A review of the Flechas de los Andes Gran Malbec 2009 and the Auchentoshan 18 year old Single Malt Whisky.
By Joshua E. London and Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 15, 2011
For those seeking a perfect wine to pair with grilled beef or chicken slathered with barbecue sauce, look no further than the delicious, Argentinean Flechas de los Andes Gran Malbec 2009 ($23). It opens with dark plum and black cherry aromas and progresses smoothly into mouth-filling, spicy, raspberry, plum, chocolate and licorice flavors. Lightly accented with vanilla oak and buoyed with soft, round tannins, it is one of the finest kosher Malbecs currently produced, and is non-mevushal (not boiled).
Mendoza accounts for nearly two-thirds of Argentina’s wine production and Malbec has become the region’s signature grape. A joint venture between Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and Laurent Dassault (owner of the Grand Cru Chateau Dassault in St. Emilion), Flechas de los Andes (translated as “Arrows of the Andes”) is one of the winery partners in Michel Rolland’s Clos de los Siete project.
A world-renowned traveling winemaker, Rolland specifically chose Argentina for this ambitious project. The vineyards are located 50 miles south of Medoza and sit more than 3,000 feet above sea level. The 21,000 acres are divided between seven first-class wineries, which each make their own wines, and also contribute around half of their grapes annually to create the Clos de los Siete blend.
Spirits-wise, there is a sudden rumbling in the ranks within the larger American Jewish community over a very silly story from Scotland that we thought we should address. A little local government body in Scotland, the West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC), decided in January 2009 to do its bit to condemn Israel’s Operation Cast Lead by announcing a boycott of Israeli goods, followed more recently by an “order” to area libraries to ban Israeli published books.
This story hit the blogosphere hard, has elicited Jewish and non-Jewish official censure, and has now gone viral on the Internet with calls for the pro-Israel community to boycott Scotch whisky, or at least Scotch whisky produced under the jurisdiction of the WDC. Having already responded to various e-mail threads from concerned friends, we thought this an appropriate opportunity to address the issue in this space.
First, the WDC is the 11th smallest regional council in Scotland, serving a population of 90,920, and was very recently described by the U.K’s Daily Express newspaper as “the worst unemployment blackspot in the U.K.” Second, the WDC’s “ban,” such as it is, applies only to WDC bodies and officers and does not have the force of law in either the private or public sector. Nor does the WDC have any real enforcement mechanism. The Daily Express added that “a similar boycott move by Dundee City Council has had to be abandoned because legal experts advised such a move is illegal under European Union law.” Dundee City Council represents a population of around 150,000, and is also dogged by high unemployment.
So, what to make of all this? Well, obviously, the WDC’s actions are deplorable, and several of its council members have apparently been strident in their pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel defense of the WDC’s codified moral posturing. Clearly, these folks are not investing in Israel Bonds anytime soon.
Be that as it may, the apparent temptation to retaliate against WDC via a boycott of Scotch whisky by the pro-Israel community strikes us as a little dubious under the circumstances. The city of Dundee has zero distilleries that are near enough to fall under its jurisdiction. As for West Dunbartonshire, there are, in fact, only four actual distilleries from which whisky may still be found. One of these, the Loch Lomond Distillery, produces a wide variety of malts and blends, but none of these are easy to find in the U.S. Two of these distilleries were closed down in the 1990s, although some of their whiskies are still available through independent bottlers: the Inverleven Distillery, which was closed down in 1991, and the Littlemill Distillery, which closed in 1994 and was subsequently destroyed in 2004 by arson.
The fourth distillery, the Auchentoshan Distillery, presents two additional issues that make a punitive boycott less satisfying to contemplate. First, Auchentoshan is owned and operated by Morrison Bowmore Distillers, which is headquartered elsewhere in Scotland, and which is actually a subsidiary of the Japanese beverage producer Suntory. So boycotting this distillery does little to punish WDC.
Further – and we find this particularly noteworthy – Morrison Bowmore has been working with the Kashrut Authority of the London Beth Din (KLBD) to ensure that two of their whiskies (the widely available “Classic” and the Duty Free exclusive “Select” expressions) are now certified kosher. This strikes us as another good reason not to punish these folks for the unfortunate decisions of the local government council where their 188-year-old distillery happens to reside.
As you contemplate what to make of all this silliness, we suggest doing so over a large glass of the lovely Auchentoshan 18-year-old ($90) single-malt Scotch whisky. Aged exclusively in used Bourbon casks, this triple-distilled whisky is light and refreshing, aperitif-like, with aromas and flavors of fresh fruits – raisins, flowers, honey, almonds – vanilla and a kiss of candied ginger, all against a deep and full backdrop of toasted malt and oak. Then a lovely, refreshing, zesty citrus quality emerges and shines through in the finish. L’Chaim!