink wine? Well, I can’t speak for my WS colleagues, but I’ve been known to enjoy a good Stout or Porter, now and then. And when it comes to a higher octane choice, i.e. distilled versus fermented, I’m very fond of Single Malt Scotch.
Which style of single malt, you might ask? Well, I kind of like them all. Just like wine, there can be distinct regional flavors between whiskies made in different parts of Scotland. On one hand, you have the lightly smoky, slightly fruity and honeyed versions from the Highlands for example. In comparison, there’s the pungent, iodine tinged, ultra smoky ones from the coastline near Islay. I fancy myself a bit of a Single Malt collector and have a little liquor cabinet that I keep my selections in (yes, it’s right next to my wine refrigerator).
Regardless of the regional style, there is an important common thread amongst most scotch whisky: the use of malted barley as the grain source (malted barley is barley that’s been allowed to germinate) and the drying of the grain using smoke generated by peat-fired kilns. It is this smoking practice that gives Scotch is unique flavor profile. It is also what distinguishes it from another famous barley-based distillate: Irish Whiskey. It is standard in Ireland to not use peat to dry their barley. Hot air is the most common practice. It is also common to use a combination of malted and un-malted barley.
I’ll admit that Irish Whiskey was a bit of a foreign subject to me. Sure, I’ve had the occasional shot in my coffee après ski to warm up after a cold morning on the slopes, but that’s about it. That was until I had the opportunity to sample the complete lineup of Jameson Irish Whiskies in Naples this past week at an educational event hosted by Jameson and Southern Wine and Spirits.
Those in attendance had a chance to taste 4 excellent bottlings: Jameson Irish Whiskey, Jameson 12 Years Old, Jameson Gold Reserve, and Jameson 18 Years Old. Each example was expressive in its own right with hints of wheat, nuts, wood, dried fruit, green herbs and white pepper spice and not a trace of smoke to be found. And as is often the case, the older the whiskey, the more complex and round they were on the palate. My personal favorite was the Jameson Gold Reserve, a 15 year old whiskey. Everyone else seemed to favor the 18 year old, which was also terrific.
Conclusions: Irish Whiskey is a dignified spirit that even a Scotch lover can come to enjoy (and it appears that there’ll soon be one added to my Scotch cabinet).
Jim Greeley, Wine Supervisor, SW Florida