The heavens had opened, the downpours were endless. Yes, on Friday night, the weather in Wuhan was “Scottish”, but I am in fact referring to the Whisky, the wee drams of scotch that we had all gathered together that evening to enjoy. At the Toucan bar on the ground floor of the Holiday Inn Riverside Hanyang, the intrepid few who braved the inclements were Entertained, Enraptured, Enthralled, Enebriated (sic) and Expediated (sic) 10000 miles around the globe to the heartland of the Highlands and the landscapes of the Lowlands, to draw inspiration from Islay and The Islands and to be beside the splendour of the Spey. With the melliferous tones of our kilted and lilted host Martin guiding our path. The Oak and Barley Whisky Tour of Scotland had begun.
From those whom knew little to nothing about Whisky to the more seasoned connoisseurs that were there assembled, the Whirlwind Whistle-stop Whisky Whip-around Scotland took in 6 bottles from each of the different areas of Whisky production in Scotland.
The tasting and talk began with a 12-year aged single malt from the 1836 borne Glenfarclas distillery. It’s a Light Caramel coloured 43% Highland smooth and simple whisky. Finished in sherry cask gives the whisky a fruity mix of notes; banana peach, apple and honey and it has a lingering finish.
The next port of call was the “Valley of Deer” distillery – at Dufftown in the Speyside region, this will be most people’s mental image and starting point when the subject of Scotch whisky is raised. The Glenfiddich for tasting was again a 12-year statement 40% whisky but this time from arguably the world most famous whisky producer. Founded in 1886 by William Grant, they almost single-handedly created the modern premium single malt category in the 1970’s. The Glenfiddich 12 is the world’s number one whisky, not the most exciting but it is a good, relatively inexpensive and easily drinkable whisky. The notes are a little mixed which only adds to the predictability /unexciting nature of the drink.
Next comes my personal favourite of the evening, the Glenkinchie 12, this is a bottle from the Lowlands region of Scotland and is known as the Edinburgh Malt as the distillery is only 15 miles from the Capital. Founded in 1837 and part of the Diageo group, this is a bourbon cask finished golden amber number with hints of cinnamon, nuts and green apples that has a slight spiciness and a sharp finish. It is similar in my opinion to the Auchentoshan a fellow lowland dram.
We moved onwards and upwards to the highlands of Glenmorangie and their Original 10. These are a distiller that is now part of the luxury brand group of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton but was first started with just the 16 men of Tain in 1843. It is a light fruity and malty whisky that is well balanced with a strong vanilla sweetness and a medium finish of tropical fruits and malt. The colour is of pale honey with flecks of green and is 43%.
The following stop was to the sparsely populated Island of Jura and the 40% 10-year Jura Origin. There are two main words to describe the Jura – Malty and Salty. It has caramel and vanilla in the nose and a nutty peppery taste with some undefinable fruitiness. It’s a tasty and challenging pour that demands your attention. Jura is proud to have the One Road, One Hotel, One Shop, One Church and One Distillery. It has around 30 red deer to each person and at last count there were less than 200 people living on the island.
The final destination of the tour was to the home of Laphroaig on the Isle of Islay. Established in 1815 it is now part of Japan’s Suntory Holdings. The Laphroaig 10 was the bottle under consideration, its reputation well known even to the novice. This is one of the most powerful and flavourful scotches and is extremely smokey. I have heard it described as kissing a mermaid with a cigarette in her mouth. This is a whisky I have a lot of experience with and always enjoy.
As the evening drew on, the format of the evening changed a little as the group relaxed and the conversations began to flow as smoothly as the whisky was expertly distributed, and by the end there were firm friends and new acquaintances made. The Suntory brand made another appearance as a surprise final Whisky so very generously shared by Josh. The Chita is a non statement whisky from Japan that is aged in a combination of wine, sherry and bourbon casks it had a lovely fresh tropical sweetness and honey tones, some gentle woody spices and a hint of nuttiness. It is a wonderful introduction whisky yet also complex and enjoyable enough to satisfy a more experienced palate.
So the evening started with a downpour and continued with many a pour downed but yet the experience and voyage of discovery has just led to further avenues to explore and even greater treasures to unearth, I await the next event with great anticipation and impatience and an ever deepening desire to add to my whisky collection.
The thanks for the organising of the event has to go to Martin Sullivan and Lucas Driggers, also to the Toucan Bar at the Riverside Holiday Inn in Hanyang Wuhan for hosting the event and to the suppliers of all of the whisky at the event Oak and Barley. I hope this has inspired more of you to delve a little deeper into premium whisky but if other alcoholic beverages are more you speed Oak and Barley also specialise in the supply of these all over China.
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