Before I get to my review I need to let you all know that the best-consolidated book on spirits has arrived! In August the WSET launched a completely new Spirits textbook. The new Distilling Knowledge, takes a much more detailed approach to how the various types of spirits are engineered. It is a fantastic upgrade to the old book and will be tremendous for anyone who wants a really deep understanding of spirits production.
I have taught the new Level 2 Spirits Certificate using this text and I found students even more engaged on how a distiller can put his or her imprint on the style of any spirit. The primary emphasis in the new book is on how a still can be configured to change the character, quality and style of a spirit. The book clarifies in detail how specific spirits are made and will give readers real confidence in discussing any spirit on the market. Please let me know if you would like to take the new Level 2 Spirits class online or in person.
As far as spirits go, I am a Scotch whisky drinker and I am always excited when I discover something new in the category. This summer it has been Auchentoshan 12-Year Old Single Malt Whisky. This is a lighter triple distilled whisky that is perfect in warm weather.
Auchentoshan is a distillery in the Glasgow area of Scotland in the region called the Lowlands. A Lowlands whisky is a real change for me. I usually choose Speyside region whiskeys such as Tomintoul or Balvenie. The Speyside region is known to produce elegant whiskies with honey, herb and caramel notes. It is rare that I find a Lowland whisky that makes my head turn or can match the Speyside quality. But Auchentoshan is the exception. The distillery has created its own unique style of whisky and it stands out among the crowded Scotch marketplace.
By triple distilling its whisky (versus the more common practice of double distilling Scotch), Auchentoshan is able to create a lighter style with fewer congeners – the elements that can make a whisky heavier, richer or harsher. The result is a Scotch that is smooth with citrus and fruit elements. The 12-year old Auchentoshan has just the right balance of these fruit notes along with a light creamy quality – almost like a custard – and subtle nut and herb notes. It makes a great sipping drink in any season.
This summer I also rediscovered how good Tequila can be when it is made with great care and 100 percent Blue Agave. Centenario is a brand that meets this description and if you have not tried Centenario, you likely have not tried great small batch tequila.
Centenario makes tequila that you want to sip slowly – much like you would a great whisky. This is not a shot glass tequila or something that needs Margarita mix to make it good.
Centenario uses older Agave plants from the Highlands area of Tequila. Additionally even Centenario’s entry-level Blanco style of Tequila is rested for 4 weeks in new French Oak. The result is a smooth, rich and complex spirit that can hold its own with any finely made whisky or brandy. As you can tell, I was impressed!