Brian Van Flandern

Sail the Whiskey Islands in Summer

Do you, or someone you know, appreciate rare or unusual whiskies? When it comes to the subject of whiskies, Seabourn's consulting master mixologist Brian Van Flandern could write a book. As a matter of fact, he is writing a book. We contacted him about Seabourn's summer season cruises through the heartland of whisky distilling: Ireland, Scotland and the British Isles. According to Brian, it was in the British Isles that distillers perfected the science of malting barley to achieve the varied flavor profiles so beloved of connoisseurs. 

Barley is malted by smoking it over burning peat. Flavors derive from the barley itself, from the peat, and the temperature and other details of the malting process. Flavors also come from the water added to the mash, other grains used (wheat, corn and/or rye), and the barrels used in aging. The amount of malted barley added to the mash varies, up to and including 100 percent malted barley used in the famous single malt whiskies of Scotland. 

Malted barley distinguishes the whiskies of Scotland and Ireland from other distilled spirits, and the products of various distillers from each other. Highland Park distillers in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands mix heather into the peat, so the flavor of their whisky differs from the spicy and full-bodied Scotches such as Glenmorangie from Aberdeenshire around Peterhead in northern Scotland, or Glenfiddich and Macallan from Speyside in the highlands. Oban and Ben Nevis in Fort William in the West Highlands produce sweet, rich profiles, where island distilleries such as Tobermory on the Isle of Mull or Talisker on the Isle of Skye produce a slight salinity, as do Springbank or Glengyle whiskies from Campbeltown in southern Scotland. And finally, the big, smoky, oily peaty single malts of Islay produce Scotches such as Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Laphroig. Seabourn cruises call in all these regions at one time or another.

Ireland and Scotland produce a variety of whiskies. Scotch whisky dominated the market for decades, but over the past few years, Irish whiskey (the extra "e" is the Gaelic spelling) has begun to catch up. There are a growing number of Irish distillers making terrific whiskies such as Green Spot, Powers, Michael Collins and Red Breast that are beginning to challenge the domination by makers such as Bushmills, Tullamore Dew and Jameson.

To appreciate Scotch or Irish whiskies, Brian recommends sipping them neat to savor the full range of flavors. He appreciates that many people find the 40 percent (plus) alcohol by volume a bit harsh for their taste. Adding a couple of drops of distilled water dilutes the alcohol affect and releases additional aromatics. If you do want to add ice, it should be from distilled water, and preferably spherical, to maximize chilling and minimize melting.

A true mixologist, Brian suggests that you try a couple of cocktails he created using whiskies especially for Seabourn guests. In the bar of The Grill by Thomas Keller, ask the mixologist to make you a Classic Rusty Nail, made with Scotch whisky and a dash of Drambuie, a Scotch whisky liqueur. For a special treat, Brian suggests his premium Blue Blood and Sand cocktail. The classic Blue Blood and Sand is made with blended Scotch, blood orange juice, Cherry Heering and a few other ingredients. His variation calls for Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch, thus Blue Blood and Sand. Sláinte!

To find out more about our cruises next summer to Ireland, Scotland and British Isles, or make reservations, please contact a travel professional, call Seabourn at (800) 929-9391 or visit www.seabourn.com.