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Jul 2010
Drew’s words on return from the Holy land (Scotland) trip.
Posted in Scotch Nights by Drew at 12:16 am | No Comments »

“I Came as a Uisge Pilgrim, and I Hope Many Will Follow”

•Dispatches from The Whisky Trail•

Scotland. What can I say.  Sandy and I spent a short, glorious week in a Highland Castle, along side the river Spey.  You be the judge.

The Scotland Tourism board has taken a page from the Wine Region Playbook, but then they malted it, and aged it in oak barrels for no less than 3 years, and the result is a magical journey down an amber brick road known as The Whisky Trail.  The Speyside region has over half of all the producing distilleries in Scotland, and I am sad to say that one week is not enough to visit them all.  But each and every small village, town, and hamlet has a very comprehensive whiskey shop or pub, and a quick chat with the barkeep or proprietor does invariably result in some delicious drams, good laughs, and a wee glimpse into the heart of Speyside.

Last night (June 14th) we had the official uncorking of the spoils of my travels.  The menu consisted of the following:

•a Glen Grant 31  (Douglas Laing’s old and rare platinum selection) single cask, cask strength, sherry cask, 1976, 58.6%.

•a Longrow 7 (Springbank, J&A Mitchell’s wood expressions) 5.5 yrs in bourbon, 1.5 yrs in gaja barolo, 2000, 55.8%

•a Glenfarclas 27 (1980 bottled 2007) (Family Cask) 1941 refill Sherry Butt, 50.1%

Our society tasting notes follow.

The Glen Grant I picked up in a little shop in Tomintoul aptly named “The Whisky Castle”.  www.whiskycastle.com  The Proprietor, Mike Drury, was truly the jolliest wag in all the shire, and a source of truths and tales as long and fine as his waistcoat, which was, in truth, the finest I’ve seen. Mike was 11 lbs of malted barley in a 10 lbs tweed sack, eager to share, quick to laugh, and humble in the appreciation of a fine dram. He is a genuine Malt of the Earth, and his Castle is worthy of a stop.

Glen Grant 31   (Douglas Laing’s old and rare platinum selection) single cask, cask strength, sherry cask, 1976, 58.6%.
Nose: Dark rum raisin with ripples of mincemeat and candied fruit.
Thin mouthfeel.
Palate: Melts in your mouth knobby tire esspresso beans giving way to hazelnut.
Long, but elusive finish.
This is the sort of dram I could imagine Brazillionaires sipping on their spacestations.

The Longrow was found on my last day in Edinburgh, at Cadenhead’s  www.wmcadenhead.com  (scotlands oldest independent bottler -est. 1842) on Canongate, the Royal Mile.  As this was my last day in Scotland, and my Scotch budget was nearing its limit, I asked the manager, Mark Davidson for a “Conversation Piece”. I told him what I had bought, showed him what we have had in the past, and asked him what we wouldn’t be able to find over in Canada.  He imediately pointed me to the Longrow…and then his assistant quickly passed me it’s tasting notes:  -“This bottle needs a straight-jacket…” I was sold.

Longrow 7 (Springbank, J&A Mitchell’s wood expressions) 5.5 yrs in bourbon, 1.5 yrs in gaja barolo, 2000, 55.8%

Nose: Like Laphroaig that’s been sitting in an old rubber boot.
Curdled milk sweetness…burnt rubber.
Palate: Like anchovies in 7-Up…like licking a robot’s taint (9 volt battery)…
baby puke in the pocket of a raincoat. Basically we’ve got a rubbery Islay kinda thing with a bit of wierd not really speyside sweet. To be sure, a conversation piece it is/was/will be…
Straight jacket anybody?

The Glenfarclas was my first REAL purchase, and it was direct from the distillery.  What can I say about Glenfarclas? It was on the main Speyside drag, half way between The Macallan and The Glenlivet, but set back from the highway, down a long sideroad through the trees.  It smelled delicious.  Like a distillery should. You could drive by, and probably DID a couple of times, without turning in. Very unassuming. As a Canadian, I gravitated to it like it was Kraft Dinner and Molson Export!  We didn’t do “the tour” but I did manage to tuck in at the tail end of a party of 10 from India who was doing a full-flight tasting with one of the great-great-great grandsons of the distillery as their guide.  Peter, I think… or perhaps  Ian (Eaon?)  He was the one that steered me towards the “Family Cask” line of whisky.  Glenfarclas is perhaps the oldest family run distilleries in Scotland , the rest being owned by booze super corps. (more on that later)  As  a result, we can quaff the fruits of one man’s forethought -George S. Grant – who knew the future of Scotch was not in blends, but in Single Malts. So as a result, Glenfarclas has “laid aside casks from every year of production, starting in 1952, and bottling only the best from each these casks, at least one from each year, and ending up with the longest and largest single vertical expression of any one distillery.”

I decided on the 1980.  Bottled Feb 28, 2007, 1 of 681 bottles, cask #1942


This is one hell of damn fine dram!! Magic!

Glenfarclas 27 (Family Cask) 1941 refill Sherry Butt, 1980, 50.1%

Nose: Lots of high notes…honey gumdrops with icing.
Palate: Macaroons, apricots changing into lingerie…just so fucking good!
Finish: good and long and not quite gone.
A sip of this, could end a war.

I did smuggle back other Whiskys, and drank plenty more along the way, but those notes will have to wait.  I took notes on most everything I sampled, so the last couple of blank page of my “Lonely Planet- Scotland” is full of personal notes on scotch.

As it should be, Dram it!

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