The UK’s coldest, highest distillery has decided to make the most of its unique selling point by launching a brand new no-age-statement whisky that’s made during the coldest months of the year.
But how does this affect the flavour of the whisky? This is a story about copper conversation. Dalwhinnie is one of a handful of distilleries to still use traditional worm tubs, and the colder the atmospheric temperature, the quicker the vapours will condense and run through these copper tubes, minimising the contact that the liquid has with the copper.
‘Copper creates flavour by taking some compounds and joining them together,’ says Douglas Murray, process development manager at Diageo. ‘It’s a catalyst rather than a flavour provider, creating flavour packages. The copper in the still joins it all together and the way that happens depends on the shape of the still. The vapour condenses when it hits the cold copper. The more times that this process happens, the lighter the spirit. That’s why tall stills result in lighter whisky.
‘When you have normal condensers at a whisky distillery, this leads to big conversations between the copper and the liquid, which results in grassy flavours – the big flavours have been stripped out,’ he continues.
‘Worm tubs are different – the vapour is condensed at the top and the liquid gets colder as it runs down, which therefore ensures that the complex flavours are kept in the whisky.’
The new make character that results is rather sulphury, and this apparently evolves into rich honey-heather notes.
The liquid used to make Winter’s Gold is all distilled in the months between October and March, and the casks used for Winter’s Gold are a combination of American first-fill, American refill and European oak casks.
The result is a rich, sweet dram with a waxy mouthfeel that boasts an immediate spice – dried chilli flakes and black pepper to be exact – before some honeyed sweetness and rum ‘n’ raisin toffee comes in. There’s a red apple skin fruitiness there as well, before an oat cake character finishes things off.
Diageo is suggesting that Winter’s Gold should be served frozen, which results in an unctuous, syrupy mouthfeel for the whisky, and brings the sweet notes to the front.
‘This indulgent, honeyed whisky really comes into its own when served frozen,’ says Donald Colville, Diageo’s global ambassador for malts. ‘The whisky’s rich, honeyed flavours become more intense – and heather, slight hints of peat and spicy aromas are released as the whisky heats up in your hands with every sip.’
Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold will be available from September.
43% abv, £38, Diageo