the three drinkers

23 Unusual Facts About Whisky

Visit Islay with a Rabbie’s tour.

Our friends at Rabbie’s, our travel partner for our Scotch whisky travelogue series on Amazon Prime, have given us 23 fun facts about whisky. How many of them did you know already?

Bernard Shaw described whisky as liquid sunshine, and we can’t help but agree. Although the sunshine can be a little bothersome the next morning when you’ve indulged in one too many glasses.

Mark Twain begs to differ, however, as he’s famous for boldly declaring “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

What could we possibly have to tell you about whisky that you haven’t heard from these great poets, playwrights and avid whisky drinkers? You’d be surprised. Whisky has a long history and its makers and consumers are fond of a good blether. 

So whether you’re a whisky aficionado or have only just begun your love affair, you may be surprised by a few of the following facts:

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  1. Whisky or Whiskey - what’s the difference? The Irish spell it with an ‘e’ whereas the Scots spell it without one. This is due to the variations between Scottish and Irish Gaelic.

  2. The New York Times famously used the word ‘whiskey’ with an ‘e’ to encompass all forms of the spirit from all locations. This caused so much outrage amongst readers, they were forced to change their style guide to reflect the appropriate spelling for their regional distribution.

  3. Many distilleries store casks of whisky belonging to other brands and distilleries in their warehouses. This way, if a fire or catastrophe occurs, they won’t lose all their stock. 

  4. The term whisky in Gaelic translates to ‘water of life.’

  5. When whisky is stored in barrels for maturation, approximately 2% of the liquid evaporates per year. This is called the ‘Angel’s Share’ as this portion of liquid gold seemingly disappears into the heavens. It keeps the angels in good spirits.

  6. Moonshine is typically un-aged whisky with a high alcohol content, which is made illegally. It’s called moonshine because it would be created under the light of the moon, hidden from the eyes of the authorities.

  7. A bottle of Macallan Valerio Adami 1926, 60-year-old was sold for £848,750 in 2018, setting a new world record for the most expensive bottle of whisky.

  8. Whisky doesn’t age once it’s bottled. So there isn’t much point in saving it for a rainy day, just crack it open when you feel like it.

  9. Whisky gains its colour from the barrel it’s aged in. Sometimes, for the sake of product image, brands may put caramel colouring in a batch to make the whisky look more consistent when bottled on the shelf. The additive isn’t supposed to affect the taste of the whisky. 

  10. Scotland relies on a constant supply of oak casks previously used to store bourbon in the US for maturing whisky.

  11. Much of the flavour of a batch of whisky will depend upon what was stored in the cask previously. Bourbon, sherry, rum and port casks all generate different finishing flavours.

  12. A Swedish distillery has just started using AI to help generate the perfect whisky recipe based on past and current consumer trends.

  13. Surprisingly, France and India are two of the biggest consumers of whisky, alongside the US. 

  14. The iconic American soda brand Mountain Dew was originally intended to be a chaser for sub-par whisky.

  15. Just as the Brits say “cheers”, the Germans shout “prost” and the Spanish yell “salood,” you’ll find the Scots chinking whisky glasses and saying “Slainte,” which means “good health,” as they share a dram with friends.

  16. Contrary to popular belief, nosing isn’t the act of sticking your conk in other people’s business. It’s what you do when you inhale the aromas of a fine whisky before drinking it.

  17. A copper dog is a device that was used by distillery workers to smuggle whisky home after a hard day at work. It’s copper pipe with a penny soldered on one end and a cork stopping the other. A wily employee would dip it into the cask to fill it with whisky, and then smuggle it home in his trouser leg.

  18. When the TV show Mad Men hit the air, it spurred a significant spike in orders for Old Fashions at bars worldwide. In some areas, the demand for Canadian Club almost doubled.

  19. Diageo, one of the world’s largest distillers, released a Game of Thrones collection of Whisky in 2019, in preparation for the final season of the hit TV show. They paired Scottish distilleries with the prominent family houses of the seven kingdoms. Each was matched up carefully, considering house traits alongside distillery history. Cardhu was paired with house Targaryen for its past of strong female ownership. 

  20. Ardbeg, a popular Islay distillery, sent vials of their whisky to the International Space Station in 2011 to see how the gravity in space would affect compounds of the whisky over time.

  21. The term ‘dram’ widely adopted in the Scottish vernacular, is believed to have evolved from an apothecary’s units of measurement.

  22. Keeping with the theme of whisky and medicine, during the prohibition era the only whisky legally imported by the US was scotch whisky, as it was often prescribed to ease many illnesses.

  23. And last but not least, Humphrey Bogart’s final words are rumoured to have been “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” May we live and learn from Bogart’s mistakes.

Discover whisky for yourself on a tour with Rabbie’s here!

Glencairn Crystal: Is this the ultimate whisky tasting glass?

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We certainly think so and here’s why...

When you have a drink, you want to enjoy it to the max, right? Well, luckily for us, around thirty years ago, the Davidson family set up Glencairn Crystal, based in East Kilbride, with the aim of helping us to do just that. A brand for both the consumer and the whisky industry alike, they produce a mixture of products including bespoke packaging for some of the oldest and most luxurious single malt whiskies ever released. They are also, however, commissioned to create a variety of other products including high-profile decanters, some of which are even engraved with rare gemstones! 

The Glencairn Glass 

Amongst all their products, there is one that stands out: the iconic, Glencairn Glass. We chose this glass for our TV show, The Three Drinkers do Scotch Whisky as it is the best designed, most attractive whisky glass out there. They are also the official glass for whisky endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association, so it’s little wonder that over 65,000 of them are now sold per week globally.

Why is the Glencairn Glass so popular?

Before the Glencairn glass came along there were really only tumblers available for whisky drinkers which while serving their purpose as a holder of liquid, never really felt like they gave the whisky its full chance to shine. The Glencairn Glass however, has rectified this as its unique shape allows the aroma to collect towards the lip of the glass. With taste being 80% smell, this design ensures that the full impact of a whisky’s aromas and flavours are delivered in perfect balance. 

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Fun Facts! 

  1. If you stacked every Glencairn glass ever made, it would stretch to the international space station and back 3.5 times!

  2. If you lined up every Glencairn glass ever made, they’d reach a width of over 1600km, more than the entire length of New Zealand.

  3. If you filled every Glencairn glass ever made to the brim with whisky, there’d be enough to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools. That’s 5 million litres!

Glencairn Crystal works with 600 distilleries and ships to 95 countries so if you too are interested in getting your hands on the gold standard of whisky glasses head over to glencairn.co.uk

By Sophie Furukawa

Drink: A new cocktail book by Kurt Maitland

Photo: Bobby Childs

Photo: Bobby Childs

There are myriad cocktail books, past and new. Most of them are pretty good, but there is one which stands out beyond the others as the most comprehensive book on cocktails anyone could need. It is not only informative, but is lovely to look at, easy to read and manages to treat the reader with enough respect as not to be condescending, but also giving the beginner all the knowledge they might need to start the cocktail journey.

There are cocktail books with more recipes, but there are more than 800 in Drink, which is plenty enough for all but the geekiest of cocktail fiends - and it’s a book I would suggest they would still want on their shelves.

Drink takes a look at everything from ancient fermented liquids from all over the world and throughout different periods in history, giving a thorough background to the world of alcohol and mixing.

Colin and Kurt at Copper Oak NYC

Colin and Kurt at Copper Oak NYC

With cocktail and mocktails, there is something here for every palate, whether you have a sweet or sour tooth, love experimenting, sticking to the classics, or don’t even want alcohol, Drink will have a cocktail to suit you.

One of the strengths of this book is there are cocktails which can be easily made at home with minimal ingredients and little skill needed. Beyond this, there are cocktails which are designed to take no time at all, or are easy to mix in bulk for parties (or even single drinks), which are quick to make for a few guests.

There are too many examples to list, and I’m not going to impose my likes and favourites on you. Simply buy the book and try them for yourself. The cocktail journey is exciting and all the more fun if it’s your own.

 By Colin Hampden-White

How do you like your eggs? The effect of vessels on wine flavour and texture

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The world of wine is changing so quickly, people like us need to do our best to keep up. With this in mind, the three of us were intrigued to attend a tasting held last week by award-winning Languedoc winery Domaine Gayda and their importer, New Generation. 

This fascinating tasting showcased the dramatically different effects that vessels used to age wine can have on its flavour and texture. Why is this important? These days, most consumers are looking for wines that can be opened straight away rather than laying them down to age for years, so winemakers from regions with traditionally heavier red blends such as the Languedoc have had to revise their techniques. Forward-thinking Gayda have been experimenting extensively since 2012 to see which methods produce the most delicious wines that can be drunk straight away.  Here’s what they trailed and what we found.

The vineyards at Domain Gayda. Credit:  www.gaydavineyards.com

The vineyards at Domain Gayda. Credit: www.gaydavineyards.com

Same grape, vineyard, vintage and fermentation

To do this experiment, the domaine took exactly the same wine (100% Syrah from 30 year old vines in the south-east facing, Col de la Dona vineyard in Roussillon, harvested by hand and fermented in stainless steel) before transferring it into nine different vessels and left for nine months. Here’s what they used and the effects we tasted on the wine in practice:

Stainless Steel Tank (1500 litres)

Considered to be the benchmark for a neutral sample. Result expected: Clean, bright fruit and lean texture.

Terracotta Egg (700 litres)

The most amount of oxygen exchange expected due to porosity of the material. Egg shape allows for most amount of liquid and lees movement. Result expected: a more oxidative style with overripe fruit and juicy texture.

Concrete Egg (1600 litres)

Inert and cool with little oxygen exchange. Egg shape allows for most amount of liquid and lees movement. Result expected: Freshness, minerality and aromatics.

Plastic Egg (High density polyethylene egg - 1000 litres)

Plastic but with oxygen exchange to mimic a new oak oak barrel (17 mg/l per year oxygen transmission). Liquid and lees movement. Result expected: Freshness and aromatics with perhaps a wider, more lush texture from the extra oxygen.

Oak Foudre (v large barrel -2000 litres)

Oxygen exchange and a good amount of lees and liquid movement allowed. Result expected: ripest fruit with noticeably creamy texture.

Oak Barrel 500 litre (1 year old)

Half the size of a foudre and quite new, with some movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: subtle oak flavour and marked tannic structure with some creaminess from oxygen exchange.

Oak Barrel 228 litre (1 year old)

Half the size again and quite new, with some movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: more noticable oak flavour and heavier tannic structure.

Oak Barrel 228 litre (3 years old)

As above but after two more years of use. Result expected: less oak influence in terms of flavour, but a creamy structure because of the oxygen exchange. 

Sandstone Jar

The material and shape of this jar allows for the least amount of oxygen exchange and movement of liquid and lees. Result expected: reduced flavours (a bit stinky and sulphurous), savoury notes and less fruit. 

Conclusions

The differences were clear, but there we certainly some surprises. The most perfumed, pretty aromatics came from the eggs, especially the plastic one with its oxygen exchange system. The large oak barrel gave a wine that felt it had developed too early; that was overripe and lush, but would probably not go on much longer. The traditional stainless steel felt less fresh and round in comparison to the eggs, highlighting that these new vessels really do have a great place and purpose in modern winemaking. The more classic vessels - the smaller oak barrels -gave the most classic result of slightly spiced, textural wines with open, ripe fruit, but they still felt that they would be best tasted after a bit more time.

All in all, this was an incredibly interesting experiment that made most people in the room rethink their preconceptions about which materials do what to wine. It’s worth noting however that this was a big, ballsy Syrah and the results will be slightly different with other grape varieties. It’s all about choosing your vessel according to desired style. As Gayda winemaker Vincent Chansault says, it’s just like pots and pans for cooking. You chose one over another to add a certain nuance to your dish. With wine, it’s just the same.

Taste the Syrah

Syrah plays a large part in Gayda’s top wine: Chemin de Moscou

  • Try Chemin de Moscou 2015 RRP £29.95 from Amazon

See more about Domaine Gayda

See more about New Generation Wines

By Helena Nicklin

The Wine Society: Top picks for Spring & Summer 2019

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As wine writers, we get invited to a lot of press tastings, where we are lucky enough to try many of the wines on offer from various merchants, clubs and supermarkets all at once. One tasting we are always happy to go to is that of The Wine Society: a national institution that despite being founded in 1874 has moved seamlessly with the times to offer genuinely fantastic examples of key grapes and styles of wine as well as hand-picked, lesser known wines from places you may never have heard of (but that will blow your mind). The best bit? As The Society is owned by its members, there are no obligations to place huge margins on the wines, so everything you taste punches well above its price tag as the buyers have the freedom to buy the best. With wines from £5 all the way up to iconic, more collectible bottles, this is where to come to learn your wine basics by tasting through their benchmark styles before moving on to expand your palate, happy to do so as you know and trust their choices.

Here’s our pick from yesterday’s press tasting:

SPARKLING

Crémant de Jura, Domaine de Montbourgeau, France, NV. £14.50

Fabulous, classy, Champagne-style bubbles (traditional method) with loads of tang and flavour. Made with 100% Chardonnay and ridiculous value. 12%

Alfred Gratien Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, 2012. £39

Proper, seriously good, 100% Chardonnay Champagne with all the trimmings: brioche, apple-skin, peaches, rainbows...

Alfred Gratien Brut 2006, £42

If you’re into aged vintage Champagne with a slight funky edge, you will adore this. Rich, round and a touch nutty, there’s so much going on.

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WHITE CLASSICS

The Society’s Exhibition Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2018. £14.50

Yes, you can find some cheaper Albariño, but this is the best version we have tasted for ages. Crisp and citrus with a chalky kick and tropical, peachy note. Gorgeous.

Contino Blanco, Rioja, Spain, 2017. £20

A very well put together white Rioja that is fresh, floral with buttery, pineapple notes right now, but will also age beautifully. Made by a tip top producer.

Jacques Saumaize, Macon-Vergisson Sur La Roche, Burgundy, France, 2017. £12.95

Quite simply, a beautifully fresh and youthful, unoaked Chardonnay with tonnes of fruit.

Soave Classico, Calvarino, Pieropan, Italy 2016. £18

Soave can be boring but Pieropan’s is the icon. Incredible texture, floral aromatics and ripe fruit. Summer in a glass.

WHITE ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES

Quinta de Calçada Alvarinho, Minho, Portugal, 2018. £9.50

Another gorgeous Albariño but from Portugal this time. Saline and citrussy with great texture. Say its name out loud for extra enjoyment.

Pepe Mendoza, Moscatel, Macabeo, Airen & Alicante blend, Spain, 2018. £11.75

(Available from July) A happy, summery wine. White flowers, oranges and lemon cream with the lightest touch. Huge drinkability.

Szolo Tempo Tokaj Furmint, Hungary, 2017. £14.95

Hungarian Furmint is a grape to look out for if you love refreshing, crisp whites with an off-dry element, like this one. Perfect with mildly spiced thai food.

Blackbook Winery, The Mixup, England, 2018. £18

Properly quirky, this one! And made in London to boot by this exciting new winery. 50:50 Bacchus and Ortega grapes. Sweet, grassy nose but dry palate. Very textural. A great food wine. Gloriously different and unique.

PINK

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Corent Côtes d’Auvergne, Saint-Vernay, France, 2018. £9.50

Did you know that Corent must always be rosé and always made from the Gamay grape? This dark pink wonder is all tangy, wild strawberry with a subtle, savoury note. In between a Provençal and Tavel style. Delicious and great value.

Domaine Alzipratu, Fiumesecco Rosé, Ile de Beauté, Corsica, France, 2018. £14.50

A crazy Corsican name, this easy-to-love pink is made from the local Sciaccarellu grape and it has an incredibly soft, round palate with charming peach and melon flavours.

RED CLASSICS

El Pacto, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 2016, £11.50

All those classic Rioja flavours, but with a particularly fresh acidity and lovely herbaceous note. Not overblown. Infinitely moreish.

The Society’s Exhibition Margaux, France, 2015. £23

This Margaux shows why this Bordeaux appellation is so sought-after: positively regal with silky, dark fruit, classic, Cabernet features and a seamless, mineral core. Gorgeous plum and violet notes too.

The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie, France, 2018. £10.50

Beaujolais is back and it’s better than ever. This Fleurie has all the hallmarks that make the appellation famous: perfume and light-bodied silkiness, but it’s a million miles away from the soapy styles of yore. Crying out for charcuterie.

Langhe Nebbiolo A Mont, Paolo Conterno, Italy, 2016 £18

This wine is just how you want non-Barolo nebbioo to be: ethereal and earthy with subtle violets and rose. Utterly beguiling.

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RED ‘MUST-TRY’ QUIRKIES

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Carignan, Chile, 2016. £8.95

Chilean Carignan is getting really good. Tangy and refreshing, it’s got a moreish, chewy texture and strawberry jam notes.

Cirò Rosso Gaglioppo, Santa Venere, Italy, 2017. £9.95

Rustic, but with charm, this is earthy and fruity with fairly high tannin. A bit like a fruitier Nero D’Avola. Made with Gaglioppo grapes from Calabria.

Duché d’Uzès, Les Perrasieres, Domaine Camp Galhan, France, 2016. £10.50

If you’re a fan of Syrah form the Northern  Rhône, you will love this. Tonnes of thyme, rosemary and violets on the nose and a silky, plum fruit texture. Great value for great Syrah.

Kardarka, Maurer, Serbia, 2017. £14.50

A Serbian wine, no less! Kadarka is the grape and makes wines that are really light in colour and bright red. The flavour profile is so interesting: rose petal and figs, with a viscous, licorice and caramel finish. Definitely worth a taste and only 11% abv.

By Helena Nicklin





Perfect Pairings: Manzanilla with Fish & Chips

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If you’re thinking ‘Manza-what-now?’, you’re not alone. Manzanilla is a style of aged white wine that’s a bit different to the norm as it’s made in a super dry, deliberately savoury style that evoques salted almonds and something reminiscent of twiglets. It sounds weird, granted, but it’s immensely moreish, umami and textural - the very definition of a food wine. It hails from the south of Spain, not far from Seville, where it is sipped chilled on hot, dusty nights with small plates of nuts and tapas.

Why it works

The crispness of the Manzanilla cuts through the oiliness of the batter beautifully and the saltiness of it balances the fat and brings out the subtle flavours in the fish. Zesty, fresh, saline and nutty, it’s little wonder that Manzanilla is perfect with seafood. Cuisine in the Spanish, seaside town where it’s made is dominated by fresh fish and as they say: what grows together, goes together!

Try: Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla

Considered the benchmark for Manzanilla, this wine has been aged a bit longer than most (6 years) and is lip-pursingly dry and saline with subtle, chamomile notes.

RRP: Currently on offer at £9.19 from Waitrose for 70cl or £5.25 for 37.5cl from various stockists (see below*) including The Wine Society.

More about Manzanilla

You will know Jerez by its English translation: Sherry. In Europe, it’s usually the region that gives the name to a style of wine, so in the UK and the US, wines from here are known as ‘Sherries’. This fact has become a bit of a problem for the region as ‘Sherry’ is a word with so many associations to all things sweet, such as trifle and that sickly stuff in granny’s drinks cabinet. While it’s true that you can get sweet, ‘cream’ Sherries, the real stuff; the interesting stuff is bone dry, saline, nutty and complex. Manzanilla, like Fino, is white wine made from the Palomino grape that is aged in barrels under a layer of ‘flor’, which is a frothy, white yeast up to 2cm thick that protects the wine underneath from oxidation. This flor can only grow in this very specific part of Spain, which is why its effects on the texture and flavour of the wine are unique. The wines are also made using a solera system, where older barrels are topped up by the fresher barrels over time. Typically, the final wines are blends between 4 and 7 years old.

The difference between Manzanilla and Fino sherry is that Manzanilla is ever so slightly lighter than Fino in both colour and flavour, thanks to the cooler location where its made and aged, just down he road from Jerez in Sanlúcar de Barrameda by the sea. Manzanilla is still ostensibly known as a Sherry and Jerez and Sanlúcar are the only two locations where these wines can be made.

*Other stockists of the 37.5cl bottle:

Amazon, Oddbins, Bestway Retail (Wine Rack), Cambridge Wine Merchants, Connolly’s Wine Merchants (West Midlands), Village Wines (Kent), Baythorn Wines (Essex), Martinez Wines (Yorkshire), Lewis and Cooper, R Campbell, Roberts & Speight (Yorkshire), The Wine Press (West Midlands), Beers of Europe (Norfolk), Vintage Cellars (London), Sandhams Wine Merchants (Lincolnshire), Corkscrew Jersey, Mumbles Fine Wines (Wales), Richard Granger (Tyne & Wear), Alexander Hadleigh (Hampshire), Shaftesbury Wines (Dorset), George Hill of Loughborough, The Fine Wine Co (Scotland), Borders Wines (Scotland).

By Helena Nicklin

Disclaimer: We are regularly sent samples to taste for consideration for magazine pieces and social media. Not all of them are used. We are not paid to feature anything unless the article or post clearly states that the content is a promotion or sponsored.