Does Terroir Matter? – New Waterfords – Knock Tales – Old Campbeltown – New Fettercairn – Diageo Bar Academy
This column was almost completed late February then, due to circumstances beyond my control, its posting here has been delayed. More a newsy column than a comment blog this time and I‘ve been able to add in a couple of new bits because of the delay and leave out some other items.
I‘m starting off with the recently announced paper on terroir in the importance of whisk(e)y making supported by Waterford Distillery in Ireland. They kindly sent me it a day early saying, ‘‘because you‘re a terroir geek like we are.“ Very kind of them to say that. Terroir is a subject that‘s interested me since I did all my WSET wine exams years ago (I had an enlightened boss) and when it started to be mentioned in relation to whisky it made me curious. Of course, Waterford proprietor, Mark Reynier has had an itch to scratch on this since he ran Bruichladdich on Islay, quite certain that there was a link between the barley-growing terroir and the final spirit, a fascinating prospect that Bruichladdich continues to pursue in its own independent and pioneering way.
I won‘t go into the scientific detail here but even if you‘re not of a deeply scientific bent this is interesting to whisky geeks. It may also be a useful learning and discussion document for those who do The Advanced Whisky Ambassador (a new course still to be advertised and offered) from the team who own this very website. I do recall a scientist from the Scotch Whisky Research Institute telling me a while back that more research needed to be done in this area but don‘t know if this is the type of study that was in mind. Waterford have supplied a link to a short film clip about the study on https://youtu.be/zwe_xM9Xw38 and read the paper at https://www.mdpi.com/journal/foods .
Anyway, from my point of view it‘s more food for a fascinating debate. Maybe we‘ll see even more batch whiskies in future – the whisky world could get more complicated! In summary, the study found:
„…This study attempted to determine the influence of terroir on the flavour of new make spirits by assessing the contribution of barley variety and its growth environment over two seasons through sensory and olfactometry analysis. It was noted that variety, environment and the interaction of variety x environment impacted the sensory character of the new make spirits, with pungent and fresh fruit sensory attributes impacted by all factors (variety, environment and season). However the impact of environment, and the interaction of variety x environment were more pronounced than variety alone on the sensory attributes, across both seasons. Forty two volatile compounds were detected as potential odorants contributing to the flavour of new make spirits, however eight were deemed to be the most influential… Another fifteen also impacted on aroma but to a lesser extent and these consisted of mainly esters although six compounds could not be identified due to co-elution, low abundance or by the fact that they were below limits of detection by mass spectrometry. Chemometric analysis of the volatile and sensory data also concluded that both environment and season had a greater impact on the aromatic sensory character of the new make spirits than variety alone. The environments were chosen in this study based on different soil and climate conditions, where the barley varieties were chosen based on common commercial varieties in use in Ireland at the time of the study, and these varieties share similar genetic heritage that may have limited an impact on flavour diversity in the new make spirit. This study has clearly demonstrated variations in the contribution of the aroma active volatiles and sensory attributes in these new make spirits, and reflects changes in barley growth in relation to environmental elements including soil nutrients and prevailing seasonal weather patterns, and therefore reveals a “terroir” effect. This has not been previously determined and creates the possibility of producing whisk(e)y from different “vintage” with new make spirit that encompass the factors impacting on the growth of the barley variety as well as the subsequent processing parameters. Further research is required to better understand the specific environmental impact on barley growth and the management and processing thereof with respect to the genetic, physiological, and metabolic mechanisms contributing to the terroir expression of new make spirit and whisk(e)y.“
Also from Waterford, recently announced winners of Winner of the Distiller and Brand Innovator of the Year at the Icons of Whisky Ireland awards 2021, comes news of new Single Farm Origin releases. Two of these will be available worldwide from mid-March onwards: Hook Head: Edition 1.1 -T „an extreme maritime terroir… on Ireland’s southern coast… barley grows on clay/loam soils of the Elton series and Lakefield: Edition 1.1 – situated „inland in Co. Laois, with deep loam soils derived from limestone and sandstone“. The release goes on to say, „Part of Waterford’s strategy is to allow individual markets to follow the development of ‘their own’ single terroir over a number of years. Five Single Farm Origins have been allocated to European countries on an exclusive basis:
Grattansbrook: Edition 1.1 – UK only
Lacken: Edition 1.1 –France only
Tinnashrule: Edition 1.1 –Germany only
Mortarstown: Edition 1.1 –Belgium only
Wilkinstown: Edition 1.1 –Netherlands only“
All whiskies are bottled at 50% ABV without added colouring, chill-filtration or any other additives and will retail at €70/80 (£70) from specialist retailers.“
If any samples come my way, I will report next time. I‘m guessing Brexit may have messed that up in terms of time taken to get here and possible duty payments required.
Before we go any further, last time I wrote about the Fur-Ever Yours valentine cocktail from Douglas Laing & Co. using their Scallywag whisky and was still to try it. It is absolutely delicious. I asked who created the drink and it was Brand Ambassador Stuart Baxter. If you want to know more about him and his activities you‘ll find him on Instagram @douglaslaingbaxter . I did use hazelnut coffee syrup instead of liqueur and the Mozart brand as the dark chocolate liqueur.
Our wonderful distillers have been great at putting so much out online to inform and entertain in the last year and new things keep popping up. The latest in my inbox is from anCnoc whisky. We‘re told, ‘‘It’s been created to lift the lid on the passion, process and personalities that go into making some of the world’s most expertly crafted products“. Note that doesn‘t necessarily mean „craft distilling“ (loathe that phrase), just people who lovingly craft their products, whatever they are, to the highest level. Title of the podcast is Knock Tales Whisky Podcast and the presenter is distillery manager, Gordon Bruce talking to „…makers and craft obsessives from around the world, getting to the bottom of Gordon’s favourite topic: making things well“. Should be worth a listen and I intend to catch it. It started on 3rd March (sorry – that unavoidable delay again) when the first guest was Jared Himstedt, distiller at Balcones Distillery in Waco, Texas. You can find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and via the website on https://ancnoc.com/knock-tales/podcast/ . A neat addition is accompanying illustrations by a Scottish (but NY-based) artist, Peter Arkle, featuring Gordon, one of his dogs and his guest of that week. Poster sales or other promo materials, maybe? And why not, indeed? I‘m not being cynical here – it’s nice artwork and might be attractive to some collectors.
Get rummaging around in the attic. Glen Scotia Distillery (whose Victoriana expression is one I particularly like) is looking for old photos of Campbeltown that can be digitised and sent to them or prints (copies of prints are fine – they‘re not asking you to part with originals). Although there are only a few distilleries there now, there used to be more than 30 in the area in its 19th century heyday. Learned that early on in my whisky career and wondered where on earth there was room for them all. The population then was only 9,000 in total so many of the adults must have been employed in distilleries and in the port. If you do find old pictures, send them to their PR agency, „email@example.com or by post to Glen Scotia, BIG Partnership, Fountain House, 1-3 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow, G3 7UL, alongside contact details of the sender by 31st March 2021“. They will be holding another online whisky festival this year and some pictures may be chosen to feature in that and/or „…showcased through Glen Scotia’s marketing activity to further raise awareness of the distillery and Campbeltown around the world.“ It would be lovely if Campbeltown pictures could be found from sources round the globe, reflecting its golden age importance to the whisky world.
There‘s a new Fettercairn on the block. It was launched on 1st March and a sample arrived a couple of days ago. I haven‘t nosed and tasted it yet so I‘ll cover that next time. This is Fettercairn‘s first ever collection of small batch single malt whiskies and this first expression is Warehouse 2, Batch No.001 from five different cask styles filled in 2010 and matured in Warehouse 2 . Only 3,600 bottles are available in the UK initially via The Whisky Shop and spreading to key markets in Europe from mid-March. UK price is £55/bottle. Wider UK distribution starts soon and moves into other key markets including the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France later this month. As I say, more next time.
The other week I was sent info about a Diageo Bar Academy session on Low & No Alcohol Drinks. Sounded interesting so I signed up and watched the live session. It was really informative and enjoyable. No whisky was used in the session but, as there are now lower alcohol spirit drinks from companies like Ballantine‘s and Whyte & Mackay there‘s plenty of whisky-flavoured lower alcohol opportunity out there for the creative bartender. Some of the drinks they did use are not very low in alcohol but once you add in other mixers, the whole offering comes down in strength. Many of you may already be signed up to the Academy but if you‘re not I can recommend it. The session I viewed is available to watch online at https://www.diageobaracademy.com/en_zz/training/webinars/a-guide-to-low-and-no-cocktails but you may have to create an account to do so and there‘s other good material to be had from the website at https://www.diageobaracademy.com . Today for International Women‘s Day, they had a session on the future of women in the industry. Find it at https://www.diageobaracademy.com/en_zz/bar-trends-tips/podcast/series-2/the-future-of-women-in-the-industry-with-lauren-mote-and-guests/ .
For some the world is opening up a little and for others there‘s still a way to go before that happens. When it does, I certainly intend to be out there supporting my local hospitality outlets. Easter will be here soon – another chance to pair whiskies and chocolate!
Till then, stay safe and happy dramming.