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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Glen Moray, Elgin, Scotland

Dufftown lays claims to the title of Malt Whisky Capital of Scotland (and with good reason) however a visit to the town of Elgin is well worth the time of any whisky lover.  It's two main whisky attractions (for me anyway)  would be the impressive Gordon and MacPhail shop with a whisky room so breathtaking in its range that they should pad the floor to avoid risk of injury to their customers who pass out.  The second reason would be the unassuming Glen Moray distillery.  Until recently this distillery, and it's whisky, was firmly in the shadow of it's big sibling, Glenmorangie, but has now come out squinting and blinking into the light and that is good for them, and for whisky lovers of subtle but complex whisky, and is now finding it's way in the world.  The distillery is worth a visit, the tour is standard enough fare, and they charge over $6 for it, but they do nice job and the visitor's center is well fitted out with bar, coffee shop and gifts.  You can even fill your own bottle straight from a cask in gift shop.  They were generous with the pouring (and pulled out a few more expensive expressions if you showed an interest – which I did) and I left with perfectly drinkable bottle of their 12 year old.

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Four Roses, Kentucky, USA

Distillery number two on day two of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT).  A very interesting Spanish Mission style building, with no warehouses (which was a pity because apparently Four Roses unusually only use single storey warehouses) or bottling hall on site and so the tour focussed on the recipes, actual fermentation and distilling of spirit.  Four Roses was one of the first bourbons I ever tried in 2009 (after getting "into whiskey") while living in the UK and liked it, but  as part of the tour we learned that in USA the name had been associated with a very poor blended whiskey and so while it popular overseas, especially Japan where it is the number one bourbon, the Four Roses brand is "rebuilding" as a bourbon in the USA.  It is rather unique (or at least appeared to be) in that they actually make 10 different recipe bourbons using two different mash bills, one with high rye and one with a low rye content, and then use 5 different yeast strains for fermentation.  5 yeast x 2 mashbills = 10 recipes.  This was interesting as my experience in Scotland had been yeast was bit of commodity (packs of Anchor Distiller's Yeast could often be seen around the washbacks in Scottish distilleries) yet in USA, and especially at Four Roses, yeast is treated with same reverance and importance to the final product as the Scots tend to reserve for their water supply.   I have to say the impact of yeast on final taste seems a lot more credible to me that the mythical water source stories ever did.   That is not to say Kentucky distilleries don't talk about their water.... they all do, but they talk about the more generic "limestone filtered water in this part of Kentucky" rather than their specific source or spring.  Anyway the tour finished with three nice samples, the Four Roses Yellow Label (blended with all 10 recipes), the Four Roses Small Batch (made with 4 of the 10 recipes) and the Four Roses Single Barrel which of course can only be one recipe and contains the higher content rye mash bill.   Another free tour and one I truly enjoyed (perhaps in part because there was no bottling hall to endure).  Definately a distillery on the rise and a gift shop that actually sold 5 cl mini bottles, 4 of the previous 5 distilleries (if they sold at all due to licence issues) just sold 70 cl standard bottles at prices, due to local KY taxes, much higher than I can buy the same whiskey in Texas.

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