A review of the Recanati Syrah Reserve 2011 and several Glenglassaugh Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 19, 2013
It’s grilling time, and we could not be happier for there are few summer pleasures more gratifying than preparing meals outside. Whether you are a charcoal devotee or a fan of propane, rarely are there foods that don’t do well cooked on a grate. The imparted roasted, smoky flavors are truly irresistible.
Besides the usual culprits (steak, burgers, dogs) we have grilled nearly every vegetable from artichokes to zucchini and even some romaine lettuce. You can grill cheese, make pizzas, roast veggies, bake bread and create unique desserts. Try slicing a firm nectarine in half, remove the pit and place it on direct heat for a few minutes for a delicious ending to a summer meal.
Selecting a wine to pair with grilled foods is relatively straightforward. Stick to reds and avoid the lighter wines like pinot noir by opening something more robust with complementary flavors. One of our favorites is syrah (also called shiraz), a dark-skinned varietal that likely originated in France’s Rhone Valley. It ranges in style from deep and brooding to very fruity and alcohol laden with flavors that can include floral, berries, coffee, earth, chocolate, dark fruit, spice and pepper.
The kosher Recanati Syrah Reserve 2011 is a complex, medium- to full-bodied, aromatic charmer that displays cherry, raspberry and dark plum flavors intermingled with black pepper and spice with hints of coffee in the finish that matches perfectly with grilled foods. Located in the Hefer Valley, the Recanati Winery is Israel’s sixth largest with an annual output of 950,000 bottles. Recanati’s goal is to make wines that reflect the character of the Israeli terroir rather than imitate the wine of other countries. The current winemaking team of Gil Shatzberg (formally from Amphorae and Carmel wineries) and Ido Lewinsohn also create wines from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, cabernet franc, carignan, viognier, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc under the Yasmin, Recanati, Reserve and Special Reserve labels.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d finally consider the whiskies of the Glenglassaugh Distillery. Never heard of it, right? Well, if you have — kudos to you. If not, don’t fret — until fairly recently, it not only wasn’t being imported, it hadn’t even been in active production for decades.
Glenglassaugh was established in 1875, very near the small town of Portsoy, Banffshire (50+ miles Northwest of Aberdeen). This is just outside the Speyside region of northeast Scotland. From its earliest days, the bulk of its spirit was sold to whisky blenders. The distillery was closed, or “mothballed,” in 1908. It reopened in 1931, but then closed again in 1936 and remained mothballed until 1960. The whisky was once again in hot demand among blenders, including such internationally renowned blends as Cutty Sark and the Famous Grouse. The occasional single malt was released (a no-age statement bottle and a 12-year-old, if memory serves), but mostly the production went to the blenders. Then tragedy struck. The distillery was one of many that was hard hit by the whisky recession of the 1980s and was closed (again) in 1986.
Fortunately, in 2008, the distillery was sold by the Edrington Group to a Netherlands-based energy company called the Scaent Group for around $7.93 million. The price tag included extensive refurbishment. Not only did they fully revive the Glenglassaugh distillery and brand but the whiskies quickly developed a devoted following. Most recently, the Scaent Group sold the distillery to The Benriach Distillery Company.
Glenglassaugh is imported to the U.S. by Purple Valley Imports USA, also the U.S. importers of Amrut Single Malt Whiskies from India and other fine spirits. If you can’t find these on your local liquor store shelf — ask the management to order them. Here are four of their worthy whisky releases:
Glenglassaugh Revival Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $69.99): The first whiff of this barely old enough to be legal whisky (three years old) is a bit spirity, sharp and stale-ale-like, but with enjoyable developing sweet notes of toffee, honey, roasted malt, ginger, hazelnut, citrus and caramel, much of which follows through on the creamy palate with additional flavors of more pronounced citrus, plums, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg, and a medium-length spicy, nutty finish. The whisky was finished in used Oloroso sherry butts for six months, partly, one suspects, to try and make this too-young whisky seem a bit more mature. Not the first time such tricks are employed by folks trying to draw some early revenue from their whisky investment. Overall, however, the gimmick — if that’s what it is —actually works. The whisky will undoubtedly be much better with further maturation, but is actually rather charming — faults and all.
Glenglassaugh Evolution Single Malt Scotch Whisky (57.2 percent abv; $94.99): This 3-year-old release, matured exclusively in used George Dickel Tennessee Whisky barrels, opens with under-ripe berry fruits, peaches, vanilla, toffee, gingerbread, lemon tart, buttery shortbread and butterscotch aromas, and full flavors of fruit, creamy vanilla, some charred oak, caramel, toffee and ginger spice, with a slightly tart and tangy finish with notes of malt and more toffee. Again, additional maturation is wanted, but as it stands, this whisky is both interesting and enjoyable. Well worth a try.
Glenglassaugh 26 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $299.99): This is good — medium-bodied, polished, pretty, absorbing and rewarding — with aromas of custard, apple crumble, and some citrus, with cracked black pepper and ginger, followed on the palate with berries, raisins, citrus, toasted malt, creamy vanilla, marzipan, toffee, subtle, elegant notes of oak and traces of milk chocolate. This lovely, if expensive whisky, is very hard to put down.
Glenglassaugh, Distillers Selection, North American Exclusive, 37 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (56 percent abv; $649.99 [sigh]): Expensive, yet oh so good. The nose is sumptuous and enticing with notes of chocolate-covered raisins, plums, honeycomb, apricots, smoked hickory, brown sugar, walnut and carrot cake, and tingly candied ginger. On the oily, meaty palate, the flavors deliver on that brilliant nose — with additional notes of cherry liqueur, cracked pepper, cloves, nutmeg and citrus. The medium long finish is unctuous and mouthwatering, with a bit more wood and spice influence. An amazing if (sadly) super-expensive whisky. L’Chaim!