Quite how Dave Stewart had time to found the Eurythmics and compose Sweet Dreams are Made of This while being master blender at Balvenie, is a Scottish mystery. But at Tuesday’s tasting of his 50 year old single malt (“his”in a loose sense, as the spirited was vatted in June 1962 and he joined the company in the September) he did explain what good whisky is made from – wood. His SA avatar, Jonathan Miles, is shown below although his impressively hairy legs are hidden by some oak, a vital component in the world of whisky.
“You need good oak to make good whisky” announced Dave. “Casks are the key.” In the case of the Balvenie 50, those hogsheads and tuns were made from European oak, spicy American Bourbon barrels having only recently arrived on the scene. It was this peaceful European wood (the EU recently being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize) to which Dave attributes the success of the spirit as 50 years in barrel did not over-oak the result.
So talking terroir and aged whisky is a bit of a swizz when the flavours are French oak and Spanish Sherry. With Sherry sales in the toilet, quite where all these Sherry barrels come from that the Scots use for flavour as they pump up production, is a second Sottish mystery. Meantime I’ll be sipping my Grosperrin Cognac XO I received yesterday from Paul la Cock of Aficionados. If there’s a whisky to come within a million miles of this, I’d love to hear about it.