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Robert Graham

Ailein Mor Award Winning Single Malt (70cl 40%)

€41.60 $48.93 £37.99

Honey

Treacle, toffee, caramel, heather

The sweetness of honey is one of the most common flavours in Scotch whisky…particularly in younger examples of the popular Speyside style that forms the basis of many of the most popular blends, but also in the Highlands and, perhaps most characteristically, the Lowlands. The Island whiskies, too, often express a honey-like sweetness in their lighter forms. This is usually the result of the natural sugars present in malted barley, and so is generally more apparent in younger whiskies (up to 15-18 years of age) before too much of heftier flavours like wood, spice or dried fruit are imparted from the cask.

A richer, toffee-like sweetness often derives from European oak casks (generally ex-sherry), while American oak (ex-bourbon or newer sherry casks) produces a lighter, vanilla-tinged flavour that complements the natural sugars of the barley. The marshmallow-like sweetness of bourbon often translates into a lighter honey-like flavour in Scotch matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Good examples of single malts that carry strong flavours of honey are the classic Glenlivet and its many Speyside brethren; the lightness and softness of Lowlanders Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan; and the heathery sweetness of younger Highland Parks or some Highlanders like Dalwhinnie or Glen Garioch. In addition, virtually all of the biggest names in blended whisky are marked by this kind of flavour - the house styles of Johnnie Walker, J&B and Chivas Regal all depend on that sweet, youthful Speyside core. All of them are likely to go well with lighter cigars, particularly those with sweet flavours of their own, such as Hoyo de Monterrey.

 

Wood

Sherry casks, cedar, mahogany, cigar box

Whisky, by definition, is a grain spirit aged in oak casks - and it is the influence of this wood that produces they greatest variation of flavour. Different species of oak result in different flavours, while the previous contents of the cask has a major impact on the style of the resulting Scotch. A whisky may spend anything from three years to thirty years in wood - in some extreme cases even longer than that. Yet there are only certain cases where the resulting spirit can be said to ‘taste of wood’.

The most obvious example is when the whisky has been aged for an exceptionally long time. Conventional whisky wisdom claims that any period of ageing beyond about 25 years is wasted or even detrimental, because the spirit begins to taste more like the wood it is stored in than anything else. As a result, subtleties of flavour built up over years of maturation will be lost as the wood takes over. A certain amount of woody flavours may be desirable, however, not least because it implies that a whisky has spent a considerable amount of time ageing and has likely reached the peak of its complexity. For this reason, single malts over 25 years of age are relatively scarce (not to mention expensive), but often in high demand.

The wood of the cask imparts tannins to the spirit inside: tannins are a compound that produce a dry or astringent flavour, as found in red wine, unripened fruit, black tea…and heavily oak-influenced whisky. This means the flavours in question may be found in whisky aged in wine-influenced casks, such as those which have previously held sherry, port or red wine, as opposed to bourbon; therefore it is not always necessary for a whisky to have been aged for a very long time in order for woody flavours to be apparent. Notes of mahogany, cigar box cedar-wood or varnish are relatively common among the more savoury styles of single malt, such as complex Speysides or some Islay whiskies.

Wood is also a common flavour in many cigars, which can be expected to pair well with a woody whisky: Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo are both excellent examples, while Fonseca and Diplomaticos are good choices among the lesser known brands.

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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Ailein Mor Award Winning Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky.

New Branding same delicious Whisky!

Our very own exclusive bottling of...read more

Product Info

Ailein Mor Award Winning Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky.

New Branding same delicious Whisky!

Our very own exclusive bottling of a single malt from the Highlands. A Silver Medal winner in the International Spirits Challenge 2014, and winner of a Silver Award for the Highland Independent Bottler of the Year Award 2012. The nose echoes the summer meadows and Highland valleys that give this whisky its name (‘Ailein Mor’ is Gaelic for ‘great green valley’), with a distinctly grassy and floral strain. Then, on the palate, vanilla custard, rich chocolate fudge, marzipan and honey on buttered bread; a creamy body, with touches of subtle Highland spice and maltiness with wild flowers. A slight sheen of oak chippings hangs over the cake-mix creaminess and fresh orange peel tang. A little gingerbread crops up in the long, gently drying finish, rounding off the sweetness and opening the way for a second sip.

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Note: Regrettably we cannot ship cigars or any other tobacco products to the USA and Canada.

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