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Scotch Whisky: from the Highlands to the Isle of Islay

If there is one spirit which can claim to inspire a culture of connoisseurship worldwide, the subtleties of its refinement recognized and endlessly debated, it is whisky, and in particular, the noble, inimitable Scotch. With its traditions stretching back at least 500 years, and many distilleries still family-owned, it’s a perfect fit for Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, where we have a Taste Workshop dedicated to the various types of Scotch whisky.

Scotch Whisky_2SMALLLike wine, whiskies are divided by region—from the southern Lowlands to the northern Highlands, the island of Islay, the Campbeltown pensinsula and finally Speyside, the valley of the Spey river, and technically a sub-category of the Highlands. Classically, the Lowland whiskies are generally lighter and fresher, due to the softer soil in which the grain used to make it is grown, often them a more floral character. Speyside whiskies, on the other hand, dominate the landscape on the world market: over half of all distilleries are located here. They’re known for their complex flavors and fruity tones, and are generally less peaty than other Highland whiskies – though the use of peat in the region is increasing in line with global preferences for “smokier” whiskies. That classic, smoky taste is acquired through drying the barley grain used in the distillation process over burning peat, that is, the partially-decayed vegetable matter found abundantly in Scotland. The process can take as long as 30 hours, and the longer the grain is dried in this way before distillation, the smokier the whisky will be.

In this Taste Workshop, we’ll be focusing on two regions: the Highlands and the Isle of Islay, both of which are famously on the smokier side of single malts, and with Islay in particular, also renowned for their maritime notes. We’ll be guided by two of Italy’s foremost experts on the subject, in large part responsibile for the growth in appreciation for whisky in the country. Stefano Carlucci, owner of Le Bon Bock Café and Paolo Sanna of Banana Republic (both in Rome), have each been working with whisky for over 20 years—indeed, they’ve been tirelessly promoting it in this most difficult of territories, where wines, grappas and amari have long dominated.
When we spoke to Paolo Sanna, he was eager to dispell two myths about Scotch whisky which linger in the collective consciousness—firstly, that a single malt can’t be mixed, and that whisky is in itself a “winter drink” to be avoided in the summer. Scotch Whisky_3Just because single malts have strong characters, and can have almost overwhelming flavors, that shouldn’t preclude them from being mixed in classic whisky-based cocktails that may be enhanced by the presence of a particular malt. Take the “Old Fashioned” for example, one of the oldest attested cocktails, made with whisky and Angostura bitters. “Even a classic drink can be tailored to the customer’s mood and personality, through the choice of whisky—and single malts work to excellent effect,” Paolo says. And while sweltering summer temperatures may not curb consumption in chillier Celtic climes, they’re certainly a problem in Rome. Nonetheless, as a barman, Paolo sees it as a challenge, rather than a limitation, and one that be solved by opting for lighter malts, served with soda. And when you have over 50 brands of whisky at your disposal, including some prized vintages that would now be impossible to buy anywhere else, you know your in good hands.

Of couse, this being Italy, and this being Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, we won’t just be drinking dram after dram of delicious malt without anything to go with it—and pairing whiskies with a bite to eat just happens to be Stefano Carlucci’s speciality, so expect dark chocolate, oysters and pork to go with them.

Book your tickets now for this thrilling journey through the great whiskies of the Highlands and the Isle of Islay. We’ll learn more about the history, flavors and smells of this magnificent drink, tasting a variety of whiskies both neat and expertly mixed in drinks both traditional and innovative, accompanied by classic and unorthodox food matches, at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto.


Slow Food Internazionale

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
Official Partners
Supporters of the Terra Madre Foundation and Slow Food
With the support of

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Slow Food Promozione P.Iva 02220020040
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