The big question before moving last Fall, was whether to drink all the booze in the Scotch Bucket or pack it and ship it.

When the movers expressed a reluctance to transport “dangerous” liquids, including alcohol, the decision was easy: have a grand celebration and empty the Scotch bucket of its beloved contents. Old friends came to say goodbye and were offered a taste of rare single malts. The Highland Park 25 year old was the first to go. It was quickly followed by a couple of teenagers, from Balvenie I recall. Nectar of the gods. At the end of a very long moving day, the house almost bare, the end of a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label went down the appreciative gullet.

Ensconced comfortably in our new home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we made friends with the neighbours, reconnected with old and well established friends and received welcome visits from distant friends. Knowing my habits, all brought a welcome bottle. Some brought splendid new additions for the Scotch bucket, which is once more stocked to overflowing.

Sneaking into the collection is a bottle of Irish whiskey, Writer’s Tears, which I wrote about last year. Since then, I have had the opportunity to enjoy the Iniskillin Ice Wine expression at the local Irish Harp pub, and my appreciation of non-Scotch whiskeys is growing. I suppose I was a Scotch snob, although not an exclusive single malt drinker. My go-to Scotches are both blends – Johnny Walker Black Label in cool months and J&B Rare in warm months. The latter is a very light whisky, similar to the Glasgow distilled Auchentoshan, another fave.

Apart from Auchentoshan, there are probably a dozen more Lowland distilleries, most of them fairly obscure, but there are several in development. Edinburgh, which hasn’t had a distillery in almost 100 years, is seeing a renaissance. The most interesting story is that of the Port of Leith Distillery. An eight-storey building is rising steps away from the permanent berth of the historic Royal Yacht Britannia, where all the apparatus of whisky making will eventually be installed.

Gravity will be used to trickle the spirit from one stage to the next. The barley which will be used to make the spirit will come from a sole source farm in the countryside south of Edinburgh and will be malted nearby. Water will come from an artesian well drilled down hundreds of feet below the building. At the moment test distillates are being made using facilities of the International Centre for Distilling and Brewing at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University. The distillery is also importing fine sherry and port and bottling it under their brand. The empty casks will be used to mature the raw spirit and by 2030 they will be finally able to offer their eight-year-old expression.

All Scotch must be aged for at least three years, but most whiskies are kept in the barrel for much longer than the legal requirement, while they draw colour and flavour from the used and often charred oak barrels in which they mature. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait.

To keep the funds flowing while the Scotch does it’s thing in the barrels, the Leith distillery is making a variety of gins and vodkas. At its simplest, gin is spirit flavoured with juniper berries at the distillation stage, although many other herbals can be added. Vodka is essentially odourless and colourless liquor. Neither spirit benefits from aging, which I why I joke “aged for 10 minutes” when serving either.

Recently, to celebrate Robbie Burns night, I set out in a blizzard to walk the few hundred yards along the creek behind our new house, across a little bridge and up to a friend’s house. On the way, and for my own amusement, I shot a short video. A welcome dram awaited, in fact quite a few. Now I can watch A Walk Along Two Mile Creek, while delving into the Scotch Bucket.

A walk along Two Mile Creek

My three blended Scotch whiskies have been well discussed on previous posts – J&B Rare, Johnny Walker Black Label and Johnny Walker Double Black. A recent visitor tasted the latter and declared it very smoky.

Ollie helps with whisky selection

Four more bottles in the Bucket are from Speyside, which I prefer to the flavours one gets from Islay whiskies. Benromach 10, Glenfiddich Rich Oak and The Glenlivet 12 are very similar, though a serious Scotch noser will find all the subtle flavour differences that I miss. No matter, I enjoy them all.

The standout single malt in my collection is clearly the Glenfiddich 30, of which there are but a few drams left. Fortunately, whisky barely alters its character in the bottle, and if well sealed should be drinkable for many years. I’ve had this bottle for at least a decade and I guard every dram. Only the very favoured few get to taste this gem, which will sadly all be gone soon.

From the Highlands comes the amazing Glenmorangie. The Bucket contains a feast to be enjoyed over many months And I shall ask my guests to supply tasting notes.

Not far from our new house, I discover a distillery. They don’t offer Scotch of course, as that can only be made in Scotland, but I look forward to tasting what they have to offer. They aren’t the only distillery in town, but they have just won a nice award and I am keen to discover their story. How often can one enjoy a distillery in one’s backyard?

Featured image: The Scotch Bucket in its new home

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This is Nigel’s 363rd blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories, or check under CATEGORIES.

1 reply »

  1. Jolly good to be connected with you again old chap. Here’s to offering what help I can damaging the contents of The Scotch Bucket! Cheers! Captain Matt


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