Extreme Whisky. Steve Adams from Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom.

I love Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom. Have lost plenty of half days challenging Eve, Steve or Dave to take me on weird and wonderful whisky tours. From what I understand, they also have the second largest collection of whisky (and whiskey?) in the world. Very much worth a stop if you're ever in the area.

They're getting involved with the upcoming FNB Whisky Live festival and Steve did an interview with the festival journos.

Thought I'd share it with you. Because whisky.

What follows is like a "to do" list for Whisky fans. Challenge accepted :)

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There’s nothing vanilla about whisky…

There may be a brand of whisky to suit the tastes of every palate, but when it comes to the golden dram, spirits run high, and competition is great to produce the finest, the rarest, the most intriguing expression of this globally popular drink.

What happens when this fierce passion for the category is taken to the extreme? The FNB Whisky Live Festival spoke to Steve Adams, one of the founders of Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom, to learn more about ‘Extreme Whisky’ in South Africa and abroad. He answered some of our curious questions about the spirits that add colour and character to the industry – as if any more was needed!

What is the oldest whisky available on the market?

The Glenlivet 70 year old and Mortlach 70 year old are the oldest commercially available whiskies I know of. If you can find them, you would have to pay around R300 000 per bottle – and then you’d have to ask yourself if you could bring yourself to drink it. Furthermore, these are bottled at 45.9% alc/vol and 46.1% alc/vol respectively, which would pose the question: After 70 years in oak casks and giving up around 2% per year to the Angels, how is it possible that they have maintained such a high alcohol content?

What is the rarest whisky around?

From time to time, someone finds a whisky that’s been lying in a cask, forgotten in a dark corner of an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Scotland, and they’re bottled and released as rare limited editions… if the marketing speak is to be believed.

However, the rarest known whisky is probably the Mackinlay’s that lies beneath Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut in the Antarctic. Whyte and Mackay’s Richard Patterson is credited with recreating the whisky after having drawn a sample from that bottle and then returning it to its home under the ice.

What is the weirdest whisky you know of?

The weirdest flavours come from casks that lend unusual aromas and flavours to the whisky. The strangest flavour I’ve encountered is bubble gum, with one Chinese whisky I’ve encountered tasting a lot like jelly beans dissolved in jet fuel…

Which blend contains the most individual whiskies?

The Chivas Regal Century of Malts contains single malts from 100 distilleries.

Which is the most expensive whisky you’ve come across?

That has to be The Macallan 1946, in a fine Lalique Crystal decanter that sold for US$460,000. The most expensive commercial available whisky in South Africa would be the Glenfiddich 50 year old, which recently sold for R300,000.

What is the strangest thing you have heard of mixed with whisky in a cocktail?

There’s a place in Seattle that offers a peanut butter bourbon milkshake – that pretty much takes it for me!

What is the most surprising whisky you have ever come across?

Although I’ve had whisky from all over the world, the most surprising one was a whisky distilled by two gentlemen from Nelspruit! They came up with an excellent single malt matured for only three years in a brandy cask. They only produced a few bottles, and have no plans to do it again, sadly.

Which is the peatiest single malt that you know of?

That has to be Bruichladdich’s Octomore. There have been several batches to date, peated to as much as 167ppm (parts per million phenols – a measure of the amount of smoke particles) compared with around 50ppm for Laphroaig 10 year old, for example. They’re young malts, a tad over three years, which makes them especially smoky as over time spent in a cask the wood tends to mask and extract the phenols.

What is the most unusual use for whisky (apart from drinking it) that you have heard of?

Driving a racing car on Islay must rank right up there! James May of Top Gear once fuelled a car with Bruichladdich’s quadruple distilled “X4” and drove it around Islay! At around fifty times the price of petrol I’m not sure it was a cheap way to get to see the island...

What is the biggest bottle of whisky you have ever seen? And the smallest?

The biggest bottle I’ve ever seen has to be the 105 litre, 1.44m high bottle of Tomintoul 14 year old that holds the Guinness World Record. It now takes pride of place in the Whisky Castle, a whisky shop in the village of Tomintoul. The smallest bottles are available in most whisky and gift-shops in Scotland, normally sold in packs of three. Each one contains a little under 1.5ml, and has a perfectly recreated label and a sealed cap.

What is the most unusual shape whisky bottle you’ve ever seen?

That has to be Wild Reeds – a South African product, in a bottle the shape of Africa. They have a South African grain whisky, as well as an imported Scotch whisky.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about whisky?

Invest in whisky. If the market ever collapses, at least you can drink it and enjoy it!


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