This week The Drinks’ Business reported that “Whisky expert Jim Murray has named a Japanese single malt as the best whisky in the world for the first time in his 2015 World Whisky Bible, calling it a “wake up call” for Scotch distilleries.”
That made me think of the headlines a few years back when a Chinese wine received the Red Bordeaux Varietal Over £10 International Trophy awarded by the respected Decanter World Wine Awards.
Back then there was much talk about how it was possible for Chinese terroir to dethrone the recognised wine areas. Terroir as a reality became a talking point and its importance was again questioned. Was winemaker skill and techniques after-all not more important when a wine from China could achieve such heights?
Wine is made almost exclusively from grapes, and in my opinion, it is impossible for the end product not to reflect something of its origin. At our wineries we are strong supporters of the terroir theory and we do not have much to prove us wrong. That doesn’t mean though that very special wines have not been produced from unexpected areas. This year China was awarded with 19 medals at the Decanter competition. And of course the fact that the Chinese terroir is to a large extend still unknown to the wine world, that does not mean that the terroir is not exceptionally suited to the growing of wine varieties.
While I am not claiming to be an expert when it comes to whisky, I did initially question the influence of terroir in this regard. Made from barley, water and yeast are added for fermentation and perhaps after all of that, the terroir might not be relevant anymore?
I came across this very interesting article by Jordan Mackay discussing the very subject of terroir and whisky. Despite the different process of distilling whisky, he concludes that the water from the specific area where the whisky is made, gives it its specific character – and of course claim to terroir. According to his article, the former master distiller of Yamazaki, the very same whiskey that now won the award, told him that they experimented with water – even shipped in water from Scotland and made the whisky in Japan. The result, the product made from Scottish water tasted like Scotch!
So while we know that it is only a myth that the water used in the making of Guinness comes from the river Liffey, perhaps we might just entertain the sentiment!
Whisky vs Whiskey – If you were wondering, the one spelled without an ‘e’ is deemed to be of Scottish origin. I kept with one spelling throughout just to make it simpler.