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Five Regions: Five Cocktails – Part 1

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 9, 2010

Today five specific regions are recognized by the Scotch Whiskey Association (the trade Association for the Scotch Whisky industry), the  Highlands Region, the Lowlands Region, the Islay Region,  Speyside, and Cambletown. ( I should point out that the former Islands Region is now part of the Highlands.)   Each region has traditionally been noted for specific characteristics of its Scotch whisky.  Although these regional differences are beginning to blur in my opinion, I thought it would be fun to construct specific cocktails designed with a specific regional whisky in mind.   So I guess this means I am doing a series.  Today I am tackling The Islay Region.

Islay (pronounced Eye-luh) is an Island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It’s climate is full of strong winds which pelt ocean brine and rain  across its surface.  Since the Island is flat, this means that these elements have their sway over the entire island.  As well, peat abounds in the soil, and historically the distilleries of Islay have used dried peat to fuel the fires which dry their barley.  The smokey peat influences the flavours of the whisky produced as does the ocean brine which is constantly in the air.  This means that historically speaking the typical flavour profile for Islay whiskies is a strong smokey peat flavour tinged with ocean brine and iodine.

The Islay character of  malt whiskies can be  described as a smoky, briny, medicinal, and dry with elements of the sea including sea weed and iodine.   I know, it sounds delicious!

So a cocktail chosen to represent the Islay character must embrace these elements and bring them to the glass with vigor and balance.  I believe I found just the right cocktail to begin my construction. The Automobile. (click on the name to find the recipe on the internet cocktail database)

The Automobile uses blended scotch,  gin, and sweet vermouth  in combination with a dash of orange bitters.

Of course I had to make some minor modifications for everything to work.  I started by increasing the level of Islay whisky and decreasing the level of gin and vermouth.  I wanted this to be a Islay cocktail, and so I felt the whisky should have the largest share of the flavour. Next I needed to add a touch of counterbalance to the smoke.  I didn’t want to drown the smoke but I wanted to be able to control it to suit my taste.  I came up with the idea of adding Cointreau as an optional component in the recipe.  The idea was that many persons experiencing an Islay cocktail for the first time may want to ease themselves more gently into the flavour profile.  The result is a cocktail of which I am quite happy to say I found entirely enjoyable.  In keeping with the theme of automobiles and smoky scotch I thought I would call my cocktail,  The Smokey Carburetor.

You can click on the link to view the complete recipe:

My Islay Whisky Cocktail:  The Smokey Carburetor


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