My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

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Most Recent Whisky Review

Elijah Craig Small Batch

This "no age statement" expression replaced the 12 year old Elijah Craig in 2016.  The nose has vanilla, popcorn and toasted oak.  Oily and peppery on palate, a little honey but not as sweet as nose suggests. Not as balanced as I would like but a little water helped and brought up some caramel sweetness and apple tartness.

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  • Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:33

    Does Whisky Have a Gender?

    Written by
    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 Home Calling

    This whisky was distiiled at the Tobermory distillery and chosen for bottling after 15 years by Jim Martin, The Malted Muse, for his Whisky Selection range and is available only in the UK.  It is a single cask, one off bottling and comes in at a hefty 57% ABV, more on that later.   So how is it?  Good.  Very good.  The nose has some malt, digestive biscuits even some straw and grassy notes.  There is a sugary sweetness and fruit like tinned pineapple and banana.  The alcohol is also evident in the nose and nosing must be done with due care and attention.  The taste has more malt, vanilla,lemon peel, candle wax and again the alcohol is evident.  The mouthfeel also has some waxiness.  The finish (considering it spent 15 years in cask) is not oaky, it is quite dry with perhaps a whiff of smoke at the end.  With some water the mouthfeel turned from waxy to creamy and the finish became a little more spicy (and the smoke was gone).  Interestingly this has young spirit notes and the complexity of a 15 year old whisky.  It is very complex but rewards patience.  I will certainly look at Tobermory differently now.

    Why not 4 stars?  Only two slight niggles.  For my palate I think it would have been better bottled at 43-48% ABV. I needed a little water to play down the alcohol in the nose and improve the mouthfeel.  Second niggle is fact it is one off, single cask bottling with very limited availability.