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Issue 111 - Separated by a common language

Whisky Magazine Issue 111
April 2013


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Separated by a common language

Heather is director of education for the Flatiron Whisky School

Recently, the Flatiron Room Whiskey School hosted a dynamic master blender from a well-known Scottish distillery to showcase an array of his new tasty expressions. “On this whisky, please notice the lush notes of Christmas Cake and spice,” he announced while wafting one of the drams delicately under his nose. I scanned the whisky-curious crowd eagerly for confused brows over mention of a Christmas-specific cake. You see, there is no such thing for most of us here in the United States. I spent a good deal of time in the UK sleuthing-out this mysterious Christmas Cake off-season in 2005, and eventually found one presented in a tin. I knew that to understand the comparison between this dessert, ahem, pudding, and a whisky note, I needed to find out for myself what the fuss was all about. So did this crowd.

After noticing a few puzzled looks among my fellow countrymen, I chimed in, “Does anyone here know what Christmas Cake is?” Radio Silence. Cake to most Americans means a baked flour-and-egg-based concoction offered up in a chocolate or vanilla flavour and slathered in thick pink or blue gooey frosting. Often, “Happy Birthday!” is written messily across the top, with a few finger marks swiped somewhere along the side, indicating a stolen lick.

Naturally, the idea of an elegant whisky being compared to cake of any kind brings forth this sort of image. My advice to any British whisky educator wanting to use the adjective “Christmas Cake” when referring to a wh...

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