From Italy’s Piedmont To The Scottish Highlands



Reviews of Bartenura Dolcetto D’Alba Ovadia Estates 2010, the Glenlivet 18 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky and the Jameson 18 year old Limited Reserve Irish Whiskey.


By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon


Washington Jewish Week  September 14, 2011


Glenlivet 18There’s more to Italian wines than just Chianti and Soave. In actuality, Italian varieties range from bone dry to enticingly sweet, and they are produced in nearly every corner of the country. While many are fine for sipping anytime, most are best appreciated with food, especially cuisine from the same region as the winery.


Northern Italy’s Piedmont region is best known for its Barbaresco and Barolo offerings, which are created from the Nebbiolo grape. Both are big, powerful wines that need several years of aging to achieve their potential. In contrast, Dolcetto is a fruit-forward, low acidity wine that is very food-friendly and is meant to be enjoyed young. Produced within several areas in Piedmont, the best originate in D’Alba.


A recently released kosher example is the Bartenura Dolcetto D’Alba Ovadia Estates 2010 ($19). This Dolcetto has characteristic black cherry, blueberry and anise flavors, low acidity and a slight almond-like bitterness at the finish. It is a perfect pizza and pasta wine, but also works well with barbecued meats and exotic dishes such as Indian food.


Spirits-wise, we thought we’d spend some time with a couple of 18-year-olds – whisky, not young’uns. Namely, The Glenlivet 18-year-old single-malt Scotch Whisky ($70) and the Jameson 18-year-old Limited Reserve Irish Whiskey ($90).


The Glenlivet bills itself as “the single malt that started it all,” because distillery founder George Smith was the first licensed distiller under the Excise Act of 1823. The law was the brainchild of the Duke of Gordon, and within a decade it succeeded in taming the Scottish Highlands by putting whisky smugglers and illicit stills out of business though making legal distillation profitable.


George Smith, one of the Duke’s tenants, was the first distiller to take the plunge and go legit (the family had been illegally producing spirit there since 1774), at a cost to his personal safety – for years Smith sported two pistols for self-defense (graciously provided by the Duke). Legend has it that Smith had to use them on several occasions.


Smith’s whisky was highly regarded for its quality, despite its being an illicit spirit. Even King George IV requested it on a state visit to Scotland in 1822. The novelist Sir Walter Scott, king’s fixer for this excursion, made the necessary procurements, and the king further embarrassed his court by not only publicly admiring the illegal whisky, but by insisting on drinking no other spirit for the duration of his week-long trip.


The Glenlivet Distillery has been in almost constant production since its founding, and is, today, the biggest selling malt whisky in the United States, and the second biggest globally. The Glenlivet house-style is characterized by what is generally identified as a pineapple-like fruit note, which remains highly sought after by blenders. With older expressions, this fruitiness fades a little, but is offset by greater richness, subtlety and complexity, and extra wood maturation tends to bring deeper flavors of fruit cake, chocolate, dried fruits and lovely spice notes.


The Glenlivet 18-year-old is a very fine example of truly great Glenlivet whisky. This pale copper-colored spirit offers aromas of flowers (peonies?), sultanas, fruitcake, honeycomb, barley, ripe plums and dark oranges, followed by flavors of panna cotta, honey, vanilla, prunes, a touch of fudge, a hint of smoke, subtle coconut, and some chocolate nuts edge their way in, ending with a long, dry, spicy oak finish in which the various flavors dance gently on the taste buds. A lovely and absorbing dram.


For a very different whiskey experience, try the Jameson 18-year-old Limited Reserve Irish Whiskey. This delicious spirit is a triple-distilled variety from the Midleton Distillery and even though it is the product of one distillery, it is not considered a “single-malt” whiskey because it uses both malted barley and unmalted or “green” barley.


Jameson Irish Whiskey began life in 1780 when Scottish businessman John Jameson bought an old distillery in Dublin and turned it into a major and lasting success. In 1966 the John Jameson & Son parent company joined forces with its two biggest rivals to form the Irish Distillers Group (now owned by the French company Pernod Ricard), and built the New Midleton Distillery in Cork. Jameson’s production was moved there from Dublin in 1970, although vatting of the blend still takes place in the Dublin facility and the old distillery has a modern visitor’s center and has become a big tourist attraction. Today, Jameson’s annual sales are more than 31 million bottles, making Jameson the best selling Irish whiskey in the world.


The Jameson 18-year-old is distinctly Bourbon-like on the nose and with some lovely flowery aromas, but soon thereafter returns to Ireland from Kentucky with wonderful notes of honey, vanilla, barley and toffee, with soft, rich and juicy notes of apricots, oranges, dried fruits, fig preserve, butterscotch, hazelnut, cloves, nutty fudge and malt. The luscious, oily sweetness ends with a burst of dried fruits, spices and citrus fruits, finishing long and delicate with spices, melon, toasted barley and some subtle, spicy, toasted oak. (Considered acceptable without kosher certification by both the CRC and the KLBD). L’chaim.