Posts filed under whisky

Glenfiddich's New Age of Discovery Whisky Honors American Scots-Irish Traditions

Glenfiddich, Scotland's beloved 125 year old whisky distiller, has just released their Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask Reserve

In so doing they are also highlighting a little-known period of history that still influences America's culinary choices and the nation's core beliefs. 

Back in 1610, James of Scotland (the only son of Mary Queen of Scots) became the king of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. A gifted scholar as well as an individual who could curse like a sailor when needed, he faced many problems as a new monarch. Chief among his concerns were unending religious wars as well as disease and poverty within his new kingdom.

Both Ireland and the City of London were proving the most difficult areas to handle. Long-standing hatred between Catholics and Protestants was tearing Ireland apart while London suffered from massive overpopulation and constant outbreaks of the plague.

James decided to address both issues simultaneously with a new policy entitled "Plantation". Impoverished Londoners and land poor Scots from the border region between England and Scotland were offered the opportunity to relocate to Ulster in Northern Ireland.

The Scots, of course, brought with them their strong sense of personal independence as well as their knowledge of whisky distillation. The English, sadly, brought with them their own biases and prejudices against the Scots.

The English, according to the new arrangement, held the rights to the majority of the new land. Their view was that the Scots were merely tenants whose sole function was to farm the owner's vast tracks of land and to fight the deposed and rightly angry Irish when necessary. It was a clear case of “You work and I profit”.

(Of historical note is the fact that this same system would later appear in the American South. And though African slaves would replace the indentured Scots, the name “plantation” would remain unchanged.)

But to return to our story, Scots, needless to say, did not consider this arrangement fair or just. As conditions grew worse over the next hundred years, the Scots, now called the Scots-Irish, found solace in their cherished traditions of music, poetry, clan fellowship and the distillation of fine whiskies.

By 1719 a combination of repressive restrictions against Scots-Irish commerce and a colossal drought that killed nearly all the grazing grass prompted a massive wave of immigration to the New World. In the next 50 years over 200,000 individuals or nearly 1/3 of the entire Scots-Irish population of Ulster immigrated to America.

Welcomed by the religiously tolerate and peaceful Quakers of Pennsylvania, they brought little with them except their love of freedom, their ability to work hard and, when time allowed, the talent to distill whiskey.

Seeking new and unencumbered land, they move out from Pennsylvania towards the American frontier, then defined by the Appalachian Mountains and the distant mighty Mississippi River. As in Ireland, they found they had to fight for the land they had been promised so freely. This time their enemies were not the deposed Irish, but the angry Iroquois and Cherokee Indian Nations. 

Over a 20 year period the new settlers and the regional Native American tribes battled for control of the land. Always ready to adapt, the Scots-Irish quickly copied the effective shoot-and-hide fighting style of their adversaries. Later they would bring this style of combat to Revolutionary War battles, where they comprised the single largest ethnic group fighting the hated always-in-formation British regiments.

Despite war and conflict, the Scots-Irish continued to work and clear fields along the Frontier. Cabins were ebuilt, not with sod as in the Old World, but with strong American White Oak logs cut from the nearby forests.

Stills were also erected because, of course, what was life worth if one could not enjoy a comforting glass (or two) of whiskey at the end of a hard day. In fact, the whiskey produced by the Scots-Irish became so popular among American that it soon replaced British rum as the new nation’s beverage of choice.

Flat bottomed packet boats and later elegant steamboats happily transported thousands of brimming whiskey casks up and down the Mississippi River to a thirsty, ever-expanding young nation.

Yet to achieve the production of their famed beverage, the Scots-Irish had to make two accommodations to the New World. First, they would replace the traditional 100% barley mash used in Scotland and Ireland with one contain 51% American corn. Second, they would age the resulting liquid in ‘fired’ American white oak casks, crafted from wood obtained in the nearby abundant forests.

First produced in the Kentucky county of Bourbon, this uniquely beverage is truly American. Now Glenfiddich has continued that tradition of excellence with their release of the Age of Discovery Bourbon Cask Crafted Single Malt Whisky. Crafted in aged American white oak casks, this stunning whisky has been wood tempered for 19 years and is available only in America and at selected duty-free international airport shops.

Once savored, each glass yields memorable notes of vanilla, fine leather and smooth tobacco tones, which melt into a sweet velvety finish with a final hint of cardamom and nutmeg.

Well worth the $149.99 bottle price, Glenfiddich's new offering may be the ideal gift for the discerning connoisseur this holiday season.

Each bottle can also serve as a reminder at America is blessed with a rich culinary heritage, thanks in large part, to the diversity of immigration and the simple desire to be free.

A toast to Glenfiddish and to the amazing Scots-Irish with many, many thanks! Gle math agus slainte!

POST NOTE, October 18, 2013: Per the request of readers - a short cultural clarification. The people of Scotland and their descendants are called "Scots" or "Scottish".

Scotch refers to the nation's beloved beverage, but NEVER is used to refer to those individuals who proudly wear the kilt (which, by the way, is NEVER called a skirt).

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013

Tea and Tablets Hallmark the Last Episode of Downton Abbey 3

The last episode of Downton Abbey’s Season 3 saw the Crawleys (minus the Irish black sheep, Tom Branson, who is home with the baby) off to Scotland for their annual journey to field and flora.

Robert Crawley for one was glad to return to the embrace of tradition after having been forced to face the urgent need to modernize the economic base of Downton Abbey in order to survive the changing times. 

There will be tartan and tweeds, fishing and frank talk, shooting and stepping out at the ghillies’ ball.  

Yet always present is the fact that, just as Scotland is NOT England, the new century will be very different from the last.

Consider the arrival of Michael Gregson, Lady Edith’s amorous very married editor. Like a latter day Edward Rochester from the bildungsroman novel Jane Eyre, he is trapped in an undissolvable marriage to an insane wife.

In Bronte’s book, the heroine runs from a romantic relationship with a man so encumbered. A more modern Lady Edith struggles to understand the situation and seemed to finally accept the possibility of a shadow relationship.

Yet some things don’t/can’t change or there will simply be no order/no meaning in the English world of manners. One such tradition is the need to savor hot tea in all times of stress and strain – but a proper cup of tea.

And what is a ‘proper cup of tea’? NOT something brewed hours before sitting (and cooling) in an impersonal thermos. A correctly made cup of tea requires fresh hot water.  In short, it requires a fire either in a kitchen or where if one is outside fishing or hunting?

Enter the fabulous Kelly Kettle. Created in Ireland by an avid angler named, yes, Kelly over a hundred years ago, it is the perfect (and an in-the-known) answer for how to obtain hot water without burning down the surrounding forest or grasslands. 

Simply fill the outer lining with water and then light a small fire in the core cylinder and in an amazingly short time one has fresh piping hot water for tea (or warming toddies).

But no tea is complete without sweets. Once again, what’s possible is a comfortable home setting, doesn’t transfer with equal ease and grace to the Scottish moors. Yet tradition must be maintained. And the Scots, of course, have an answer. Just have a tablet.

Not a tablet of medical or digital fame, but one of absolute culinary glory. What we are referring to is a heavenly Highland treat that is neither a piece of candy nor a slice of fudge but something wonderfully different.

Made simply from sugar, butter and condensed milk cooked slowly to a soft ball’ stage (235 degrees), it is compact, delicious and an ideal companion to an outside cup of tea.

For you see, with tea and a sweet in hand, any subject can be discussed (at least in the world of Downton Abbey’s third season) from unhappy marriages to alternative relationships.

Shocking, but so very English.

And the resolutions? Well now, they’re to be revealed in Season Four, possibly this Fall or Winter. The next Season is currently being filmed with Lady Mary, it is rumored, moving into the central role.

So until then, enjoy a heartening cup of tea with one ‘tablet’ of sweet delight and cheerfully chant “patience, patience – soon, soon”, but with an English accent, please. 

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2013