Hiraeth. I couldn’t start this post any other way, but with ‘hiraeth’. The Welsh equivalent of our untranslatable Portuguese word ‘saudade’. Hiraeth has a little extra meaning – it also refers to that existential emptiness caused by the desire for something you have never had.
The saudades (longing) that an only child feels for a sibling never born or that I feel for a 54-year-old 1957 Bowmore. Oh, how I miss that Bowmore.
In a way, hiraeth is a bit of a paradoxical feeling. It is the nostalgia for everything we can’t see and can’t have. Even worse than this is that real longing for something that we once had and don’t have anymore. One love, one time in our lives… and of course a bottle of whisky. That one I bought on a trip and drank dreading that each drop in my glass was one less in the bottle.
As a Brazilian lover of whiskies, I should say that I experience this feeling a lot – the desire to taste again a whisky I have had or to be able to open one I have never tried. I can’t because it’s just not available in our country.
In this post, I have selected six special whiskies. These are ones we once had and have gone or that never reached our shores, but should have. Follow me, dear reader, on this journey of nostalgia and let’s indulge ourselves together.
I couldn’t start the list any other way. Lagavulin is an absolute classic of single malts and perhaps the noblest and most prominent representative of Islay and its smoky, medicinal whiskies. As has been the case for so many Lagavulin was responsible for sparking my passion for whisky.
Unfortunately, for some reason this Dog doesn’t logically recognise, Lagavulin 16 year old is not sold in our country. Its owner, Diageo, prefers to bring more competitively priced and loveable tasting whiskies, perhaps imagining that we Brazilians have sweet and underdeveloped palates for single malts. There’s no use arguing about the price. If there is a whisky that can sell itself, regardless of its value, it is Lagavulin. Maybe in the future.
SPRINGBANK (LONGROW & HAZELBURN)
Springbank has cult malt status among enthusiasts and its limited editions make the shelves almost instantly after they’re launched. It is also one of Scotland’s only independent distilleries and one of the few that runs the whole process – from malting to bottling – entirely at home. They have three different lines of single malts: Springbank (lightly smoked), Longrow (undisputably smoked) and Hazelburn (triple distilled).
Springbank is one of the only three surviving distilleries in Campbeltown, a town that had long been considered the whisky capital of the world. The region, which had thirty-four distilleries during the fifties, now only has three; the other two are Glengyle and Glen Scotia. Unfortunately, the success of Springbank is such that production is all pre-allocated, with no plans to venture onto native Indian soil… at least for now.
BUFFALO TRACE (EAGLE RARE)
Buffalo Trace is one of the largest distilleries in the United States and is responsible for such well-known brands as George T. Stagg, E. H. Taylor, W. L. Weller, Sazerac Rye, the adorable Pappy Van Winkle line, Blanton’s and Stagg. Jr. One of its most beloved bourbons – and fantastic value for money in its homeland – is Eagle Rare. It is the only whisky to win five double gold medals at the San Francisco Spirits Competition, three of which were awarded in consecutive years from 2003 to 2005.
Unfortunately, no Buffalo Trace whiskies make it to Brazil – not even the most humble. The brand had no contact with any importer and no national representative in our country.
Compass Box Whisky Co. was founded by John Glaser, former Marketing Director at Johnnie Walker. Glaser decided to leave the company and create his own brand dedicated to producing only whiskies of the highest quality, especially blended malts. The company currently has five blends in its permanent portfolio (Asyla, Oak Cross, Hedonism, Spice Tree and Peat Monster), as well as the Great King Street line. It is also constantly launching limited editions and they are all delicious.
Despite being easily found in neighbouring countries, such as Argentina, Compass Box has never come to Brazil, which is just as well for me, as I’d go bankrupt trying to buy all the bottles I could find – especially of Peat Monster.
SUNTORY (HIBIKI, YAMAZAKI, HAKUSHU)
Suntory, founded in the 1920s by Shinjiro Torii, a crazy Japanese guy who decided to produce whisky in Japan. Today, the company is the country’s biggest producer of the drink and boasts the incredible Yamazaki, Hakushu, Kakubin, Toki and Chita, to name a few. The products are world-renowned and mainly responsible for the Japanese’s’ feverish consumption of whiskies around the globe.
Some Suntory products – such as Kakubin, Yamazaki and Hakushu 12 Year Old – even managed to make it to our homeland. However, the importation (by Tradbrás) was gradually suspended and Suntory opted to focus its products on emerging markets like Asia.
With a bit of luck – or some gold-digging – you can still find the odd bottle of these treasures in off-licences and supermarkets, but the price will very probably be the same as a return flight to Japan.
ANOTHER IRISH ONE
That’s right – the only Irish whisky to make it here is Jameson and that’s ok, because it’s really good, very versatile and is competitively priced.
For those who like variety, however, this is almost suicide. Another of the brand’s expressions, like Black Barrel, would already help a lot – or even perhaps Tullamore Dew, which in many countries is an alternative to our well-known Irish whiskey. Dreaming a little more ambitiously, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have Midleton or Redbreast on home turf.