Phew so many whiskies so few days…
Time for a breather and a couple of nights with my first Scotch supplier and good friend James Cowan. Working for A.D. Rattray at the time that I first met him he has worked for several companies including Tullibardine, Benriach and now Sazerac.
It was great to spend some time with James and his family in a lovely wee little town about half an hour out of Edinburgh.
Kerry & James Cowan “They have the cutest Ragdoll cat in the world.” -Cindy
A great night with James making his famous spinach pasta kept from getting to messy by our commitments in the morning (probably a good thing). The only drams tried that night were two expressions from James previous employers, a Benriach 22 year old special edition single cask and a Benriach 17 year old peated both which were delicious whiskies.
Up early and into Edinburgh on the bus for our rendezvous with Stuart and Wilma Nickerson of the Malt Whisky Company. I worked with Stuart for over 5 years when he was at the helm of the newly refurbished Glenglassaugh distillery. Stuart did such a great job in bringing the distillery and the brand back that, ahead of schedule, it was sold to the Walker family owners of Benriach which enabled Stuart to start a new venture that he had been working on for over a decade behind the scenes.
Waiting for the bus into town. Jonathan & Stuart Urban Angel, Edinburgh
The Malt Whisky company released it’s first independent bottling last year. Fittingly it was a 40 Year Old Glenglassaugh (see my blog #26 about the sample’s timely arrival via Canada Post). This year The Malt Whisky Company will be the 4th independent bottler in the 2nd Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar. Over eggs benny at Urban Angel in downtown Edinburgh, details were thrashed out for some really great drams to find their way to calendar customers.
The Malt Whisky Company will be focused on whiskies that are 20 Years and older with a separate label for “new releases” that will be bottled as NAS expressions (that could get some comments going).
Stuart has been squirreling away casks now for well over a decade and has some lovely old stock and some younger exceptional casks as well. Using a combination of quality casks many of the whiskies Stuart has acquired have been re-racked into better oak. It was great to catch up with Stuart and his wife Wilma as we enjoyed a really outstanding brekky on a gloriously sunny Edinburgh morning.
I don’t want to give anything away but there are some amazing treats on the way as a result.
Remote Unst, Scotland
Stuart was heading to Ireland which was why he was all the way down South in Edinburgh about to catch a flight. Stuart’s other endeavor is the Shetland Island Distillery way up at the Northern tip of Scotland in Unst. Maybe next time we are in Scotland we can take the 4 hour+ trip and various ferries to get all the way up North. I will keep you posted on the progress of this distillery as it moves towards getting whisky into cask
Thanks again Stuart and Wilma for a fabulous meeting and for some equally awesome drams.
Not yet done for the day and toting our sample Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar, Cindy and I made our way up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle and spent most of the day exploring this iconic feature of the Edinburgh skyline that adorns the back of the calendar. With a spectacular view and various museums to visit it takes hours to even make a dent in everything to see.
If you go to the castle, don’t miss the 1 o’clock gun, fun to see a close up view of a modern “cannon” go off.
We managed to get a couple of great shots of the calendar “posing” in front of the castle which was worth me lugging the 3+ Kilo package around all day. Desperate now for another pint and looking for one of the great selections of Royal Mile pubs, we found our way to Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. A really great pie and local real ale made it the perfect stop while overlooking the hustle and bustle of the mile.
Right, enough working for one day, time to grab a bus back to James for a family feast and some whisky by the fire.
James and his wife Kerry really spoiled us as beer, wine, amazing espresso and finally whisky flowed around a fantastic dinner. Relaxing in the lounge by the wee fireplace I was offered a number of amazing drams as James spent some time under the stairs hunting out some big guns. Firstly just to get going a 37 Year old Glendronach was offered up. Not a bad start (hehehe). With James having worked for Benriach that also purchased Glendronach, he had several amazing bottles. This expression gave me pause and I knew it was old but wow the fruit was fantastic. Righteo James what’s next. Hmmm … Tullibardine 32 year old anyone? Yummy aged Highland delight is all I can say. Well while we are on an over 30 kick, why not finish off the Scotch drinking with a 38 year old Benriach. James all I can say is that I am coming back and spending a week…. hope that’s ok with Kerry 🙂
Finally after all that amazing Scotch James just had to give me a taste of something extremely rare. William Larue Weller Straight Kentucky Bourbon. Expect to pay a grand for this if you can find a bottle. Sen-friggin-sational is all I can say. I love great whisky/ey in all its forms and this was one absolutely stunning bourbon. James you are the man.
With our Scottish leg coming to a close we had one last amazing brunch with James and Kerry before being graciously deposited at the Edinburgh airport.
Next week I will close this 4 part series with the final Italian chapter of our whisky laundering trip.
See you then.