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Blair Athol

Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask Blair Athol 1989 (70cl, 53.6% vol)

€160.17 $186.51 £143.00 Was €178.10 $207.38 £159.00

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.

View more on this falvour here 

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.

Spice

Pepper, cinnamon, ginger, herbs

Aged Scotch whisky is often much softer and easier on the palate than its alcohol strength would imply. So much so, in fact, that sometimes you need something to liven things up a bit. Luckily, a good number of single malts possess lively spicy flavours, some of them in great enough quantities to challenge tequila (naming no names). Others are a little more restrained, but still with the warming tingle of Christmas pudding and mulled wine.

A lengthy maturation, particularly in a large cask (e.g. ex-sherry), generally means more oxygen is allowed into the cask to react with the spirit and develop more complex flavours. These may include spicy flavours - lignin compounds break down over time, releasing more intense spicy notes into the spirit, while the high acidity and relatively low alcohol content of sherry often serve to bring out spicier notes from the cask wood. Clove and cinnamon flavours often derive from eugenols produced via toasting - that is, firing the wood of the casks over a medium heat for anything between 15 to 45 minutes (to be contrasted with charring, where the wood is fired for a very short time over a much hotter flame). Some of the most intense spicy flavours come not from the cask at all, but from the still: a lighter spirit (such as that produced in a tall still) will often have more kick than something more rounded.

Spicy characteristics are generally used to complement other strong flavours, such as dried fruit (e.g. Aberlour) or peat (Ardbeg), but the style is probably best showcased by the expansive and varied Highland region. Highland malts generally eschew excessive subtlety for bold and full flavours, and so often showcase strongly spicy styles. The best examples by far are in the Northern Highlands: Glenmorangie has a light spice that is perhaps better described as herbal; but a small distance to the north, Clynelish and Old Pulteney provide a salty, firey yet still sweet style that prickles all over the palate. Their eastern counterparts, such as Glen Garioch or Glendronach, retain a gingery warmth that it is not so much restorative as elixir.

The strength and spark of such potions pairs very well with similarly lively cigars: Partagas is an obvious match, as is Ramon Allones; but the peppery notes of a Cohiba or Bolivar will also go very well.

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Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask Blair Athol 1989 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky.

70cl, 53.6% Volume

Cask type: Hogshead
Cask...read more

Product Info

Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask Blair Athol 1989 Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky.

70cl, 53.6% Volume

Cask type: Hogshead
Cask Number: 6457
Distillation Date: 02/11/89
No. of bottles: 155
Bottling Date: 19/09/16

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