Abalance of quality and price

Abalance of quality and price

Inverallan Scotch Malt Whisky is using the Internet to promote whisky and Scottish water across the world. Eluned Price reports

News | 05 Apr 2005 | Issue 47 | By Eluned Price

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If you don’t happen to live in God’s own country – and few of us do – the chances of being able to taste the best Scottish malt whisky as it should taste will be slim. If you take your whisky neat that’s different, but the water that you add – even just a splash – can adulterate the purity and balance of the whisky.Now, Inverallan Scotch malt whisky is offering the cognoscenti the authentic Scottish taste experience by accompanying every bottle in its range of Pure Malts range and speciality single malts with a litre of the best mineral water to be found in Scotland. Based in Alva, in the heart of Scotland, Inverallan supplies its whiskies through its website direct to whisky-lovers all over the world.“We wanted to make the highest quality pure malts available to people abroad,” says Inverallan’s founder Paddy Goodman.“And for them to experience the apogee of tasting whisky in Scotland, it was vital that we supply our ‘home-grown’ water as well. It’s like wine: the right grapes need the right soil.” Paddy’s long years of experience in the whisky business are matched by those of his associate, Leonard Russell, who runs the biggest independent blending and bottling company in Scotland and is owner of the Glengoyne distillery. Together they constitute a formidable team and have the pick of all of Scotland’s finest whiskies for their own blends.This means that for Inverallan’s 12 Year Old Pure Malt, Paddy and Leonard will choose from a different palette of distilleries to create that lighter, gentler, flowerier taste than the distilleries they use to create Inverallan’s 21 Year Old.“The older malt is robust, powerful and weighty,” says Paddy. “The 12 Year Old is soft, gentle, sophisticated and delicate, whilst the 21 Year Old is fuller, heavier and more masculine.”Eight different single malts create Inverallan’s Rare Pure Malt: achieving the right balance is a matter of long experience, and of choice.“The finer the whiskies, the subtler and more complex is the nose,” says Paddy. The finish is of equal importance.“The finish can be a short or a long drum roll, a crescendo or a long ripple of changing taste values on the tongue. I find the better the balance of the Pure Malt whisky, the more shifts of flavour occur as the taste recedes.”Like maturation, the finish on the 12 Year Old will differ from the 21 Year Old.“Some single malts, particularly the ‘big’ flavoured ones, yield a massive initial flavour, and die swiftly,” says Paddy.“So Inverallan’s 12 Year Old has a long and gently complex finish, whereas the Inverallan 21 Year Old which contains more robust singles has a huge initial flavour and a shorter, more dramatic finish”.Having the pick of distilleries the length and breadth of Scotland also means that Paddy and Leonard have access to the ‘jewels’ – the best and rarest old whiskies – that occasionally arise in limited quantities. “For example,” says Paddy, “we may acquire a fine cask from a distillery that ceased production 20 years ago and bottle it off.”Consequently the company can deliver, through its internet site, some exclusive rare single malts – albeit in small quantities – for excellent prices.Typical of their ‘jewels’ is Inverallan’s 30 Year Old Glenlivet, the epitome of a single malt. This is the classic malt, coming as it does from the first distillery in Scotland to acquire a licence to distil whisky legally nearly 200 years ago – a moment that signalled the end of the long years of illicit distilling and smuggling skulduggery across the land.Even better, this one comes from a second fill sherry cask. For nectar such as this you might reasonably expect to pay around £250 a bottle: through Inverallan you can order a bottle for around £60 to £80 – whilst the cask lasts.Ordered through the website, each bottle of whisky, accompanied by a litre of Inverallan mineral water, arrives in a handcrafted cherry wood presentation pack, wrapped and locked with a leather thong.Deliveries are made “anywhere in the world where it is legal to do so,” the only stipulations being that they are mailed to private addresses and that the customer is responsible for the import duty, usually payable to the carrier.Malt whisky derives its complexities from the qualities of its ingredients and the nature of its distillation. From the peat maltings it gets its dryness and smokiness; from the wood its oakiness and some vanilla; from the barley and the yeast it gets sweetness and some fruit flavours. But often, what makes the single biggest contribution to the way a whisky tastes is the water that is used to make it.“Which is why the water that you drink with a whisky is so important,” says Paddy.“The finest, rounded malt in existence can be destroyed by a drop of inappropriate water, and it happens every day, in every city in the world.”Inverallan’s Scotch Water is one of the purest mineral waters available. It comes from the 13th century Pannanich Wells, beside the village of Ballater near Balmoral Castle, in the Highlands. This wild land, between the Deveron and the Dee, has been the heart of malt distilling in the Highlands for almost 1000 years, and the unsurpassed quality of the water is the reason this is so.The spring became famous in the 18th century for its curative properties and attracted such numbers for the treatment of inflammatory disorders that the village of Ballater was built to accommodate them.Later visitors included Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott and Queen Victoria and most recently its benefit for rheumatism sufferers has been confirmed by clinical trials at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.Analysis shows that the water has high oxygen levels, optimal pH, a very low mineral content and anti-oxidant properties, which would seem to explain its beneficial qualities. As a whisky mixer, its low mineral content makes it ideal since it cannot distort the whisky.“The water begins as rainfall,” says Paddy. “It passes through the peat and granite of Deeside gathering in deep underground chambers before rising into the wells, forced up by artesian pressure.”The purity of the 50 years’ old water makes the experience of drinking Inverallan’s own Pure Malts a genuine Scottish experience, preserving as it does the integrity of the whisky.For those who are interested in learning more about Scotch whisky, Inverallan holds private tastings under the aegis of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at its headquarters, The Vaults, in Leith near Edinburgh. The atmospheric setting of this beautiful 18th century house, with its wood-panelled tasting room, is highly conducive to Inverallan’s exclusive appreciation of the finer points of Scotch whisky. Topics and tastings covered include blended whisky, deluxe blends, pure malts, single malts and cask-strength malts and consider the details of the distilling process and the importance of water. Contact
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