I shivered, as much from thought of old Arch, living wraithlike in the forest, surviving on the heat of his hatred, as from the cold that had come in with Jamie. He’d let his beard grow for warmth — all the men did in winter, on the mountain — and ice glimmered in his whiskers and frosted his brows.
“You look like Old Man Winter himself,” I whispered, bringing him a bowl of hot porridge.
“I feel like it,” he replied hoarsely. He passed the bowl under his nose, inhaling the steam and closing his eyes beatifically. “Pass the whisky, aye?”
“You’re proposing to pour it on your porridge? It’s got butter and salt on , already.” Nonetheless, I passed him the bottle from its shelf over the hearth.
“Nay, I’m going to thaw my wame enough to eat it. I’m solid ice from the neck down.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone (Chapter 8 – Spring Thaw)
Although modern standards of propriety would have most of us steering clear of the stuff early in the morning, no matter how cold our wames, long winter nights are the perfect time to indulge in uisge beatha, Scottish Gaelic for “lively water” or “water of life,” and commonly referred to as whisky.
Aberlour Distillery, about 40 miles directly west of Inverness, was founded by James Fleming in 1879 on the site of an ancient Celtic Druid settlement devoted to the worship of oak trees and water. Today, an oak tree dominates the Aberlour label, and the distillery uses water from the same spring where saints baptised locals in the 6th century, CE (A.D.)
Most Aberlour whisky, like the bottle of 12 Year Old single malt we recently sampled, has been matured in two types of cask. The whisky is matured separately in specially selected ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. American bourbon casks lend a vanilla scent and golden colour, while Oloroso sherry butts impart a fuller body, sweet/spicy overtones and an amber hue.
At maturation, the whisky from both sets of casks is brought together for the first time and the different flavours subtly mixed. The result is a dram that, although light on peat, has deep character and balanced notes of fruits and spice.
Whisky enthusiasts who enjoy peat may find that Aberlour doesn’t have enough to satisfy, but those of us that like a slightly sweet palate and a smooth finish will find a lot to like in this affordable choice. A great bottle for the newbie and the seasoned connoisseur alike.