About the Whisky
|The Society offers members the opportunity to purchase rare single malt whiskies from distilleries all over Scotland. This page will tell you about the Society's range, the whiskies' strength, the casks and the bottling lists, as well as a brief background history to whisky itself. For those of you wishing to improve your whisky tasting knowledge or simple out of interest, please enjoy this page, view the Society's tasting wheel - better still, come to one of our tastings!
The Society Malts
Scotland has just over a hundred malt whisky distilleries - although only 89 are currently in operation - each of which produces a malt quite different from the next. However, less than half of these whiskies are available as single malts. Since the Society's foundation in 1983, they have bottled some 750 casks of whisky from 115 distilleries all over Scotland. They are currently bottling between 150 and 200 casks a year, and in the future, we will be able to offer members in the region of 50 different malt whiskies.
MATCHING THE NUMBERS TO THE DISTILLERIES
A frequently asked question is "How do I match the numbers to the distilleries?"
Under the arrangement the Society has with distillers the Society undertakes not to put the distiller's name on the bottle, and not to publish a list which matches the numbers to the distilleries. However the Society tasting notes sometimes provide a clue (e.g. "This distillery gets its water from the Auchinderran burn."), allowing members to identify where the whisky comes from without too much effort, and is a good way to learn a bit about Scotland.
The Society bottles all its whiskies direct from the cask, at full strength (around 60% alcohol). Whiskies bought in shops tend to be diluted and bottled at about 40% alcohol. Because dilution sometimes produces a slight cloudiness, the whisky is then chilled and filtered - a process which, while it leaves the spirit clear, can remove some of the constituents which give it taste and character. The Society does not chill-filter its whiskies.
The type and quality of the casks used for maturing malt whisky have a profound effect on the flavour of the final product because each cask imparts individual characteristics. In commercial bottlings a number of casks are mixed together to combine these characteristics and achieve a uniform product.
By contrast, the Society exults in diversity. Each of our bottlings are from a single cask (yielding between 200 and 700 bottles only - depending on type of cask, its age and tightness). Thus the wonderful variety of aromas in malt whisky can be experienced to the full. It is important to remember that once a cask is finished it is gone forever and will never be replicated exactly.
The Bottling Lists inform members which whiskies are currently available and the distinctive tasting notes offer enticing descriptions to help you choose. These whiskies can then be ordered on-line or by downloading an order form to send by mail or fax. As new regions are added to the Australian range, new whiskies will be made available exclusively to our Members.
Tasting Malt Whiskies
WHAT DO YOU NOSE?
You don't get the best out of malt whisky by simply throwing it back!
Every one knows this. Nor do you enjoy it to the full by being too earnest and reserved in your approach - there is a happy medium. In the end, it is all about enjoyment, and since knowledge enhances enjoyment, don't be afraid to ask questions. We will be updating this page with tasting procedures shortly, so stay in touch and visit the site regularly.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The colour of a malt is sometimes an indication of its character but not always, so beware. A pale whisky can be rich and powerful, just as a dark one can be thin and weedy. A bourbon cask will usually give a paler colour but so too will a fino cask or a much re-filled oloroso cask.
There are traditionally held to be seven main scent groups: esters, phenols, aldehydes, sweet associated, cereals, oils and woods. The combinations of these scents is what makes malt whisky so fascinating. On the other hand, there are many fine whiskes where the scents are so well integrated, they are impossible to unravel.
Some whiskies are sweet, whilst others are dry. This varies from one whisky to the next and even from one cask to the next from the same distillery. Much depends upon the variations in the distilling practice, the shape and size of the still, the stillman and the role of the cask. Bourbon casks are usually mild and sweet with distinct vanilla notes whereas sherry casks will impart heavier wine notes to the malt.
Some whiskies taste as though they have been steeping chillies, while others are quite mild. Some taste of aniseed and others of smoked fish ...
Download the Tasting Wheel to discover the complex range of tastes
The terms 'whisky' derives from the Gaelic language, one of the ancient tongues of Scotland. 'Usquebaugh', translated, means 'water of life'. 'Whisky' is now used to describe distilled spirits that may be far removed in nature and in method of production from the original, so it is probably best first to explain what we mean when we speak of 'malt whisky'.
Scotch malt whisky is to be distinguished on the one hand, from blended Scotch whiskies, and on the other, from whiskies produced outside Scotland. Malt whisky is the ancient hard liquour of Scotland. It is produced from an ale made of malted barley (often dried over peat) and water, fermented by the addition of yeast. The ale is distilled in a copper pot-still, a process that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
The distillate is matured in oak casks for anything from five to fifity years, though most malt is bottled at around ten years old. There is a general agreement that malt whisky is about at its best at around that age. Once the whisky is bottled, it does not change, provided the bottle is kept sealed.
Most malt whisky is used in the production of blended whisky. The latter is a mixture of malt whisky and grain whisky - the quality of the blend usually depending on the proportion of malt used. Grain whisky is made in a patent still in a continuous process, from a mash which contains some barley, but mostly other grains, such as Maize and wheat. Blended whisky tastes quite unlike malt whisky.
The Scotch whisky industry grew prodigiously in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly through production and marketing of blended whiskies. Then, it virtually disappeared from public view until the late 1960s, when it underwent a remarkable renaissance.
Malt whiskies are now recognised as the very finest of whiskies. The demand for single malts is growing rapidly as drinkers around the world discover malt's qualities or nose and taste.