While most of us are also celebrating the weekend with the traditional democracy sausage, Saturday also marks the annual World Whisky Day – perfect timing for the arrival of the 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection, ‘Legends Untold’ from Diageo.
What is essentially the Advent calendar and for the whisky lover’s Christmas, the Legends Untold series is a deep dive into some of the most interesting and storied distilleries of Scotland. Made of up eight drams of varying intensity, aroma profiles and provenance, the Legends selection is process of art itself. Each one has been hand picked by Master Blender, Dr Craig Wilson who, for the 2021 collection, focused on hidden gems that can be found in each corner of the Scottish terrain amongst the lochs and rugged highlands.
To get a grasp on how the Wilson made his selections, and some of the stories behind the Legends Untold, ICON spoke to Diageo Scotch Whisky Ambassador Katie Nagar.
ICON: The tasting guide has taken a very specific visual approach – what inspired this?
Kate Nagar: For the 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection ‘Legends Untold’, we wanted the whisky to look as good as it tastes. By collaborating with Australian artist Ken Taylor to incorporate striking visuals, we were able to tell the story inspired by fables and the mythical creatures of the distilleries to unify the collection as a family. We want to peak the interest of people who may not have previously considered themselves a whisky drinker, and the impressive artwork is one way to open the door for those looking to get into whisky.
ICON: How were the final selection of whiskies chosen?
KN: This year, Dr Craig Wilson acted as the lead blender in selecting and curating the 2021 Special Releases collection. He delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries for the collection and revealed new depths of flavour, embracing the essence of each whisky’s unique profile.
ICON: What were the key traits that were looked for?
KN: As all of the whisky sits in casks that we’ve never used before, you never know how the whisky is going to develop and taste. It’s all about experimenting and Dr Craig Wilson selects the whiskies once they’re at their peak age and flavour – but to get there, the master blender must look after the cask and nurture it till it’s at the pinnacle of flavour. Given the experimental nature of whisky, it’s always going to be an interesting new surprise, so you’ll make sure that whisky has reached its peak, before you bottle and share.
ICON: On WWD, any tips on how to serve a selection of whiskies to enjoy? I’ve heard chocolate is a great way to explore the flavours. Is there any other food or flavours people could turn to?
KN: Absolutely! Chocolate and cheese are usually my go-to’s. Ice cream or gelato also pairs beautifully with whisky. Because whisky is big on flavour, it needs food that is rich and powerful to partner with. The basic principles are cut, complement, and contrast. Cut refers to how the alcohol content, tannins, richness, and smokiness of the whisky cuts through some of the richer flavours and textures in food, such as fattiness, spiciness, and creaminess. The goal of complementing is to match the flavours and character of the whisky with the flavours of the food. When it comes to contrast, the idea is to match opposing flavours of whisky and food to enhance the unique flavours of each. For example, I love to pair the Lagavulin 12-Year-Old with a Dark Chocolate and Pistachio Tart!