A kernel of barley may seem nebbishly puerile. Yet, like Olbers’ Paradox, that single kernel gets multiplied a million times over in a bottle of scotch – so that little grain matters. A lot.
I assumed barley, like apples, or tomatoes, or pretty much any fruit or vegetable known in my nonage had just one type: a red tomato, a green apple, a black cherry – a kernel of barley.
Yet, like Door County Cherries, “Optic” is a distinct heirloom strain of barley. It’s two row barley, meaning it has two spikelets per rachis with only the central spikelet being fertile. This growing pattern results in a much higher level of starch and a much lower level of protein (by the way, the protein is why flour should be stored in the freezer, it spoils just like any other protein). In contrast, six row barley, commonly used in Scotch and mass-market American beer, is higher in protein and lower in starch – it’s great for feeding cows.
Starch is the meat on the bone, the richness of every scotch you have ever had. When malted, the starch turns into fermentable sugars, and these sugars are directly responsible for the aroma, taste and flavor of scotch. On average Optic’s fermentable sugars are 300% greater than a common six row barley. And that’s a h*ll of a lot of taste.
An analogy: I grill you a 3 oz. steak. I grill myself a 10 oz. steak. I have more steak and you are pissed off.
Not only is the proof in the pudding, it’s the size, taste, and smell of the $240 pudding. There is just more flavor to drink in a glass of Benromach’s Optic:
An ocean of scotch opens before you each and every time you pour: waves of caramel, honey, roasted apples, sticky buns and croissants fill the room as soon as the bottle is opened. Done purely in first fill sherry cask a sea breeze of nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander and handsmooth chaps emerge. Echoes of the early fruit aromas. The palate finishes with that beautiful Speysider richness of honey roasted cashews, a touch of salted pretzels, and a lingering richness of almond cream. This tiny little kernel of Optic grain is a powerhouse, and one not to be trifled with or taken lightly. Drink heartily, because this is a full bore dram.
When you have a buddy over to taste some scotch, he (or she) isn’t going to ask you about the Johnnie Walker Black sitting on the back bar. But they will ask you about this. And you’ll be one of 60 people in America to have it.
That’s how limited it is, this is how great it is. Slàinte mhòr agus a h-uile beannachd duibh!
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