Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 8

8 12 2015

Time for a twist to start Week 2 of whisky Advent.  I was recently asked if I did whisky reviews, responded something to the effect of “um, sort of” and was given a spirit aerator from Vinturi for use with this year’s calendar.  You may know the Vinturi from the wine side:  it’s that intricate hard plastic funnel that insta-aerates any liquid that passes through it and into your glass, a sort of hyper-decant to open up tight wines in seconds rather than hours.  It’s one of the few wine gadgets that I actually use semi-regularly, not for the special occasion good stuff (which I like to see unfurl gradually), but for weeknight bottles that seem closed off when I first crack them.  I get why it works for wine, a drink that is highly susceptible to, and highly influenced by, oxygen from the second it is first exposed to it, at first in a good way (some air time softens and opens wine and releases packed-in flavours) and then in a very not-good way (too much air flattens and oxidizes wine and ultimately ruins it).  But spirits?  Once something is distilled and cranked up to 50% alcohol like tonight’s scotch, wouldn’t oxygen exposure cease to matter to it?  Once its maturation is done and it is freed from barrel and bottled, isn’t its flavour development over?  You never protect your whisky bottles from oxygen once you open them, and they never seem change even after months or years in an unstoppered bottle, so I was unsure how the wine-based premise of the Vinturi would carry over.

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The guinea pig whisky for this aeration experiment was the Glenglassaugh Evolution, a Highland Single Malt from a distillery that was shut down and mothballed in 1986, only to be surprisingly salvaged and re-opened in 2008.  For the second day in a row we have a repeat producer from last year’s calendar; Day 7 of 2014 featured the Glenglassaugh Revival, the first scotch released after the distillery’s (literal) renaissance.  Weirdly, the 2015 offering from yesterday’s first repeat calendar producer, GlenDronach (Day 7 of 2015!), was also called Revival.  I’m hoping that was intentional.  Tonight’s Glenglassaugh is the SECOND scotch released after the distillery re-opened its doors, called Evolution, which holds the distinction of being the first whisky I’ve tried that was matured in ex-Tennessee Whisky barrels.  Seeing “Tennessee” displayed on a bottle of scotch takes some getting used to.

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I tried the Evolution first as I normally would, with a bit of water to offset the fact that half of my drink was straight alcohol, and then a second time using the Vinturi aerator (which, unlike the wine version, has a handy stopper that prevents the liquid from going into the glass until you’re ready for it and hold down a release button).  On the first go-round, the Glenglassaugh reminded me of last year’s version:  grassy, salty, malty and slightly vegetal, featuring cucumber, maple and shy cantaloupe aromas.  It was fairly muted on the palate, offering up sweet grains, golden apple and a sort of pervasive dustiness.  After a blast of aeration, the flavours…didn’t really change all that much, perhaps showing increased hints around the edges, spice and vanilla and caramel and pepper.  The difference I noticed more was textural, as the whisky felt softer, more rounded and silkier in the mouth, in part I’m sure because the aeration process also served to warm up the scotch, but I will not deny I enjoyed the overall Evolution (see what I did there?) more after it got some air exposure.  Experiment incomplete, but I will try it again in a few days.  In the meantime, this Glenglassaugh was perfectly drinkable, and had a lovely underdog back story, but I don’t think it will stick in my mind like yesterday’s bottle did.  Fairly priced at $88, but I wouldn’t rush to grab it.

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