Passionate about re-energising whisky

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 Talisker whiskies

Global Scotch whisky expert - Donald Colville, who recently visited South Africa, believes that it’s the flavours inherent in whisky which make it the alcoholic beverage of choice going into 2015

Whether you enjoy simple or complex tastes, there is a Singleton’s whisky for you especially with the release of its new products in the new year (2015) – and this was the reason for Global Scotch whisky expert Donald Colville’s trip to South Africa. So, once again, under the glass floor in Durban's Oyster Box Hotel’s exclusive dining cellar I was taken on a sensational taste journey guided by a man who is absolutely passionate about re-energising whisky. 


Donald Colville, who was born and bred in the whisky industry, is driven by his passion for this alcoholic beverage which adds an element of class to every occasion. Not surprising considering his great grandfather owned a whisky distillery over a century ago. “It’s literally in my blood,” he said with a laugh. “It was an easy choice of career, to follow the legacy left by my great grandfather – I’m literally standing on the shoulder of giants.”

 “The Singleton’s whiskies to be released in 2015 are vibrant and packed with flavour,” he added as he poured the flowing golden liquid into glasses for me to taste. “Where traditional whisky is matured in older, more balanced woods, we are looking to create a different profile. From my perspective, there has been a revolution in the wine industry which encourages one to look for and talk about the flavour – whisky should be no different!”

“Every whisky has its own story, often told in the label before the bottle is even opened. For instance, the leaping fish on the Singleton label is the acknowledgement that the Singleton whisky’s source of water for the distillery comes from the River Spey in the north-east of Scotland, packed to abundance with salmon. The energy of the fish depicts the vibrancy of the product which is hand-crafted.”

 Tasting journey

Created with thought, whisky is meant to be savoured… and Donald provided some tantalizing tips. “Take your time… enjoy; lift the glass breathe in the aromas; wet your lips; take a small taste and let it coat your mouth; see what flavours you can define…. And then enjoy!”

Hint 1: Talisker’s flavours are complex. Place your bottle in the freezer before serving and you will begin an evolutionary journey. Every taste is different as the syrup warms and the flavours emerge. At its core is a sweetness, which you might not have noticed.

Hint 2: Singleton Sunray is an easy-going drinking whisky which can be used as an aperitif. You can also place this in the freezer before serving and, as it warms, its smooth honeyed intensity emerges. Swirl it around on your palate, lift your glass to your nose and breathe in the aromas. This whisky has been matured in American oak with its vanilla and toffee notes which merge with the golden liquid.

Hint 3: Its sister - ‘Tailfire’, which matures in European oak has a coffee-like taste. This releases its notes best when placed next to a glass of boiling water – as the heat encourages evaporation the flavours emerge.

Food pairing

Donald’s love of whisky has taken him into a food-pairing adventure – what’s the use of a love of whisky if you can’t drink it with everything making the most of the bigger variety of flavours? His suggestions are as follows:

Talisker Dark Storm: Serve ‘Storm’ frozen to accompany a piping hot salmon for the transferal of heat and flavor.

Singleton Tailfire: Serve with venison. ‘Tailfire’ enhances the flavour of the meat – the richer the meat, the better.

Singleton of Dufftown (12-year-old): Serve with coffee cake or tiramisu. Create a spritzer in a frozen champagne flute using highly carbonated soda. Hints of blackcurrant, brown sugar and espresso coffee will come floating through… almost like drinking champagne. [You could even use this whisky as an ingredient in your tiramisu]

Singleton of Dufftown (15-year-old): Paired with blue cheese on your cheese board, you are sure to be stunned.

Looking toward 2015

Two blended Taliskers are set to be released in South Africa next year:

  • Talisker Port Ruighe (pronounced portree) is finished in Port casks. This is a blend of Taliskers. After initial maturation in American and European oak casks as well as casks which have been heavily charred. This second maturation in the Port casks brings diversity to the flavour profile, bringing out a sweeter intensity.
  • Talisker Dark Storm is matured in younger, heavily charred oak casks allowing for the liquid to interact with the wood. The young notes dissipate when blended  with older whisky and flavours of blackcurrant, liquorice and smokiness emerge. The colour of the whisky is influenced by the casks – and every drop is matured in exactly the same way… and the charring removes the immature notes.

And as for Donald…his journey continues as he strives towards bringing out the flavor of his beloved whisky. Most of all, however, this year (2014) he was inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich – an exclusive society which recognizes and values his contribution to the whisky industry... and I was among the fortunate people to have benefitted from his phenomenal expertise. 


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