A review of Tishbi Gewurztraminer 2010 and several Glengoyne Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week 5/16/2012
Gewurztraminer is a difficult grape. It is an early budding varietal that ripens irregularly with low yields. Often victimized by frost, it also requires a long growing season and it is very particular about where it grows. Gewurztraminer is susceptible to plant diseases and has a tendency in hot climates to become unbalanced without sufficient acidity to offset its natural sweetness.
A white wine grape, it originated as an offshoot of the Traminer grown in South Tyrol, a German-speaking region of northern Italy. Translated as either “spice” or “perfume,” Gewurz was added to the name of this new varietal because of its unique aromas and flavors. High in sugar content and aromatically redolent of lychees, Gewurztraminer is made into semi-sweet (off-dry) or dry wines that have a characteristic spiciness. France’s Alsace region and parts of Germany have traditionally had the most success with Gewurztraminer as both dry table wines and late-harvest sweet dessert wines.
It is therefore somewhat surprising to find a very good Israeli Gewurztraminer. The Tishbi family’s involvement in Israeli winemaking began in 1882 when Michael Chamiletzki was selected by Baron Edmond de Rothschild to grow grapes in Zichron Yaakov. In 1925 the family name was changed to Tishbi and in 1984 Jonathan Tishbi established the Tishbi Estate Winery in the foothills of the Carmel Mountains. They grow their Gewurztraminer at 1,000 meters above sea-level in Gush Etzion where the cooler weather assures a long growing season.
The Tishbi Gewurztraminer 2010 ($17) is a medium bodied, slightly sweet effort with characteristic aromas of roses, lychee and oranges. Spicy apple, cherry and grapefruit flavors with peach and lychee notes are nicely balanced throughout the finish. Its sweetness makes it a good accompaniment to Asian cuisine, barbecue, grilled salmon and soft cheeses.
Spirits-wise, we were recently chided by friends for not having written about single-malt Scotch for some time, and so are returning to familiar country with the remarkable whiskies of Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Glengoyne is not as familiar a name to many as it should be. It was founded in 1833 in a wooded glen on the western edge of the Campsie Fells, not far from Loch Lomond, almost exactly on the demarcation line between the Highlands and Lowlands (about 30 minutes outside of Glasgow). The distillery had a good reputation and in 1984 was issued a royal warrant as supplier of whiskies to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s household, yet the brand was allowed to wane in the mid to late 1990s, just when single malts were really taking off in the U.S. Everything thankfully changed for the better when Glengoyne was bought in 2003 by Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd, an independent, Scottish, family-owned business.
Ian Macleod and Company Ltd. was founded in 1933 and acquired by the Russell family in 1963 (family patriarch Leonard J. Russell had his own whisky brokerage company which his heirs used to essentially subsume Ian Macleod), and became Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd. The Russell family already had a good reputation as blenders and bottlers, a reputation that, under the name Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd, has only grown and become more respected over the decades. Glengoyne became its first whisky distillery, followed more recently by Tamdhu.
Soon after Ian MacLeod took over the distillery, it began to release a series of interesting and exciting new expressions of Glengoyne that quickly thrust the brand out of the bargain bins and onto the top quality shelf. Also of note, for you intrepid whisky tourists, Glengoyne is one of the prettier and easier-to-visit distilleries, if you are not heading way up north, and is a very worthwhile tour in terms of the layout (the entire process of whisky making can be viewed in a relatively compact space) and knowledge and integrity of the tour guides (minimal marketing guff and no outright bluffing when asked substantive questions). The visitor center is full of goodies too.
As for the whiskies, for some time we only ever really got to taste these whiskies in the U.K. Whether it was limited distribution or just limited name recognition keeping it off the shelves, all we know is that Glengoyne seemed hard to find. Fortunately, this has changed and we recently got to taste three expressions of Glengoyne and each was just amazing. Each is well worth seeking out, so if you can’t find it ask your liquor store to get them. For all of you who dislike peat, take note as Glengoyne is known for not using peat smoke to dry the malted barley to make whisky. Here then are three expressions of Glengoyne to find and enjoy:
Glengoyne 10 year old (43 percent abv; $40): This wonderfully smooth, easy quaffed whisky offers fresh, lovely herbal aromas, with noticeable sweet American oak scents, and more cream than fruit – water flattens the nose a bit and isn’t needed, though it brings the citrusy elements more distinctly through on the palate. Otherwise, the palate is delicious as is with excellent balance between bitterness and sweetness, with warming flavors of pure malted barley, vanilla, honey, some ginger, and a glimmer of cooking apples and pears. Features a lovely, drying barley finish with some added chocolate and coffee notes.
Glengoyne, Distilled 1996, limited edition (bottled in 2010; 3,000 bottles all for the U.S. market; 43 percent abv; $68): An interesting change from the 10-year-old, as the nose here shifts from herbal and creamy to more fruit and vanilla, and then caramel with some slight but pleasant damp, funkiness lurking in the background. This is followed by sympathetic flavors of zesty almost tropical fruits, ginger, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with slightly broken-down chocolate fondant. This carries through into the drying finish with a little more heat than warmth, and notes of spice, oak, sharp/astringent walnuts and some lovely cream to balance what otherwise promised to be searing.
Glengoyne 17 year old (43 percent abv; $70): This lovely, complex whisky offers lively grassy, herbaceous aromas that parlay variously into citrus fruits, cedar wood, chocolate, stewed cherries, peanut butter, mint and even shortbread. Pulling away from the nose to the palate, for eventually you will wish to drink as well as sniff this one, brings notes of orange, vanilla, malted barley, raisins, red currants, sweet cream, and chocolate, ending in a long, rich finish of milky coffee, citrus zest, candied ginger, some overripe grapefruit, peanut brittle, coconut, honey and slightly burnt shortbread. Delicious. L’Chaim!