As Ron Burgundy so succinctly put it “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly” and I couldn’t agree more. I may not have an apartment that smells of rich mahogany or is filled with many leather bound books but I do have quite a collection of fine scotch.
On a recent trip to the Speyside region of Scotland I made an interesting discovery. Unlike when visiting different wineries, which for the most part were in direct competition with all the other local growers, most scotch distilleries were owned by one of six major corporations. This meant that instead of having to travel all over the region to gain an accurate opinion of the product, after a few stops I was able to try most of what they had to offer. What really amazed me was that two distilleries that may have been only a mile away from one another could produce such different and unique scotch. This was due to the fact that every single one had their own fresh water supply, most of which were more heavily guarded than gold.
Nothing proved this point more to me than the Glenfiddich and Balvenie distilleries, which were in the same valley and shared the same ruined castle as a local landmark. Glenfiddich has always produced a pathetic and boring scotch and Balvenie had been and remains one of my personal favorites. Thinking that perhaps I had been too hard on Glenfiddich I visited the distillery. I was not surprised to find the parking lot packed where many of the other locations had been almost deserted and a large line to tour the inner workings. Having already been on far more personalized tours earlier I slipped into the large and over compensating tasting room. There I was also not surprised to discover that even the longer matured variations it had to offer were bland and unsatisfying. When an 18-year-old single malt can’t even distinguish itself from a standard blend; you know you’re enjoying Glenfiddich.
Perhaps its popularity can best be compared to that of most mass produced American beer, where marketing and consumer stupidity guarantee a sale. Balvenie, on the other hand, produces two of my go to scotch’s. A distinctive 12 year single malt double wood and fantastic 21-year-old single malt finished in a port cask. Both are complex and delicious and easily found in most liquor stores with a decent selection.