Ever tried something really special? Perhaps it was the setting, or the company or the quality of the dram itself. A combination of all three could make it one of those cherished memories to last a lifetime.
So it was with my first night ever spent in Scotland. A whisky newbie at the time I arrived with my wife Cindy in Edinburgh to be greeted at the airport by a young and passionate James Cowan who was the brand ambassador for A.D. Rattray.
After a delightful dinner down by the waterfront and Cindy tucked away in our lovely B&B room it was time for James and I to head out to some whisky haunts.
I could regale you all with the details of the entire evening, however my focus is on one particular dram. Our last stop for the night was at the trendy nightclub Tiger Lily. Scanning the back bar for an interesting dram we spied a 1973 Auchentoshan. Distilled on the 14th of March 1973 it was bottled on the 8th of July 2005 a mere two months before my visit. Coming from a single Sherry Butt and bottled at a cask strength of 55.5% it was a very unique offering.
We decided to split the dram as it was 25 pounds for one ounce.
The bartender grabbed a tumbler and filled it to the brim with ice and was about to pour our lonely ounce when James and I in unison cried out “no ice”. With disaster averted it was poured into a clean tumbler and passed across the bar.
Auchentoshan Distillery Scotland
Auchentoshan, a lowland distillery that triple distills its Single Malt is very much stylised as a fresh grassy and floral dram that is perfect for breakfast or anytime you want to savour the delicate side of whisky.
This sherried cask of Auchentoshan is another beast altogether.
Tasted for the purposes of this blog again in the comfort of my dining room using a Reidel whisky glass.
Colour: Violin bow resin with burnt red highlights.
Nose: Soft expensive sherry and sweet dried figs with caramel fudge, more dried fruits emerge, apricot, prune and marmalade. Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Palate: Rich palate filling and expansive. Deep backed leather chair with mahogany inlay, dried fruit in abundance and a backbone of semi-sweet to dry sherry. Lasting finish of aromatic suptle citrus potpouri. All of this at over 55% wow. This is a sherried whisky lovers dream.
Water: A burst of caramelized bitter orange takes over and extends the finish even more.
For a 32 year old whisky that started life so delicately this was a fantastic sherry barrel/s to still have so much fruit and balance.
It was an impressive dram to end the night on way back almost 10 years ago. I thought of course that I would never taste it again until back in Calgary later the next year I stumbled across a bottle at Varsity Wine Merchants. I had never spent even close to the $750 price tag on this whisky a decade ago so after a little haggling I became a beaming happy buyer lovingly cradling it my arms. Money well spent.
The fun part of this is that the bottle I had in Scotland was a 700ml and quite often with a limited bottling you don’t see it in any other size. The bottle I picked up in Canada was part of the release that went to the US and was a 750ml version. Amazing that something so limited would be split into different bottle formats. Awesome!
So why the marbles? For a dram of this magnitude in both dollars and deliciousness I only seldom crack it to pour for the odd occasion. As air gets at it over the years it does oxidize and lose its fruit and complexity. To stave off father time I replace the whisky with marbles keeping the precious liquid right at the top of the bottle neck. This keeps the amount of air to an absolute minimum and allows for the full enjoyment for many years to come. I would highly recommend this losing of your marbles for any special drams that you want to keep going for years and years.
James later went on to work for Benriach in the far east and currently works for Sazerac in Europe as their brand ambassador. Thanks James for that first night in Scotland, it will never be forgotten.
Jonathan & James at the Stronachie Distillery ruins.
Write in and comment on one of your most memorable whisky experiences.