Frisky Whisky

By Darryl Beeson



Scotch, if itís really the fine stuff, demands gold foil on the black or brown label with Gothic print. The name should be difficult to pronounce. Maybe Jean-Markham Robeaux, as if Scotch Whisky were French.

But if Scotch whisky were fun, it might be named ďJon, Mark and Robbo.Ē In 2002, Scottish brothers Jon and Mark Geary approached David Robertson, former master distiller for the Macallan label, about creating some whiskies that ordinary people could relate to.

"We've tried to take the guesswork out of scotch," explains Robertson (Robbo). "Instead of having fancy names that are hard to pronounce, we've named the three options, 'The Smokey Peaty One,' 'The Rich Spicy One,' and 'The Smooth Sweeter One,' so you know exactly what you're getting. And before you think Scotch without pretension equals Scotch that's crappy," Robertson says "think again."

The three "mates" believe that decent whisky should be enjoyed and not worshipped. "We're fed up with all the waffle that tends to go along with whisky."

"First, we were looking for a whisky that is incredibly smooth and a little sweeter than other malts," explains the craftsman Robertson. He tried combinations of malts, malt and grain whiskies and just grain whisky. Nothing really hit the spot. His inspiration was to add Ireland's finest to Scotland's finest, creating the first multi-country malt. "A cool Celtic combination," concludes Robertson. This strange brew was launched on Paddy's Day, March 17, 2005. Itís 70 percent single malt whisky from Cooley's, Ireland, and 30percent single malt whisky from Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay, Scotland, matured in former Bourbon barrels. For "The Smooth Sweeter One," imagine vanilla, coconut, fresh apples and lemons.

Next, Mark gave Robbo a challenge to create a whisky that tastes like two of his favorites, Macallan Gran Reserva and Exceptional Single Cask 1 (ironically, Robertson's creations from his previous job). It took some time, but the eighth attempt finally cracked it, giving a bold, intense flavor packed full of rich spiciness. It was a mix of malts from whiskies distilled at Highland Park, Bunnahabhain, Tamdhu and Glenrothes, curiously matured in sherry casks. Full of dry spices, orange zest and dried fruits with a splash of smoke, this would be "The Rich Spicy One."

A few days spent on Islay in 1995 made partner Jon a big fan of peaty whiskies. He was "very keen" for Robbo to create a new whisky in this distinctive style. At the same time, Mark had asked for a smokey-style whisky, similar to Highland Park or Talisker. So Robbo created two amazing whiskies that spurred a heated debate as to which was better. The discussion continued into the night at a hotel outside Bristol, culminating in a those moment of accidental genius. Someone, the fellows can't remember who, mixed the two prototypes in the same glass. It tasted amazing, distinctive yet smooth, smokey and peaty at the same time. "The Smokey Peaty One" was born.

Jon, Mark & Robbo's Easy Drinking Whisky is indeed easy drinking. At around $30 per 750-milliliter bottle, close to the price of popular blended Scotch whisky such as Johnnie Walker Black, the decision becomes very simple.

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Darryl Beeson travels the world looking for great wine values. In the past, he has been wine steward or cellar master for The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Voltaire, and The Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. Not one for stuffiness or secret handshakes relative to wine, this Texan might now be described as a "ki-yi-yippee sommelier, sommelier." Beeson reports on wine, spirits, food and travel for numerous publications.


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