While it might be sentimental nonsense, I believe that a significant milestone in one’s journey of discovering whisky is to taste a dram of something older than oneself. I’ll call it my “Coming of Age.” Recently, while at a swanky hotel bar with my wife and a few friends, we noticed a 35 year-old Macallan bottled by Gordon & MacPhail on the menu (by the way, any bar with a dedicated Scotch menu is alright by me). At $44 a glass, it sounded a little steep, even for a coming-of-age! Our kind server, recognizing fellow whisky lovers, offered a half-pour at $22 a glass, which two of us split.
Unfortunately, I didn’t ask to see the bottle (always a good idea when trying something special), so I don’t know which years the bottle was casked or bottled. As such, this is pretty useless as a “Tasting Note” since it would be impossible for any of my esteemed readers to find the exact bottle! Instead, I will simply describe:
Upon raising the glass to my nose, I immediately I got a hit of licorice and candied ginger. Smells of an old-time candy shoppe with heavy wooden barrels filled with vintage sweets, including the scent of the deep, dark moldy oak floors. Then, on to a gentleman’s club: old cigars, heavy upholstered leather armchairs, loose-leaf tobacco being rolled into yellowing papers. Lastly, there are some sticky notes of stewed prunes and dried apricot.
Tentatively, conscious of the impending transition from ‘noob’ to jaded whisky connoisseur, I take a small sip. The liquid is unctuous and syrupy. Swirling it around my mouth, I can taste the age. Candied orange peels, musty walnuts, hazelnut butter, and from nowhere, a hint of mint. It just tastes OLD. I’m reminded of the sensation of walking into an ancient antique shop with the smell of mouldering fabrics, tarnished metals, dusty glass and ancient, cracking furniture polish. It has clearly lost any trappings of youth, and condensed and stewed itself into grouchy, uncompromising elderhood. As the liquid slips down my throat, leaving only fumes and ghosts of oak and jam in my sinuses, I sigh and lean back in my comfy chair.
I have arrived.