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Arran

Arran 14 years old (70cl 46%)

€63.89 $67.78 £53.99

Chocolate

Cocoa, cream, coffee beans

“Scotch and Chocolate” is the name of an instrumental piece from the American bluegrass band Nickel Creek. Bluegrass musicians generally know a thing or two about whisky, and right enough, the two are natural pairings (that goes both for Scotch and chocolate and for whisky and bluegrass!) - not least because many Scotch whiskies themselves have flavours that can be compared to chocolate, whether it be the creaminess of milk chocolate or the richness and coffee-bean-like bitterness of dark chocolate.

Chocolatey flavours are often the result of sherry-cask maturation, much like dried fruit - indeed, the two flavours often go together, as with the classic Macallans or Glendronachs. In particular, younger whiskies - especially blends - containing a proportion of sherry-matured malt often have an overtly sweet milk-chocolate character; older malts often become richer and more bitter, with dark chocolate or coffee notes. Dalmore is an excellent example of the latter, while a lighter style is key to the appeal of the underrated islander Tobermory.

The rich and heavy sweet flavours encapsulated by this flavour profile are often the result of the charring of oak casks, which produces compounds known as lactones (so named because of their similarity, in terms of flavour, to dairy products). It is therefore entirely consistent that the creamy, buttery characteristics of this flavour are often associated with bourbon: the new wood which gives bourbon its particular character provides strong chocolatey flavours, represented in Scotland by Glen Garioch Virgin Oak or Auchentoshan Virgin Oak; Talisker Storm is another good example, where freshly-charred rejuvenated casks provide a buttery, bourbon-like mouthfeel missing from the refill-cask-matured 10-year-old.

Chocolatey flavours are an obvious complement to the more dairy-like or milky elements of certain cigar styles - Rafael Gonzales or Hoyo de Monterrey would be good pairings, for example.

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Malt

Cereal, floral notes, nuts

The malted barley from which single malt is made has a distinctive flavour of its own, which can often still be clearly tasted after many years of maturation. In comparison to rye or the corn of bourbon, it is quite a savoury flavour, an ideal canvas for the multifaceted influences of different wood types which make single malt Scotch so diverse. Similar flavours often found in single malt are those of nuts, such as almond and hazelnut, and a floral or grassy aroma much like that of the Highland meadows where the barley is grown.

These malty flavours are often strongest in the bold and powerful Highland drams, where cask type and still shape are aimed towards emphasising the natural kick of the barley. The influence of Oloroso casks often imparts that same nuttiness that is so distinctive of the sherry itself, meaning that this set of flavours may be found in both young whiskies (where the barley has yet to be swamped by the influence of the cask) and in certain older expressions (when matured in Oloroso casks).

Scotland’s favourite single malt, Glenmorangie Original, is perhaps the archetypical example of the light and grassy style that is one possible embodiment of this flavour profile. Its bolder Highland brethren, not least those of the Eastern Highlands like Glen Garioch, Royal Lochnagar, and Glencadam, proudly bear the stamp of their grain. It is also present in many of the Speyside whiskies which play down their fruity elements in favour of something more bold and meaty, such as Benrinnes or Mortlach. The flavour pairs well with many common cigar flavours, such as grass, nuts, or toast.

Salt

Brine, seaweed, cured meats, oil, vinegar

Any distillery tour guide will tell you of the importance of the environment for maturing whisky. After all, it takes only a couple of days to distill the spirit, but it will be slumbering in a warehouse for a minimum of three years, and often more like ten or twenty. The local environment is often described as a key factor in the particular flavour profile of any given distillery’s produce. For many, this may have more to do with romanticism than fact: but for those distilleries situated by the coast, it has a very real effect. When the waves of the tide lap against the warehouse walls, as they do at many distilleries from Islay to Orkney, the spirit inside can hardly help but absorb some of that sea air.

This explains the distinctively salty flavour present in many coastal drams. For some, such as Tobermory or Old Pulteney, the salinity forms one of the most immediately recognisable characteristics. For many of the peaty Islay whiskies, it mixes with the smoke to produce a very distinctive seaweed flavour, or notes of smoked ham and cured meat. In each case, it is unmistakeable, and absolutely unique - there is no comparable flavour in the world of wine, beer, cognac, bourbon or any other drink.

Although salty flavours are mostly associated with island whiskies (including but not limited to Islay), they may be found in many mainland distilleries located on the coast. The aforementioned Old Pulteney is one, as is neighbour Clynelish and perhaps Glenglassaugh; the Campbeltown region is also marked by a strong salinity. Some island drams are as notably lacking in salty flavours (e.g. Highland Park) as others are marked by it (Tobermory, Talisker).

The unusual savoury quality of such flavours make them a good counterpart to some of the more spicy or peppery cigars - Por Larrañaga or El Rey del Mundo might be good examples, while Cohiba and Partagas complement the bolder Islay styles very well.

 

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Considerably more input from the wood of the cask than in its younger brothers: warm toffee and hazelnut, chocolate orange, dates, and spiced tea cake...read more

Product Info

Considerably more input from the wood of the cask than in its younger brothers: warm toffee and hazelnut, chocolate orange, dates, and spiced tea cake come to the fore in its rich and weighty mouthfeel, all supplemented by the tang of the sea. A similar astringency to the 10-year-old, with a more powerful chocolate flavour: chocolate custard, or milk chocolate mousse, without too much sweetness. Cocoa powder, some butterscotch. The fruits are thicker (stewed prunes?) and far less up-front. Extremely soft but quite thick; mouth-coating, with the flavour subtle yet rewarding. Not a malt to be rushed.

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