Dalwhinnie is the coldest village in the United Kingdom and the highest distillery in Europe. It is the extremes of this godforsaken place that inspired Diageo to make a new blend that is meant to come from the freezer, as a homage to Winter.
The car that was ferrying the press off the bleak moors to our comfy hotel in the valleys 20 miles away managed to leave me behind. It was dark, very cold. No make that very, very cold and I was honestly wondering what to do. The distiller’s door opened again and I was ushered back into our host’s living room for some of the ‘special stuff’ until the dimwit of a driver made his way back. Luckily he took a quarter of an hour 😉
Dalwhinnie is not the best place to get stranded in. For starters it has an annual mean temperature of 6.6 degrees C, making it the coldest village in the UK. The eponymous distillery is also the highest in Europe, a godforsaken place where winter temperatures regularly drop below -15 and only the hardy will survive. That doesn’t include me.
The whisky from Dalwhinnie is noted for its rich honeyed, heather flavours, so in order to accentuate that and make a paen to the cold, the distillery team has created a unique whisky where all the key processes were carried out in the depths of winter. The colder it is the less contact the liquid has with the copper during the condensing process, making it a more sulphury spirit which then in turn becomes more honeyed after maturation. The master blender then only picks casks that were ‘laid down’ during the winter months.
Of course whisky lovers can drink Winter’s Gold neat or with water. It is a medium-bodied spirit that is gorgeously smooth, deep golden in hue and has aromas of rich caramel, fruit tart with hints of mint and smoke. This beguiling nose then leads to an unctuous, honeyed mouth-feel with hints of molasses and spicy autumnal fruit.
But, in a real break from tradition, the distillery is also recommending that drinkers go one further and serve it frozen.
What might seem to some cynics as a stunt to appeal to the frozen shots market is actually no such thing. The liquid becomes syrupy rather than frozen solid and the rich honeyed flavours actually do come alive as the warmth of your hands starts heating the glass. Comforting aromas of ginger, cinnamon, heather and peat are released. It is a most gorgeous dram and one that is ironically perfect for beating the winter chill.