Monday 24 November 2008

Dramming like kings

This hasn't suddenly become Scotch Whisky Notes but I would like to acknowledge a great evening on Thursday, hosted by the Celtic Whiskey Shop and James Bateman of Morrison Bowmore Distillers.

In the very salubrious surroundings of the Fitzwilliam Hotel, we were introduced to four Auchentoshans (12yo, Three Wood, 18yo, 21yo), two Glen Gariochs (15yo, 21yo) and two Bowmores (18yo, 25yo).

The standout dram (I finally get to say 'dram' because I'm talking about Scotch!) for me was Bowmore 25yo. This was somewhat of a surprise to me because I'm not a huge fan of peat in whiskey. Bowmore is not heavily peated but it's still a bit prominent in the 18yo for my liking. Remarkably though, the extra 7 years in wood of the 25yo had completely tamed the tang of bog, incorporating it into a lovely, balanced, complex taste where neither the wood nor the peat was prominent.

Sadly, the Bowmore goes for €250 in this country so I won't be having it again soon. My second favourite of the night was the Glen Garioch 15yo. I get the impression this distillery is a little overlooked among the superstars of Scottish distilleries. But I found it interesting enough to warrant a further visit. At €50 a bottle, that's quite achievable. Glen Garioch 15yo is unpeated, incidentally. That wasn't always the case, and it's not true of the 21yo but all the younger whiskies from that distillery are peat-free.

I wasn't entirely truthful when I said my favourite dram of the night was the Bowmore 25yo. James had brought a surprise for us... a bottle of the legendary White Bowmore. This is a vatting of just five ex-bourbon casks filled in 1964 and aged for 43 years. A bottle in Ireland (the only bottle for sale in Ireland) goes for €3,500!

Well, this was magnificent. An unmistakeable nose of tropical fruits (pineapple, passion fruit, papaya) and a lush, smooth, complex palate that defies my powers of description, though the fruit was definitely there again. And finally, a long, smooth fade without the woodiness or dryness that often mars a good drink.

It will no doubt be a long time before I get to taste such a fine whisky again, if ever. I must thank James Bateman for parting with his bottle, and for introducing us to a fine selection of his other whiskies, and the Celtic Whiskey Shop for hosting yet another great evening.