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SCOTCH 102 A Lesson from Andrew Hogan, Brand Ambassador for Isle of Arran Scotch

Andrw Hogan Arran Distillery

During our first interview in November of 2010, Andrew Hogan graciously gave me a course in Scotch Whiskey 101, which I included in my article for the December 2010 Kosher Wine Society Newsletter.  In our recent talk - because I kept asking \"beginner\" questions - Andrew was kind enough to add more currency to my whiskey knowledge bank:

I learned from Andrew that Scotch is a more secure investment than gold, silver, oil, and art and its value keeps going up

I learned that blended whisky came into \"it\'s own\" after the epidemic invasion of the insect \"phylloxera\" that decimated Europe\'s entire wine crop. As cognac is a distillate of grapes, this left a huge gap in the \"brown spirits\" market.  Small private whiskey producers saw the opportunity, stepped into \"business\" and moved to fill that gap.  They have never looked back.

I learned that a distillery must be continually producing - and money to do so must be continually found.  Breaks in production have consequences many years later as gaps appear in the stock profile that can threaten continuous supply.

Production depends on the continual supply of barley.  Arran\'s barley supply is grown locally but it is shipped to the mainland for the first step in processing - called \"malting.\" Once \"malted\" the grain is shipped back to the Isle of Arran by Ferry from Claonaig to Lochranza - a one-hour crossing over open water and not always safe.  The approach to the West Coast of Scotland is historically very dangerous and littered with hundreds of shipwrecks.  The addition of its new grain silo will give Arran Distillery some production breathing room in case the Ferry cannot land because of inclement weather.

Andrew explained to me that there are different strains and different qualities of barley and those differences impact both the production process and the quality of the scotches made from them.  Good quality barley leads to high yields of whiskey, lesser quality barley produces lower yield.  A yield of 4 liters of whisky per ton of barley is good.

When I asked about how a peated scotch is produced, Andrew explained that the flavor and character of a whiskey, its heaviness, lightness, peat and smoke are functions of the shape and the height of each particular still and the methods used in the \"malting\" process. The timing of each process also affects the quality of the whiskey produced.

The traditional malting process consists of the controlled germination of the barley grains by soaking them in water, and spreading them on malting floor -typically a long, single-story building with a floor that slopes slightly from one end of the building to the other.  The soaked malted barley must be turned frequently, not less than four times every 24 hours

The germination is stopped by kiln drying the grain.  The barley is spread on perforated flooring and smoke coming from a toasting fireplace is used to dry the barley.  The answer to my \"peat\" question lies here.  Many different types of fuel have been used throughout the years to fuel the fires for the barley kilns.  Where wood or coal is scarce, that fuel was often a mix of vegetative materials - \"peat.\"  The flavor of the peat is imbued within the barely grains at the time of drying, and the grains impart that flavor to the whiskey.  The peat can still be tasted in whiskey that has aged as long as 30 years.

Today\'s distilleries have many options available and can carefully plan the range of flavors in their whiskies.  Different strains of barley can be ordered.  When dealing with the malting facilities, distillers can specify quantities of malt that is dried using peat or other types of fuels and thus acquiring a controlled and varied \"palette\" for the design of the finest productions of single malt scotch.

Arran 14 yo

Isle Arran Distillery\'s core range now consists of:
  • Arran 10 year old (Single Malt)
  • Arran 14 year old (Single Malt)
  • Single Cask Bourbon
  • Single Cask Sherry
  • Amarone Wine Cask Finish
  • Sauternes Wine Cask Finish
  • Port Wine Cask Finish
  • Machrie Moor Peated Whiskey

For tasting notes visit: http://www.arranwhisky.com/TastingNotesMalts/

Also, Isle of Arran is the only distillery allowed to use the image and signature of Robert Burns on a bottle of blended scotch - Robert Burns Blend - http://www.arranwhisky.com/TastingNotesBlends/

In less than three years the distillery aims to launch its first 18-year-old single-malt whisky, thus completing the core range line up.

Arran LogoArran whiskys have won numerous awards.  

To learn more about the Arran Distillery visit: http://www.arranwhisky.com/.