Despite their own terroir, the Irish do not dry their malts over peat hence sweetness rather than smokiness
Saturday 14 March 1998
1996 Domaine du Bois, Viognier, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Maurel Vedeau, pounds 4.99,
Somerfield. A well-made southern French dry white, made from the fashionable
grape variety which goes into the northern Rhone's pricey Condrieu, this
exhibits the hallmark apricot aromas of the Viognier. Rich, full-bodied,
peachy and refreshingly dry on the palate. It looks rather stylish, too,
in its tall, slimline bottle.
Red wine of the week
35 Sur, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vina San Pedro, pounds 4.49, Safeway. 35 Sur (35
south) is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, made by the globetrotting Frenchman
Jacques Lurton at Vina San Pedro, which has seen a surge in quality since
his arrival. As you might expect from a Bordeaux winemaker, it's an attractively
soft, claret-like red, with capsicum-like Cabernet aromas moderated by
sweet oak and youthful, blackcurrant fruitiness on the palate.
Irish whiskey of the week
Tuesday being Paddy's Day, today would be a good day to invest in the
toast to the good saint. For the first time in years, it is relatively
easy to find a pure pot-still Irish whiskey: with all the oily, 'fresh
leather' and cedar aromas and
creamy, fruity, orange-zest flavours of the style. The rare Redbreast
is on song again, nesting in back-bars on this
side of the water. Current bottlings, at a little over 12 years, have
just the right balance of freshness and maturity.
As with many spirits, the magic in great Irish whiskey
is in the style of the stills. The traditional type, shaped like
a cooking pot, or perhaps a kettle, distils in batches and
is delightfully inefficient. Because of that, it leaves all sorts
of interesting aromas and flavours in the spirit.
The Irish, who may have been the first whiskey-makers (and still spell
it with an 'e'), once dominated the British market, but they stuck with
the pot-still after the Scots began to make blends with lighter, column-
in the early part of this century. Arguments over the
two methods led to an historic trading standards case in Islington, London,
in 1905 and 37 sittings of a Royal Commission over the definition of whisk(e)y.
The Scots finally won their point, and their lighter, easier-to drink
blends captured the market.
For decades, the Irish have fought back by concentrating on blends of
pot and column, and emphasising 'smoothness' rather than character. And
now they have realised a new generation of connoisseurs is eschewing blends
in favour of flavoursome, pot-distilled malt whiskies from Scotland.
A pot-distilled Irish has special character. While it
does include barley that has been malted, there is traditionally also
a high proportion of the same
grain in its raw form. This may, in the first place, have been done for
reasons of economy, but it does
impart a lovely, linseed-ish, spiciness. Also, despite
their own terroir, the Irish do not dry their malts over peat, hence
sweetness rather than smokiness.
Which is best, Irish or Scotch (or Canadian, rye, Bourbon or Tennessee)?
That depends upon
the mood, moment and sometimes the day of the
year. For lubricating wit, Irish seems to have the
smooth edge. Apart
from Redbreast, the pure pot-still Irish reasonably available in Britain
big, spicy, minty, Green Spot. I shall be raising
one of the two
on Tuesday. I may
have a shot of each. Michael Jackson
Redbreast can be
pounds 19-pounds 24, at Oddbins
(and sampled there this weekend), or at
(Malt House, 1 North
Road) to Belfast
(The Vineyard, 375
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