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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Glen V Glen

It would be easy to pull out some obvious analogies to place around the contest between these two big hitters: The Rumble In The Jungle, the fight between the two big hitters of the day Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. The 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany. Oasis v Blur for the coveted number one spot in the UK charts, right at the peak of 1990’s Britpop...

But I’m going to look much closer to the present. Last night, in fact. And not in the glamorous surrounds of Zaire, Wembley Stadium or the pop charts... but in Luton. For last night the mighty, mighty Oxford United took on Luton Town at Kenilworth Road. Both teams have seen better days, mainly in the mid-1980’s, but both now find themselves in the lowest professional league of English Football, the Blue Square Premiership. Due to their glory years the teams also sport impressive followings and the game at Oxford earlier in the season topped a crowd of 10,500 and was used as an example of our love of soccer at every level in England’s World Cup bid for 2018. Last night’s showdown in Luton also reached attendance. To say these teams are big fish at their current level is an understatement.

With these two teams the most popular in their division, the atmosphere of last nights encounter was never going to disappoint. And neither was the quality of the action on the pitch. With Oxford having taken the spoils earlier in the season with a two nil victory, the outcome of Tuesday night’s game would ensure a vital three points for the winner as well as major bragging rights for the associated fans. At least until next season.

At this point we turn to the whisky. Two big hitters. Two major heavyweight brands in their own league. Glenfiddich, the biggest selling single malt whisky in the world. Glenlivet, the best selling malt whisky in America. In front of me stands two bottles, one expression of the two Glens, the much lauded 18 Year Old. Now, we have reviewed the 18 Year Old ‘fiddich in these pages before, but lets see if there is any thing to add to the notes we already have.

Glenfiddich – 18 Year Old – Batch Number 3148 – 40% Vol – 70cl

Nose: Lovely cut apple again, lots of spiced notes (Star Anise, nutmeg and more cinnamon) Also, some deeper, musty German wine notes start to appear the longer you leave this dram. A lovely heady concoction. New notes: a whiff of passion fruit and the slightest hint of coffee.

Palate: The sherry becomes more noticeable on the first sip, leading the way for a much drier palate than the 12 or 15, but with pleasant notes of toasted, rolled oats and more apple. This really reminds me of my morning porridge with a little dusting of brown sugar and a sprinkling of sultana's on top of the apples. Delicious. New notes: spot on, really (if we don’t say so ourselves!).

Finish: More of the drying sherry notes but with hints of what was once, a very lively new make (as witnessed by the first heady dram of the night!). New notes: Strawberry jam in the finish.

Overall: Another great expression and a lovely progression from the 15- although a very different whisky in its development. New notes: this is consistently my fav expression in the ‘fiddich range.

Let’s see how we get on against the other headline act, the Glenlivet 18 Year Old.

Glenlivet – 18 Year Old – 43% Vol – 70cl

Nose: This noses like a younger, more spirity whisky. But that could be to do two with two things; the greater ABV and a possibly less sherry casks in the overall mix. I couldn’t give you figures on that last one, so it’s a real guess. The nose develops in the glass from something akin to vanilla milkshake into a richer bouquet of honey and heather. A lot less immediate than the ‘fiddich, it requires love in the glass before it gives out it’s best work.

Palate: A rich palate of crème brulee with the honey and the heather really showing though but in the most well balanced of ways. This has apples too, but more of the fresh green variety, than the cooking apples with cinnamon which came in the ‘fiddich. Really very pleasant and refreshing.

Finish: This lingers longer. It’s a test of it’s stamina as a whisky that it sits for a while on the back of the tongue, tingling and watering it’s way to a close. Not overly complex but it knows it’s job and it does it very well.

Overall: A much fresher whisky than the 18 YO Glenfiddich. Helped by the higher alch volume, this dram gives much more aggression with well balanced honey and heather and a long, juicy finish. Very nice indeed.

I came away from last nights match in Luton utterly gutted. My team, Oxford United had put in 100% effort. Every inch of the pitch was covered. Every blade of grass stepped on. In the 74th min Oxford took the lead, but in injury time at the end of the game Luton managed not one goal to equalise, but a second to steal the match. Heartbreak for the travelling away fans. Unbridled joy for the home supporters. Looking back upon the previous match earlier in the season, it was a game that I left with the exact opposite emotions: I was upbeat at a fantastic victory. I was ready to mock my friends who supported Luton and I was sure I supported the better team. Last night changed all that; I left the ground a loser, bracing myself for the banter from Luton supporting friends. But one thing both Oxford and Luton fans can be assured of from both games, was the fact that each side gave 100% commitment to the cause. They put on the best possible show in front of the largest audience that could turn up. No one could fault the desire, determination and drive of the 22 players in each game. Was there an overall winner? Only time will tell...

This is true with these two whiskies. Both distilleries seemly at the peak of their powers, producing excellent product for large audiences world-wide. But can I pick an overall winner? Only time will tell...