And what’s a Robbie Burns Day without a little whisky? Here’s a fine quartet currently residing in my liquor cabinet:
Té Bheag: I mentioned this back in my pre-Burns post, and what I said applies still here. This unchillfiltered blend – it used to say it was a blended malt, but now it’s just “Blended Scotch Whisky,” which I take to mean a little grain alcohol has made it into the mix – is lightly to moderately peaty on the nose, a little iodiney, citrusy and smokey on the palate and an outstanding value whisky. Oh, and the pronunciation is not “Tea Bag;” it’s more along the lines of “Chey Vek,” which the label says is Gallic for “a wee dram.”
Oak Cross: This delight from the mad blending minds at Compass Box is a blended malt, and a lovely one, at that. Almost water light in colour, it has a wonderfully oaky nose that put me immediately in mind of leather wingback chairs, old oak panelling and smouldering cigars. The body, however, is bright and sophisticated, almost begging for a drop of chilled water to further accentuate its Highland character. A definite aperitif dram.
Hazelburn 8 Year Old: Speaking of light whiskies, this triple distilled beauty from the folks at Springbank is a true drop of elegance in a glass, with a pale hue, a zesty, slightly sweet aroma with fresh fruit notes like tangerine, Meyer lemon and gooseberry, and a body that turns first floral, then adds spicy vanilla before finally finishing with a lingering suggestion of peppery citrus and oak. Although the distillery notes I’ve received on this whisky in the past say it is entirely unpeated, I repeatedly – no pun intended – find this to be a tad smoky on the finish, making me wonder if it perhaps gets a touch of “contact smokiness” from the maltings Springbank operates on site.
Highland Park 1998: I bought this at the Cancun airport duty-free, which means you’re going to have a tough time finding it unless you’re travelling. But that’s really neither here nor there since the 13 year old displays much of the classic Highland Park character, it being a little of everything, from the marvellously balanced smokiness in its aroma to the full and complex palate blending rich fruit with brown spice and a touch of citrus peel, all ending in a deep, pillowy cushion of satisfaction. Enjoy it before dinner, perhaps with a drop of water, during dinner in a wide-mouthed glass or after dinner in a Glencairn glass; it’s just that versatile.