THE MAGIC OF SINGLE MALT SCOTCH
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
by Andrew Chalk
Thank goodness for the Dallas Knights of St. Andrew. Not just for their strong choice of saint’s name, but also for being a praetorian guard for the enjoyment of the best Scotch whisky. That is whisky made by dedicated craftsmen according to techniques that go back over 500 years. Part of it is that whisky is one of the longest-duration production processes, in the case of Scotch involving at least three years of wood ageing, but frequently more.
At a rare and memorable event in Dallas on Saturday night at the magnificent Dallas Scottish Rite Cathedral I was a media guest at a conducted tasting of six fine single malt scotches accompanied by food from Oak’d Handcrafted Barbecue. Each whisky came from one of the six designated areas (in wine terminology, appellations) in Scotland. All of the whiskies had substantial oak ageing, either 10 or 12 years, before bottling so they represented the best, or near best, of their respective producers. When you see an age statement on a Scotch whisky bottle it is the age of the youngest Scotch in the bottle. The bottle is likely whiskies from several years’ harvests of malted barley blended in order to maintain a house style.
While the bottle may be a blend of vintages, the words ‘single malt’ guarantee that it was all distilled in one distillery. The words ‘single cask’ are even more specific, guaranteeing the Scotch came from one cask (an oak barrel of up to 700 litres capacity). Going in the other direction, if a Scotch whisky is made from the malt whisky of two or more distilleries it is called a ‘blended malt’.
All of the examples were fine scotches, and it is a matter of taste as to which you prefer. Among the 60 or so attendees there was lively debate. Even if it was not settled that night there will be plenty more opportunity to do so as the Dallas Knights of St. Andrew plan six more tastings, each one dedicated to a different Scotch appellation.
The Dallas Knights of St. Andrew exists to support Scottish Rite Hospital. They welcome new members in this valuable pursuit -- you don't even need to be Scottish!