Alan’s October 15, 2005 Vintages Release
Although I never swallowed a
single drop of any of the Scotches I just tasted, I have a
To entertain myself during this six hour endurance test, I would muster up as many copies of the “Beano” as I could find (Beano, by the way, is a British kid’s comic, not the stuff to ward off the ill effects of the meat paste and marmite sandwiches).
One time we ended up on the North East Coast of Scotland’s rustic and enchanting shores to visit an aunt and uncle. I had always wondered why my dad looked forward to spending time with these particular relatives more so than others. Once I entered into my teen years, the reason became obvious. My uncle happened to be the manager of a Speyside Distillery.
Once the time-honored British Afternoon Tea ritual was underway, several label-less bottles of pure uncut Scotch would appear, at which time the “lads” would disappear to sip and discuss the attributes of their fine beverages well into the evening, while the ladies enjoyed a long and leisurely stroll.
I was maybe fifteen, an age where being cocky, imprudent and somewhat rebellious reigned supreme, when I guess I pushed the two “supervising” adults, too far. After persistently pleading to let me try some Scotch, much to my surprise, they finally agreed. “Oh give the Sassenach a wee dram, he canny take it anyway” said my uncle.
Even at that age, I realized a challenge from a Scot is something an
Englishman can not refuse. I grabbed the glass and swallowed the
generous measure straight back in one shot. “Not bad” said I, managing
to cover up the fact that I could barely breath, “but have you nothing
That did it, that comment volleyed right into the heart of Scottish pride. Sadly for me at least, their vengeance was to be quick and merciless. Another, only much larger, pour was thrust into my hand.
Although I sipped this glass a little slower, it was difficult to resist the urge to bolt through the nearest door and hurl the burning spirit from my body. The hair on my arms and neck, recent additions I might add, stood on end. I started to gasp and shudder as beads of sweat appeared on my brow.
I knew I had to suppress those inner feelings of nausea and show these Northerners I meant business.
In the space of fifteen minutes I had sunk my third glass. It took all the will power I could muster not to admit this would prove to be one of the worst experiences I had ever undertaken. I felt giddy and weak. The deep-fried Scotch eggs, the smoked haddock pie and treacle pudding that sat in my belly from lunch, had already started plans to evacuate.
Without any acknowledgment of defeat I laid down on the couch. Soon the couch started to move in a clockwise direction while the ceiling rotated in another. I tried to stand, but my legs were inoperable. I never did have any recollection of anything that took place for at least the next hour. I came to looking like a younger version of Marty Feldman after enduring a full-blown blood letting. My sole consolation was witnessing the grief my two mentors received once the ladies returned from their evening stroll.
Since that day, I never touched a single drop of Scotch again.
As October 15th sees a release of a couple of dozen of Scotland’s finest, I figured it was high time I buried these frightful childhood memories and try a few Single Malts to see what the hype is all about.
Malt whisky is made from malted barley in three principal regions of Scotland, Highland, Lowland and the Islands. Highland is the home to the highly touted Speyside region, the source of my teenage trauma. The Islands are Islay, Jura, Orkney, Skye, Mull and Arran.
To be so designated as Single Malt, the whisky must come from one distillery. Many of these are bottled at a range of ages. Some are aged in barrels previously filled with Bordeaux, Sherry or Port.
Please note, based on what you have just read, my neophyte opinions are purely based on the sensations I felt. This is expensive stuff; some push the $425.00 price range, so I strongly suggest a consultation with someone in the know would be a smart thing to do.
As I tasted the following Scotch, I toasted the loving memory of my dad William Kerr, who incidentally, I did finally forgive!
923326 FETTERCAIRN ‘1824' 12 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT $59.95,
Whyte & Mackay
658054 TULLIBARDINE HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT $69.95
660431 DUN BHEAGAN ‘LITTLEMILL' 21 YEAR OLD LOWLAND
DUNCAN TAYLOR ‘AULD REEKIE' 12 YEAR OLD, ISLAY SINGLE MALT $79.95
THE SCOTCH MAKER’S SCOTCH MAKER
It is said Morrison Bowmore’s whiskies are what Lafite is to Bordeaux and Mr. Ridge is to California.
Vintages catalogue states:
The company owns major distilleries in the three most important producing regions, the Highlands, Lowlands and Islay.
They insist upon each distillery making whiskies that respect the traditions and distinct styles of their regions at prices that represent excellent value for money. At Bowmore, four factors are essential in determining the final character of the product: the distillery’s close proximity to the sea (the damp cellars are right on the ocean and below sea level); the waters sourced from nearby Laggan River; the burning of local peat bricks in the malt drying kilns; and the ageing of the whiskies in bourbon and sherry casks.
Over at Glen Garioch, some of the finest barley fields in the world surround the distillery. They have long combined this superb barley with local peat bricks and the waters to create a whisky that is lightly peaty, flowery, fragrant and spicy, many of the hallmarks of the Highland malts.
And last, but not least, Auchentoshan is the only Scotch distillery that still triple distills its whisky (an almost-lost Lowlands tradition), which helps create delicate and elegant whiskies, all indicative of the classic Lowlands style.
BOWMORE 17 YEAR OLD ISLAY SINGLE MALT $89.95
714113 BOWMORE 25 YEAR OLD ISLAY SINGLE MALT $249.95
964288 BOWMORE ‘DAWN' ISLAY SINGLE MALT $89.95, ‘Port Casked',
Ruby Port Cask
BOWMORE ‘DUSK' ISLAY SINGLE MALT $89.95, ‘Claret Casked', Bordeaux Wine
446310 GLEN GARIOCH 15 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT $64.95
Morrison's Glen Garioch Distillery
GLEN GARIOCH 21 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT $169.95 Morrison's Glen
Although I never swallowed a single drop of any of the Scotches I just tasted, I have a head that feels like I just came face-to-face with a Mack Truck, no pun intended!
This is serious stuff. I don’t think I will ever be obsessed with it as some people I know, (hi Gary), but I now have total respect for a product that took away four hours of my life.
447441 CAVE SPRING RIESLING ICEWINE 2002 $59.95, Niagara Peninsula
660340 CAVE SPRING SYRAH 2002 $24.95, Niagara Peninsula
342451 COLIO ‘CEV' GAMAY NOIR 2002 $13.95, Barrel Aged, Lake Erie
355784 IRONSTONE ‘OBSESSION' SYMPHONY 2004 $14.95, California
657601 BENMARCO MALBEC 2002 $19.95, Mendoza, Dominio del Plata,
658005 ST HALLETT SEMILLON 2002 $18.95, Barossa Valley, South
927632 CERAVOLO SHIRAZ 2003 $19.95, Adelaide Plains, South
660480 ELDERTON ‘FRIENDS' SHIRAZ 2003 $19.95, ‘Vineyard Series',
Barossa Valley, South Australia
990580 FAIRHALL DOWNS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $19.95, Marlborough,
South Island, NZ
FAIRHALL DOWNS PINOT NOIR 2002 $34.95, Marlborough, South Island, NZ
657692 MISCHA ‘EVENTIDE CELLARS' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 $19.95,
Wellington. South Africa
657684 MISCHA ‘EVENTIDE CELLARS' SHIRAZ 2003 $19.95, Wellington,
984427 CHÂTEAU DU TAILLAN 2000 $23.95, Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux
973727 CHÂTEAU LES CABANNES 2002 $27.95, St-Émilion Grand Cru
658153 GUY CHEVALIER ‘L'ÉGLISE' 2002 $12.95, Corbières, France
177345 MUGA RESERVA 2001 $19.95, Rioja, Spain