For Peat’s Sake
With the Club releasing its own American whiskey this month, one Member discusses his love for a “wee dram.”
Growing up in the Scottish Highlands, Member James Littlewood was never far from whiskey.
The famous Glenmorangie distillery was at the end of his street, and he spent many summer holidays on Islay, a small island off the west coast of Scotland known for its distinctive and peaty single malts.
“It really is a rite of passage,” he says of taking his first sip of Scotland’s famous distilled liquor (spelled without the “e”). As the Club launches its own American single malt whiskey, produced by Seattle’s Westland Distillery, Littlewood savors a glass while talking peat and casks.
First whiskey memory.
Littlewood: We used to go on summer holidays to the Scottish islands, like Islay, and stay at distillery self-catering cottages. I went to places like the Bunnahabhain, but I obviously wasn’t drinking then. Maybe it was more for my dad! My mother’s family were crofters. The only heating my gran had was from cut peat, which made the whole house smell of it. I may be overromanticizing it, but there are probably some of those things wrapped up in it for me—a sense of home and of place.
Littlewood: I would say the whiskies I like are more on the peaty or smoky end of the spectrum, like Laphroig. For me, whiskey is more than the taste, it’s that I went to the places where it was made. Bunnahabhain is a place for me as well as a whiskey. I know that bay, I know someone who lives there.
Memorable tasting experience.
Littlewood: One that comes to mind was back at Glenmorangie last year. When I was growing up, I thought it was just sheds, but then the McDonalds sold it to Moët Hennessy, who built this amazing visitor center that offers whiskies with different cask finishes. Suddenly, our town had a world-class tasting room filled with people from around the globe.
Thoughts on the new Club whiskey.
Littlewood: It’s fantastic that one of the very first American malt whiskies is this well done, and the Club has its own special-edition cask. The label says 53 percent proof, but it isn’t overpowering at all. It has a beautiful red magenta in the glass, thanks to being aged in a Madeira cask that was used to age fortified wine. Along with the good color and a light smokiness are cedar and chocolate on the nose and flavors of roasted almonds and sweet fruit. There are only 240 bottles available from the Club cask.
Advice for whiskey newbies.
Littlewood: Relax and enjoy yourself. Even though there is this recent surge in popularity and increasing sophistication with whiskey, it has always been a sociable drink to enjoy over conversation or a round of golf. Just don’t put Coke in it!
Tokyo American Club x Westland Single Malt Whiskey Tasting
May 1 | 5–8pm
Words: C Bryan Jones
Top Image of James Littlewood: Kayo Yamawaki