In Scotland we treasure those long, light nights that stretch out throughout June, heading towards the summer solstice on the 21st of the month. Here in Edinburgh, we’re at a latitude of 55° N – the same as Copenhagen and Moscow – so we have to savour the light while we can, in the knowledge that from July onwards we’re going to be gradually heading back into the darkness and the inevitable chat of ‘The nights are fair drawin’ in’.
Of course for our friends in the southern hemisphere – such as our Aussie ambassador Matt Bailey, feeling the chill of mid-winter in Sydney this month at a latitude of 33° S – it’s time for a warming dram at their darkest time of their year.
The contrasts between the summer and winter solstices led me to seek out some intriguing pairings from our new Outturn, to look for whiskies that would make for interesting comparisons taken together.
For example, how about setting up a tasting with two bottlings from our Lightly Peated flavour profile – but with very different origins. First up is Cask No. 135.21: Cheeky and reeky, an inland Highland bottling that manages to evoke fishing nets, tug boats and seaweed along with a sense of charred wood, gorgeously chewy on the palate. It’s 15-years-old and was matured in a refill bourbon hogshead. Cask No. 29.271: Tall, dark and mysterious, meanwhile, is from the island of Islay. This 22-year-old spent its first 19 years in ex-bourbon wood before we moved it in a second fill port barrique (which had previously contained Cask No. 10.118: Enthralling pink and peat intensity). The port barrique has given it a much darker, deeper character, full of burnt fruit cake, wood-fired pizza, Turkish coffee and char-grilled lobster. Two Lightly Peated drams but from different regions and displaying substantially different characters due to their wood types.
Another nice pairing to contrast is with Cask No. 7.241: “Hang loose”, which spent 14 years in an ex-bourbon barrel before we transferred it into a refill barrel that had previously matured rum from Jamaica. Set it up next to our rum bottling Cask No. R2.11: Goat farms, esters & vinyl funk from Guyana to compare the Caribbean influences on the Spicy & Sweet Speysider, alongside a fantastic rum bottling that the Tasting Panel described as “mad yet hugely entertaining”.
Cask No. 36.173: Warm as a purring cat is another dram with a tropical nose, a 22-year-old Speyside bottling that we transferred into an ex-peaty bourbon barrel. That’s brought a lovely subtle smokiness to this distillery’s typically robust worm tub spirit, with hints of embers, tar and antiseptic toothpaste, along with an earthy sweetness of sticky dates, black bun and Pedro Ximenez sherry trifle.
Another interesting comparison is pairing an old single cask grain whisky such as Cask No. G4.20: Milk and honey with an old single malt such as Cask No. 50.111: A serious flavour bomb. The grain bottling is 39 years old, and the Lowland malt is 30 years old, so both are seriously mature enough to fall into the Old & Dignified camp, but the Panel has described the single grain as Juicy, Oak & Vanilla and the single malt as Spicy & Sweet. See what you think for yourselves.
Finally, summertime is also ideal G&T time, and we’re delighted to offer members our first-ever gin from a young distillery in Northern Ireland. Some of you may recognise the name behind this one, with Joe McGirr having worked with the SMWS at both our 28 Queen Street Members’ Room before heading up the team at 19 Greville Street in London. Cask No. GN4.1: The ascent of gin has been matured in a first fill bourbon barrel, bringing a sherbet character to a gin that is beautifully citric and herbal but retains its beating juniper heart.
Whatever your latitude, and whatever the temperature, there’s something for everyone. Dive in to discover your own comparisons.