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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2004-04-5)

This is a column about wine, but let us consider for a change a couple of the well-known “wines” of Scotland and Ireland.

I suppose whisky (Scotch) and whiskey (Irish) are acquired tastes, but the habit, for better or worse, usually lasts a lifetime, even among wine-drinkers like myself. A big range of whiskies at widely varying prices is available at the liquor shops of KwaZulu-Natal, and two top-of-the-market items are Chivas Regal Scotch and Jameson Irish, both distributed in South Africa by a French-based liquor company, Pernod Ricard (which also has substantial wine interests).

Chivas Regal is technically called a premium deluxe blended whisky and in Durban the Chivas 12 year-old costs about R185 a bottle. There must be a lot of people with a lot of money out there; this brand sells over three million cases every year in every continent. It is a blend of aged, high-quality whiskies, and the result is a drink full of subtle and delicate fruity flavours. The connoisseurs like to serve it neat on ice, and it is often used in cocktails. I prefer it with ice and water, not too much water.

This whisky recently won the Distiller of the Year title at the International Wine and Spirit competition in Europe.

Jameson whiskey (note the different spelling for the drink from Ireland) is another prestige product that has a devoted following world-wide. The 12-year-old version of this whiskey has recently become available in South Africa, again at a price: about R240 a bottle. For this you get a triple distilled whiskey with wood, spice and nutty aromas and flavours and a sherry sweetness. The distillers in County Cork, Ireland, say that 80 percent of the final flavour derives from wood maturation, and that new research has identified 500 different flavour components in the maturation process.

Obviously, something different. Jameson whiskies are popular in South Africa (the younger Jamesons cost much less}. This country is the producers’ 12th biggest market in the world, and they believe they will find many buyers for their 12-year-old premium product. – Michael Green




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