I was at a whisky-tasting last night, organised by a friend, and led by a friend of his from Edinburgh who is something of a whisky buff.
It wasn’t just any old whisky-tasting, however – the six bottles the twenty of us sampled were all rare, expensive and cask strength (straight out of the barrel at up to 67% alcohol and not watered down to the usual 40%). Thus it was the sort of stuff most of us wouldn’t normally have the money to buy or opportunity to taste, so it was definitely a special evening
It was great fun trying them all, and guessing where they came from and how old they were. I was wildly wrong in most of my guesses, which disappointed me given I once worked in a distillery and have form in whisky competitions.
To keep track of the six and remember them for posterity, I took a photo of each bottle and wrote notes on each dram in my iPhone, with a view to writing a blog later.
Reading the notes this morning, however, they seem slightly less evocative and a great deal more abstract than last night, and thus it’s hard to remember the flavours, smells and textures quite so easily. Have a read of my notes for one of them, for instance:
Smell: calamine lotion, peat, TCP, chargrilled, almost steaky. Taste: smoky, smooth; with water: caramel, sugary. Region: Campbeltown; whisky: Longrow, Springbank. 7 years, 55%.
It’s like the shipping forecast: slightly poetic but not particularly helpful. Describing something as tasting like calamine lotion or TCP probably doesn’t do justice to what was actually a most enjoyable tipple.
Instead, I’ll simply refer you to the photo above, and suggest you click through to the original photo on Flickr, where I’ve put notes against each bottle about what it was.
I will, though, mention two highlights. One was a whisky from the long-closed Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness – a harsh, bitter and pungent dram but memorable because we were drinking not only something of which there were finite quantities remaining, but also because it has now been demolished and replaced by the Telford Street retail park.
The same place has also built upon the foundations and memories of the Caledonian F.C. stadium. You’d never think, driving the wide streets lined with retail units, that it was such a historic part of town. I felt a little guilty drinking such a rare whisky knowing no more would ever be produced.
The second one worth highlighting was by far and away my favourite, and the favourite of most of us attending last night. It was a 32 year old Glenglassaugh, a heavy, cloudy and thick Speyside from Portsoy with a delicious soft, warm and sweet taste. A sort of liquid Christmas pudding, it was probably one of the nicest whiskies I’ve ever tasted, and (at around £80 a bottle) that I am likely to for some time too.
Coming back down to earth, my next dram is probably going to be a more modest Laphroaig, which is the current bottle du shelf. I expect it will seem quite ordinary in comparison.