You catch me, typing briskly, pre Christmas dinner, after a bracing walk in West End woods, just near Esher. Myself and Mrs Caskstrength are visiting my Godmother for the day and I thought it sensible to bring a few drams with us, should we get caught short. We very nearly didn't make it back from the woods, as our car found it very difficult to negotiate the ice covered hill from the car park and I must thank the 4-5 passers by who came to our aid!
So next to a warming fire, I am getting in couple of pre-prandial sharpeners - the excellent Ballantine's Christmas Reserve and a large measure of Bowmore Tempest. My malty arsenal also consists of a Highland Park 18yo, Pikesville Rye (in case anyone fancies a Manhattan!) and the Dalmore Gran Reserva. But there is also a very special dram, which I have earmarked for a little fireside contemplation later on. Before we left London a tiny sample of the Dalmore Eos 59 yo arrived in the post and I couldn't think of a better time to review it.
You see, the house, 'Melrose', which we are staying in was built in 1859 and has been my home from home for probably the last 33 years. Every summer holiday I would be dumped here by my parents to spend time building dens, making guns out of pegs and elastic bands and learning to roll on the several old barrels my Godmother had lying around (a skill, which I sadly no longer possess) Melrose was also made famous (ahem..) for being the location for a Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes advert in the mid 1990s.
This is actually the last time I will get to visit the house, as from February, it is being sold to be demolished, making way for a number of new houses in its wake. A sad end to a wonderfully historical manse, but all good things must pass.
It seems fitting that a 59 yo whisky should be my sign off dram to 'Melrose' and this festive time with friends and loved ones seems very poignant to share a few other wonderfully warming drams.
It is now 6.30pm and we have eaten a superb meal (probably the best roast spuds ever, Paul!) and the fire is beckoning me. The Eos and some quiet time have arrived...
According to Dalmore, Eos is the sister cask to the 1951 vintage Selene bottling, which has now had another year to develop even more character. Only 20 decanters of this whisky will be produced and it therefore commands the princely price tag of £15,000.
Dalmore - Eos - 59 yo- 45%
Nose: Creamy coconut is the first aroma to emerge from the glass, followed by some very earthy, oaky forest floor notes, vanilla, roasted vegetables (honestly, not the residue from the Christmas dinner) some polished mahogany surfaces, leading into quite subtle dried fruits. Definitely old, but not aged. Dig deeper and you may find a slight but very subtle smokiness, sort of ash notes or spent log fires.
Palate: Brandy steeped cherries, chopped hazelnuts and chocolate ice cream, candied, mixed peel, a big swathe of vanilla (in fact, rather like the vanilla infused rum i've been working on) a faint hint of bruised mint leaves, lemon zest and then some drying oak right on the death.
Finish: A lingering fruitiness, strawberries and cream, with perhaps a slightly tart candied peel and some cherry sherbet. Over time, a backbeat of oak lingers. The mouth becomes dry, but there is no bitterness at all from this cask.
Overall: Highly commendable whisky making- lots of hidden depth, retaining a maturity, but also demonstrating a refreshing zestiness. I shall be enjoying the considerably cheaper (but nonetheless exceptional) delights of the Gran Reserva with a robust Montecristo Edmundo cigar later this evening, but i'm glad to have tried the Eos today and reminisced about the parties, the seemingly endless summers and all the fun with our friends and loved ones at 'Melrose'. It's at times like this that one realises homes are not just piles of bricks and mortar, and that the real value lies in the memories of the wonderful times spent within them.
Joel and I wish you the very best and most relaxing of Christmas breaks and hope that where ever you happen to be reading this, you're sat there, with a decent dram in hand and plenty of time to fully enjoy it.
Here's to more of the same in 2011....