The restrictions we embraced so willingly during lock-down all those innumerable weeks ago have started being replaced now with “Getting Back To Normal”.
I’m not entirely convinced, though, that I want to quite so quickly replace all of that new “normal” stuff that we found in lock-down. There were lots of quite positive changes, some of which I have been quite looking forward to keeping in the Brave New World.
I’ve enjoyed looking out of my office (read “spare bedroom”) window at the trees and listening to the tui singing.
I’ve loved a tank of petrol that lasted for five weeks instead of five days.
I’ve enjoyed walking to work each day – all three metres of it, with a coffee in hand – instead of braving unreliable public transport, gridlock, and inexcusably astronomical parking fees.
I’ve greatly enjoyed Zoom whisky tastings with friends of an evening, without the hassle of having to arrange a ride home or pay cab fare.
And I’ve enjoyed “killing off” some of the longer-serving bottles in my whisky cabinet (I think at last count I’d emptied about six). Some of them I was a bit sad to see go, others not quite so much.
But Nature abhors a vacuum. When you kill things off – like whisky bottles – their departure creates a vacuum in the cabinet.
And that vacuum needs to be filled.
The obvious filler is new whisky bottles.
As a result. some whiskies have been promoted from the Reserves Bench to the First Team – I was going to say First Fifteen, but I thought that sounded rather pretentious. Or greedy. Or suspiciously alcoholic. Or all three.
Among those that caught my eye for promotion have been a Loch Lomond Inchmurrin Madiera Finish and a G&M Bunnahabbhain 2009 Cask Strength.
But the two standouts have been the Ardnamurchan 2018/AD Limited Release No 03 and an Arran “The Laird’s Quiache”
The tasting notes on the bottle talk about “earthy mango & waxy orange peel, HobNobs and distant Clyde Puffer smoke”.
The bottle has been covered almost head to toe in a matt grey coating which, in the normal course of events, would make it impossible to see just how much remained in the bottle.
But a bit of thoughtfulness has added two narrow viewing panels – one on either side of the bottle. The panels remind me of the sight-glass on an antique car’s radiator cap. But, most importantly, through these you can see the liquid level against a graduated scale. Clever!
Casks: Oloroso, PX
Nose: Silage grassy, with a dusting of cocoa powder. Peat, sour mash and rock pool marine salt.
Palette: It starts with sweet lollies, then heads straight to smoke with bacon & eggs cooked over an open outdoor fire.
Finish: Eskimo lollies with a slight peat overlay. The finish is long, with the peaty lollies staying on.
Comment: Having vicariously watched from the sidelines the genesis of Ardnamurchan over the last few years, I was waiting to be seriously impressed with the whisky. Initially, though, I found it to be a bit less impressive than I had hoped. and the first two or three drams left a vaguely disappointing feeling. Almost a let down.
As so often happens, however, when the level in the bottle drops a dram or two, the whisky seems to improve. Now, with a third of the bottle gone, it is a whisky I look forward to having another glass of.
Overall, my view is that it is a whisky to have for the experience of having it.
Arran Private Cask, The Laird’s Quaiche.
From Malts of Distinction.
Age: 11yo, ABV: 53.5%
Cask: Ex-sherry Hogshead. Bottle no 116 of 305.
Nose: This is a sherry bomb on the nose. Muscatel raisins, sweet brown sugar and maple syrup. And to follow for dessert is fresh peaches in an old leather armchair. This whisky has sooo much nose and so many complex aromas going on.
Palette: Dark almond chocolate and a big hot mouthful with fresh nectarine peel.
Finish: The finish is slightly tannic and drying, but the heat stays. There is a long finish, with the beautiful flavour lingering in the mouth.
Comment: Stunning. Simply stunning!
However, as so often happens, when the level in the bottle drops a dram or two the flavour seems to improve. Now, with a third of the bottle gone, it is a whisky to look forward to having another glass of.
The killing-off exercise has engendered some interesting ideas, the most obvious of which is using the tail-end of bottles for a kind of Teapot Whisky.
But my sister, Alex, came up with what I think may be the best one yet – Whisky Jelly. I haven’t quite figured out yet how it’s going to work, but the basic idea is that you use the last inch or so in the whisky bottles as the liquid section of jelly.
It sounds fun, and I’ll let you know how it pans out! With luck, the result might go quite nicely with Les’s Damson Plum Gin – the next batch of which, I understand, should be due to make its debut very soon!