It’s the first of December, which can only mean one thing! Drum roll please… 24 days, 24 doors, and 24 delicious drams of coming your way! Now, what could be behind the first door of our Whisky Advent Calendar.
It’s that time of year again, and unlike previous years it’s safe to say its taken slightly longer to come around in 2020 – but enough of that, there will be no mention of the ‘L’ word in this whisky post! It’s the season to rack the brain to remember where you stuffed all that Christmas stuff; time to untangle those fairy lights, to deck the halls, and put out that one Christmas decoration everyone secretly hates but which goes up because ‘it’s traditional’; time to cram the cupboard with snacks, safe in the knowledge that you’ll “run it off in January”. And oh yes!, it’s time to open your Advent Calendar and drink some ruddy good whisky!
What better place to start the advent-ure (sorry, we’re getting you prepared for cracker jokes) than with a ten year old Islay single malt from the Character of Islay Whisky Company: Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old. With it being the first day of winter, this warming, sweet and smoky dram will have you lighting the fire and getting cosy under a tartan blanket. When we asked the folks at The Character of Islay Whisky Company about the whisky, they said it’s simple, everything you need to know is in the name, Aerolite Lyndsay. Any ideas?
We caught up with the Character of Islay’s head of whisky Dr. Sam Simmons to explain:
Master of Malt: What makes Islay so special?
Dr. Sam Simmons: In short, I don’t know. Magic? It’s just one of many islands off the west coast of Scotland but of the hundreds that pepper the coast, none is as revered, certainly amongst whisky lovers, as the Queen of the Hebrides. While it’s a destination for many bird watchers, cyclists, and more, as a destination for those for whom whisky is almost a religion, Islay holds holy status, with thousands making the pilgrimage annually.
Some come every year, others plan their lives around eventually visiting. They go with family, friends and fellow whisky lovers – it’s a special trip because they know that Islay whisky is all a part of something bigger.
Islands are rocks in the middle of bodies of water and the islands of the west coast of Scotland are made of tough rocks, making them pretty unfavourable agricultural environments. Yet Islay once had over 20 licenced working distilleries, it has nine today or 11 if you include those in planning. So I’m sure Ileachs themselves as well as the whisky pilgrims, and you, share the belief that there is some kind of magic to this place. No one visits just once, or at least few are left without the urge to return.
MoM: When did you first go to Islay?
SS: I first visited in 2004 with my whisky appreciation club, The Edinburgh University Water of Life Society.
MoM: Tell us more about this mysterious Aerolite Lyndsay
SS: As Islay whisky’s popularity has grown and competition increased, recent years have seen a proliferation of complex liquid propositions and elaborate back stories from the great distilleries of Islay. Aerolite Lyndsay looks back to a time when whisky was simpler. Where it did what it said on the tin and what it said on the tin was enough: Extra Old Highland whisky, 8 year old Speyside, or 10 year old Islay. Aerolite Lyndsay is the kind of Islay whisky that you share with friends whether they love whisky or are new to it. As Dave Broom wrote about it, a “great Islay dram to share during a drinking session. Glasses, friends, throw the cork away”.
MoM: Any exciting plans for Character of Islay in 2021?
SS: Well we are very lucky to have good stocks of interesting Laphroaigs, Bowmores, Ardbegs and more to release as Wind & Wave single casks, but we also have a good amount of rich sherried malt from a distillery that will remain unnamed. I would really like to get this whisky into a bottle in 2021 as a counterpoint to Aerolite Lyndsay in character and style.
MoM: Favourite and least favourite Christmas snack?
SS: I married into a Christmas rich with traditional foods and rituals, so Norwegian specialities have to make an appearance here. I am not a fan of mince pies but I love Norwegian Christmas cookies: krumkaker, kransekake, berlinerkrans and pepperkaker/gingerbread (try it with Stilton, it’s a revelation!)
MoM: You’ve received a one of a kind whisky time machine for Christmas. You can take one whisky bottle, from any point in history. What is it?
SS: Having just finished Dr. Nick Morgan’s A Long Stride, old Johnnie Walkers would be a real treat to explore, but equally Nick discusses the “craze” of toddy drinking and the whisky that was blended particularly with this drinking method in mind. I would love a chance to taste some of these drops and get some perspective on ‘good taste’, how it has changed, and continues to change, in Scotch whisky.
Thank you Dr Sam!
Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:
Nose: Smoky peat, with a honey sweetness, a slight spiciness with salted caramel and seasoned oak.
Palate: Smoky and salty with rich minted cocoa, espresso and leathery notes with a final hint of honeyed soy.
Finish: Menthol, soft liquorice, wood smoke and rich buttery toffees with a final pinch of salt to finish.