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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

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Most Recent Whisky Review

Bellevoye Bleu

If you had not of heard of this French blended malt you are not alone, because it was new to me as well when I saw it in the Air France Lounge in Paris.  A little online research suggests this is a blend of 3 single malts of different regions of France and finished in new French oak casks.  It is bottled at 40% ABV but nosed like it was much stronger.  Very feisty and malty with barnyard, floral and even perfurmed notes in the nose.  Hot and sweet on the palate with some flashes of toffee which were quickly masked by pepper and even a slightly acrid smokey note.  The finish has some chilli heat with a hint of lemon peel marmalade.  A splash of water improves it greatly, smooths out the grainy mouth feel and brings out some more fruity and sweet flavours.  It is not bad but posseses little elegance or sophistication so in that respect it is not a very French French whisky.

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  • Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:33

    Does Whisky Have a Gender?

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    I recently read Ian Buxton's excellent article in Whisky Advocate's winter 2011 edition asking if whisky has a soul.  An interesting question and his article made for a good read.  That article also triggered in me another thought, if whisky has soul, then does it have a gender?  Is whisky male or female?  My friend Ding of www.dingsbeerblog.com on Twitter recent stated, quite simply and in way less than 140 characters, that beer was male.  However, if you are willing to entertain this abstract concept, I think the answer is not as simple when it comes to whisky.

    My initial reaction was whisky is male.  Of course it is.   It is very hard to imagine anything that is regularly associated with the smell of alcohol, smoke, leather and tobacco that is not male.  Perhaps what springs to your mind is a chain smoking, alcoholic dominatrix (in which case you may need some help) but my guess is most people will think of a man first. 

    However whisky is often characterized as a "man's drink".  This is a generalization and even a stereotype I accept,  I have seen plenty of women at recent whisky tasting events enjoying the water of life,  however if we accept men are preferentially attracted to whisky then doesn't that make whisky more likely to be female?  For example women, boats and cars, other known interests of the male, are referred to as female.    Don't opposites attract?

    I also think there can be little argument that distilleries are female.  They are often described as beautiful and picturesque (two words I have never heard applied to me).  The rounded sumptuous curves and seductive smoothness of the pot still need no further explanation or evaluation, when up close you simply have to touch it, ideally when it is not running, and the spirit produced, often called new make spirit will sometimes be referred to as "mother's milk" and is matured, like a young child, in the distillery family home of warehouses until ready to go out in the world as whisky.  Distilleries are definitely female and should be referred to as she. When I asked Jim Martin the Malted Muse the question of whisky and gender he came to same conclusion in his podcast (www.themaltedmuse.com) that distilleries were female.  Countries are usually referred to as female as well.  As we often refer to whisky by the country of origin (Scotch, Irish, Canadian) would that also imply the product of that country, their whisky, is also female? 

    All things considered, against my initial instinct, I think there is very strong case to be made that whisky is female, especially when you consider the sweetness of bourbon and the light and sophisticated triple distilled Irish whiskies.  Those spirits have to be female right?   But how can you reconcile female with the earthy, smokey Laphroaig, a cask strength mouth puckering Glenfarclas or fiery, precocious young rye whisky?  You can't.  Those aren't female, they are men.  Big hairy men.  Jim Martin also suggested that whiskies can be male or female depending on their individual character.

    So I have a suggestion.   My mother is of Irish heritage and her middle name is Frances.  Her father was called Francis.  The Irish spelling of the female version of the name has an "e" and the male version has an "i".  They sound the same when spoken but when written you can tell the female from the male.  I suggest those whiskies that use an "e" in the spelling of whiskey, such as Irish and Bourbons, will be female.  Those that spell whisky with no "e" be male.   I think as broad based solution it is not bad, female for bourbons and Irish and male for scotch seems to work for me anyway and if a particular distillery or brand feels strongly their spirit is female or male then they always have the option to change the spelling to suit the convention I am now proposing.   Therefore whisky can be male or female and the spelling can be used to determine which is which. 

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    Random Whisky

    The Arran Malt 14 year old

    These tasting notes were written on a BA Airbus en route to Doha, Qatar.  I had a mini 50 ml bottle of this in my bag (I usually carry a few samples on business trips as a treat when I get to hotel rooms and writing tasting notes gives me something to do when on the road) when realised I was going to land in Qatar and was not at all certain how they would feel about me bringing whisky into their Muslim country.  Not wishing to caught and be labelled as the World's Most Pathetic Smuggler of Whisky I decided to drink it on the plane and thought at least it would be an interesting experiment  (OK... an experiment) to test my palate in those conditions ie at 30,000 ft plus.  Perhaps because of the dry air my nose seem most affected, I got indications of classic Scotch notes (oak, malt, vanilla, dried fruit) but could not latch onto anything in particular. I tried but ended up writing "scotch" for the nose.  The taste was little better defined, malty and sweet at first, then some fresh fruit jiuce (but I couldn't decide which.. apple maybe?) and maybe milk chocolate.  The finish was oaky but not too spicy, some more of the milk chocolate and even a little minty freshness at the end.   Overall a little on sweet side, needed something in the finish to help with balance, but enjoyable even at 30,000 ft.