Hans Offringa, recognized whisky expert, keeper of the quaich, SMWS ambassador & renowned whisky writer, together with his whisky-loving wife Becky, have been forming “The Whisky Couple” for many years, offering us delicious stories, educative tastings and sharing their passion like no others.
Read their thoughts as they embark on a quest to find the perfect Christmas Dram!
“Is there such a thing as a perfect Christmas dram? The first single malt that comes to mind is The Macallan, the sherried version. It has those beautiful nutty flavors and fruity taste that Becky and I readily associate with Christmas spice cake. The Macallan, Rolls Royce under the malts, as the late Michael Jackson once said, certainly is a contestant for the title. This distillery started its life as Easter Elchies Distillery, referring to nearby Easter Elchies House. The silhouette of this remarkable mansion on the distillery grounds is still pictured on the label and packaging of the single malt.
With Easter Elchies House standing firmly above the banks of the River Spey, opposite the famed Craigellachie Hotel, the distillery is a true landmark. But there are more candidates. Let’s hop on a boat and sail the River Spey in southerly direction. After twenty minutes we moor behind Ballindalloch Castle and ask permission from the Lady of the House to cross her estate. Arriving at the road in front of the castle, we walk in northerly direction for a while and see the entrance of Glenfarclas, the fiercely independent one. Although Robert Hay is named as the founder, it is the Grant-dynasty who created a worldwide success with this distillery and its distinctive whisky. Since 1863 Glenfarclas has been owned by the Grants and currently the 6th generation Grant (George) leads the company together with his father John. It is one of the very few remaining independent distilleries owned by a private family and therefore unique in the whisky world. Glenfarclas comes in various vintages, from a nice and easy 8-year-old, via a 10, 12, 15, 21, 25 to a stunning 40-year-old. I’d vote for the 15-year-old, whose price/quality ratio is optimal. Becky agrees.
Still, we feel our quest for the perfect Christmas dram isn’t over yet. Leaving the Glenfarclas estate we turn right, bearing north. Turning at the village of Craigellachie, we head to Dufftown and after a couple of miles the blackened warehouses of Glenfiddich and its sister distillery Balvenie come in sight. We cross the visitor center parking lot and stroll to the nearby ruins of Balvenie Castle, with a full hip flask of Balvenie Double Wood. This 12-year-old dram has orange marmalade hints in its full flavor and a warming finish. Maturation took place in two different types of casks. The resulting dram is rich, mellow but with great depth and complexity. It goes well with chocolate. Is this the one? Or is there more to explore?
William Grant, not related to the Grants of Glenfarclas, was almost 50 years old when he founded Glenfiddich in 1886. Before that he was employed as a bookkeeper at another Dufftown distillery: Mortlach. Grant was careful and money tight. He purchased the old stills of Cardhu across the Spey River. Then he started to build, together with his wife and 8 children. On Christmas Day that same year the first drop of Glenfiddich single malt whisky ran from the stills. So this is our perfect dram to spice up your Christmas supper:
Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15-year-old, 40% ABV
Meaning: Glenfiddich is Gaelic for “valley of the deer”. Solera Reserve refers to the solera system used in Spain to make vintage sherries.
Comments: The entire process can be done at the premises, from malting to bottling, which is rare in the industry. The Grants therefore call their single malt “chateau bottled.”
Color: Bright Gold.
Nose: Chocolate. Toast. Hint of peat. Body: Light but very smooth.
Taste: Suave. Silky, white chocolate. Pears in cream. Cardamom.
Finish: Cream. Hint of ginger. (Tribute to Michael)
Cover pic: favorflav.com