Matching a whisky to every James Bond film

Whisky has been paired with food for decades, although in more recent years we’ve seen whiskies paired and matched to cigars, watches, albums, bands, and even movies!   If you’re going to sit down in your comfy sofa and pass away a few hours being entertained by 007, then having a good dram in your hand goes a long way to enhancing the experience.

Of course, Jimmy’s drink of choice may be a vodka martini, but we can shake and stir things up for the whisky drinkers out there who are James Bond fans: Here is our attempt to pair and match the perfect whisky to every (official) James Bond film.

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The Top Six things to do on Speyside

Yes, the obvious thing to do on Speyside is to visit distilleries and drink whisky.  But there’s so much more on offer if you look beyond the distilleries…

Any punter who’s been to Speyside can tell you to visit Distillery X or to make sure you do the “Experts Tour” (or some similarly badged experience) at Distillery Y.   The problem with such advice or recommendations is that most people giving you their tips can only draw from their experience of the five or six distilleries they’ve been to, or they simply tell you to go to their favourite distillery – which is a subjective opinion and experience at best.

There are 50 operating distilleries on Speyside at the moment, and Whisky & Wisdom has visited and toured all but one of them.  (Ironically, the one Speyside distillery Whisky & Wisdom has yet to step inside of is the Speyside Distillery at Drumguish!!).   Roseisle, Dalmunach, Mannochmore, Macduff, Strathmill, Ballindalloch, Glenburgie, Allt-a-bhaine, Braeval, Speyburn, Balmenach… name it, W&W has been there; met with the staff; and seen around it.  Which means we can take a more objective view of what’s on offer and provide a balanced opinion of what appeals or what provides value to the visitor.

However, this piece is not titled “The Top Six distilleries to visit on Speyside” – we’ll save that article for another day.  Rather, it’s the top six things to do.   The distilleries that are open to the public generally have tours between the hours of 10.00am-4.00pm (in the summer months), and – as you’ll discover, if you haven’t already – trying to schedule your tours and dovetail your visits so that you can sequentially get to multiple distilleries in a day is not the easiest of tasks.   This means you’ll have gaps in your day, or you’ll have time to do other things – particularly after the visitor centres close their doors.   So here are a few other things to keep you amused:

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Bringing balance to the foreshots

A joint essay & publication by Matthew Fergusson-Stewart of Whisky Molecules, and Andrew Derbidge of Whisky & Wisdom.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, your two correspondents were co-hosting a tasting event together and explaining the distillation process to the audience, going into detail about the fractioning – better known as the foreshots, middle cut, and feints.  We explained that the foreshots was heavy in methanols and other undesirable elements, which everyone was happy to accept.  We also explained how the foreshots and feints are never wasted, but are mixed back in with the next batch of low wines, and the process continues repeatedly. Everyone was happy to accept that, too.  Well, almost everyone.  One chap sitting near the front objected: “If the foreshots keep being recycled and mixed back in, won’t you get a continually increasing build-up of methanol in the spirit?”   Ummmm……

It’s a vexing question that’s since been posed to us both many times.  What do they do with the methanol and where does it go?

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The Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship, 2016

The Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship is a bit like the internet.  It’s something you might think is a relatively “new” thing, when the reality is that it’s been around for decades longer than you gave it credit for.

In actual fact, the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship has been around since 1989!  As the name suggests, it is a tasting competition, and had its origins in Adelaide, South Australia.  The competition’s principal format and structure has remained largely unchanged over the years: Competitors are presented with eight whiskies pre-poured before them, and supplied with a list of nine possible whiskies – in other words, the eight whiskies that are on the table, plus one red herring.   Competitors are then given 30 minutes to identify which whisky is which and to write their answers on the answer sheet.  Of course, having a list with all of the possible contenders in front of you makes the exercise seem a little easier, but the challenge is also in establishing which whisky of the nine on the list is not on the table!

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An audience with David Stewart & Balvenie

If you’re an employer or in charge of Human Resources, you’ll be aware of the dynamic and shifting nature of your workforce in recent years.  Being Generation X myself, it was drummed into me that you should show loyalty to your employer and stick around.  We were constantly told by the Baby Boomer generation above us that “your CV will look more impressive and you’ll be rewarded if you’ve demonstrated that you stay at the one place for five to ten years.”

This is in stark contrast to the Gen Y and Millenial approach, where the thinking seems to be that a CV littered with multiple positions and experience gained across a many different roles and jobs is the more attractive pursuit.

So with that as context, what do we make of an employee who sticks with his boss for 54 years?  What do we make of a role and a career that has outlasted many people’s lives, let alone most people’s professional undertakings?  Such is the story and the appeal of Mr David Stewart.

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The Cask-Strength Blues

In deep TV announcer voice-over tone:  “The following article contains drug references.  It is intended for mature audiences.  Whisky & Wisdom advises reader discretion.”

I’m reliably informed that alcohol is a drug.  People use it, abuse it, rely on it, swear by it, and at it.  It alters our mental state and makes us do things we might not otherwise have done if we were sober or clear-headed.  For example, the other day, with a few single malts under my belt, I found myself drinking a blend.  Fortunately, there were no witnesses…

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Now & Then: Comparing old bottlings with their modern-day counterparts

If there’s a topic guaranteed to start an argument around the table, it’s when sports enthusiasts try to pick or assert that a particular sporting team from one era was superior to the team from another era.  For example, is the Hawthorn team from the 1980’s better than the Hawthorn team from 2013-2015?  Was Don Bradman’s 1948 “Invincibles” side a better cricket team than the all-conquering Steve Waugh side of 1999-2001? If the two teams were to compete against one another, who would win?

Sadly (or happily?) in the case of such arguments, it is all speculation and conjecture.  For, quite simply, we will never know.  And how do you compare teams across different eras when rules were different, playing conditions differed, and the level of athleticism and professionalism was different.  The discussion is nothing more than hypothetical amusement.

Increasingly of late, similar discussions and assertions are translating across into whisky circles.  For example, a commonly-seen thread in many online whisky groups or forums is the assertion that the whiskies of today are not as good as what they were 20 years ago.  Or that whiskies have changed over the years.

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40% ABV whiskies – friend or foe?

I recently read an online review of a whisky that was written by a blogger.   There were a number of comments and references in the review where it was evident the writer was criticising the whisky for being 40% ABV.  And it’s a slippery slope – reviewers & commentators need to be careful to distinguish between “I would have preferred to have seen this whisky bottled at a higher strength; I believe it would benefit from being at a higher proof” and criticising or faulting the whisky merely for being 40%, as though it were a flaw or fault in production.

It raised a few interesting points, and I subsequently had a great dialogue with the reviewer as we discussed the issue further. There is no doubt that many of us prefer whiskies at higher strengths.   Cask-strength whiskies – which only as recently as 10-15 years ago were still scarce and hard to come by – are now as common as nude shots of Miley Cyrus, and once you become accustomed to the higher ABV whiskies, I certainly acknowledge and agree that 40% malts have to work a little harder to keep our tastebuds entertained.

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The three stages of your attitude to Glenfiddich: Like – Hate – Love

Catchy article title, eh? Not sure my former editor would approve of it – it’s hardly a flowing headline.  But there’s not really a  more succinct way to say it.  I’ll elaborate:  In my opinion, I reckon whisky drinkers all go through three very distinct stages in their appreciation of Glenfiddich.   And, depending on what stage you’re up to, this tremendously impacts your attitude to Glenfiddich.   Curious?  Let’s look into this…

Depending on how old you are and when you tried a single malt for the first time, there’s a good chance that your maiden dram was a Glenfiddich. The familiar green, triangular bottle was synonymous with single malt whisky through the 1970’s and 1980’s, before other brands finally found their way onto the shelves of our bottleshops. Certainly, when you speak to most whisky drinkers in their late 40’s and older, Glenfiddich was the whisky they lost their malt virginity to.  Even if you took up malt whisky more recently, a dram of Glenfiddich was still a textbook malt to turn to as you made the transition out of blends or simply dived head first into the category via a single malt.

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Armorik single malt – the whisky of Brittany

With interest in “new world” whiskies exploding everywhere, not to mention a burgeoning craft whisky scene in almost every country around the world, it’s easy to look at a brand you’ve not heard of before and think “Okay, that’s new”. You might also be forgiven for assuming the whisky is young.

This is the challenge for some of the non-Scottish whisky producers that have actually been around the traps for a while and are trying to cement a foothold in the international scene. Such is the challenge for Armorik – the first Breton single malt whisky.

Armorik single malt whisky is distilled at Distillerie Warenghem, an independent, family-owned distillery that was established in 1900.   After 83 years of making all manner of liqueurs, the distillery turned its hand to whisky in 1983.  Whilst their first bottled release in 1987 was a blended whisky, Armorik Single Malt was launched back 1998.  So Armorik is hardly the new kid on the block, despite what many assume.

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