Age means nothing: James Robertson on new age whiskies

For decades we have been told that age means everything with whisky and in some circumstances it certainly does. If the new spirit runs off the still with bags of flavour and structure, then placed in a good oak barrel, there is every chance that once it passes the magical three year point it will be a good whisky.

With the emergence of new distilleries over the past few years there are more single malts on the market than ever before, all of them not stating any age at all. They have to be older than three years by law but they do not have to state their age.

There are some whiskies that probably do need more time in their oak home but some when bottled young have a lovely balance, freshness and quality to them that cannot be overlooked.

The Borders Distillery has recently released a limited edition blend – ‘The Long & Short Of It’. Head Distiller, John Fordyce has been mucking about with fermentation times for the mash. One batch fermented for 55 hours and another for an astounding 150 hours. Both batches were then distilled twice, as is the norm, and then matured in excellent first fill ex bourbon barrels. There were only 8,400 bottles released for sale across the world, each bottle being numbered.

‘Fermentation is an essential part of determining flavour in Scotch Whisky and, in The Long & Short of It, we have experimented with very short and very long fermentation times to create a blend of flavours that work really well together; the fresh complimenting the sweet,’ John said. 

I really enjoyed this whisky which has a bright yellow, gold colour. On the nose there is a touch of sweet barley, hints of butterscotch, dried apricots which also appear in the taste alongside green apples, lemon peel and a touch of oak. The whisky is young but fresh, vibrant and dangerously easy drinking. £40 at www.bordersdistillery.com

Lagg Distillery was recently voted Distillery of the Year at the Scottish Whisky Awards so it probably comes as no surprise that the new whisky from Lagg is another cracker well worth seeking out. Lagg is the sister distillery of the well- respected Isle of Arran Distillery, but is producing whisky which is peated. The ‘Kilmory Edition’ has been matured in first fill bourbon barrels and bottled at 46%. Distillery Manager Graham Omand explains: ‘The Kilmory expression embodies the ‘house style of Lagg. Our Single Malts are really rooted in the southside of Arran and their aromatic, peated character embodies the earthiness of the whiskies that would have been among the first to have been distilled on Arran hundreds of years ago.  Today our LAGG Single Malts represent the spirit and respect for our land that the people here can’t wait to share with the wider world.’

Another example of how a young whisky can provide plenty of flavour and structure without age. It again has a lovely light gold colour in the glass. On the nose there is a subtle layer of peat smoke with a touch of citrus and barley sugar. On the taste these aromas combine with vanilla pods and a hint of green apples. £49.99 at www.arranwhisky.com

Don’t miss the January issue of Scottish Field magazine.

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