When it comes to the production of malt whisky, local
factors are not quite as important as they are in (for
example) the wine world. In that respect, 'terroir' does
hardly exist within Scotland, Ireland, Japan or the USA.
That does NOT mean that I 'disqualify'
Irish, Japanese or
American whisk(e)ys, mind you - or vatted (blended) malts or
grain whiskies for that matter. I've tried some expressions in
these categories that tickled my fancy. However, you'll have
to visit the Deviant Drams section for tasting notes on those
whiskies and other spirits. In recent years the prices of single
malts have skyrocketed, while my discretionary income has
diminished - so I've started looking at potential alternatives.
Lowland malt whiskies are usually triple distilled for example.
This makes them a little lighter and smoother, like the whiskeys from Ireland. The other (malt) whiskies in Scotland are
generally double distilled, producing a heavier spirit with more character. Differences in production methods like these
play an important role, of course. The heavily peated malts from Islay (like the Laphroaig at the left) are in a class all by
themselves as well. Or at least they used to be in the not too distant past... With the knowledge and technology of today
a Speyside distillery like BenRiach can easily produce a malt whisky in the 'traditional' heavily peated style from Islay too.
Although the 'terroir' aspect of malts is sometimes exaggerated by overly zealous marketeers and copywriters, it should
not be overlooked. Just keep in mind that these days the barley for the 'Scotch' whisky could be shipped in from Russia...
Which reminds me of another aspect of 'locale' - sort of. Despite my wisdom and omnipotence I tend to forget that there
are people who are not quite as wise and potent as me... In fact, some of you might not realise what on earth I'm
thinking about when I mention Amsterdam or 'the woods' in entries in my Liquid Log or on Malt Maniacs.
That being said, there are significant differences in the
way that whisk(e)y is distilled between, for example,
Ireland and Scotland. That is why, with a few notable
exceptions, most Irish and American whiskeys are not
single malts - the production process is simply different.
This DD section focuses on Scotch single malt whisky.
So, that's why I've constructed the little map at the top of this page. It might be helpful for those of you unfamiliar with the
geography of our part of Europe (the UK, Holland, Belgium & France). As you can see, several other malt maniacs live 'right
around the corner', so to speak - Michel (from Holland), Luc & Bert (from Belgium), Serge, Olivier & Martine (from France) and
Charlie, Dave and Lex (from the United Kingdom). The maniacs in Germany, Sweden, Austria and Italy live relatively nearby
as well. Does that make the malt maniacs a tad 'euro-centric'? I suppose it does, although there are maniacs that live in
North America, Asia, Australia & South Africa too. So, we try to keep a global perspective on the whisky world - but because
it's all 'volunteer work' we can't be too picky about the people that join our team... Fortunately, thanks to the world wide
web we are all closely connected to the rest of the world and hear about developments, even without nearby reporters.
I already mentioned that Scotland isn't the only place in the world where whisky is distilled - far from it, actually.
Check out the Deviant Drams section for info about some 'foreign' whiskies from Australia, Tasmania, Canada, France,
Germany, Holland, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and the USA. If you ask
me, precious few of the distillers in these foreign countries have managed to match the 'real thing' from Scotland yet.
That being said - especially the Japanese, the Irish and some antipodes seem to be getting closer and closer...
If I had to guess, I'd say there are two reasons for the diminishing gap
between the 'quality' (or maybe character) of
Scotch whisky on one end and the whiskies that are produced in other parts of the world on the other end. First of all,
the growing demand for Scotch whisky over the past decade has meant that the producers could adjust their 'quality'
standards. At the same time, some distillers in other countries managed to improve the 'quality' (or character) of their
whiskies. Cooley started producing some very decent Irish whiskeys again, the best Japanese whiskies rival anything
made in Scotland and micro-distilleries in a number of other countries are doing great things as well. If anything, this
proves that regions don't determine everything . I'll delve deeper into this in the Beginner's Guide to Scotch Whisky.