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Sunday 19 June 2011

The Art Of Whisky

It’s been nearly three weeks since we returned from our last, epic trip to Scotland.

The video camera has been left on the shelf, the liver has been blasted with milk thistle and the credit card has been encased in concrete and thrown to the fishes off the Millennium Bridge. An action which caused a passing curator from a local modern art gallery to remark this as art, calling it a “modern day take on Found Art with strong references to Duchamp and, in particular, Man Ray’s iconic “Iron With Nails”.

According to the gentleman-scholar I was taking an everyday item, rendering it useless and then returning the raw material to whence they came.

I politely pointed out that we all do this every day, with the food we eat. Surely there is no greater critique of consumerism than actually consuming mass marketed, mass produced items of food: tearing them up with our teeth, breaking the items down with one of the strongest acids known to man and then depositing them in sit-down versions of Duchamp’s Fountain makes us all the greatest modern artists ever to walk the earth.

Needless to say I now have an interactive installation at the Tate Modern: it can be found on every floor and is easily identifiable by the following sign:

Enough of the toilet humour (in the literal sense), let’s get back to reality. And it doesn’t get more real than Monday morning. So what better way to see off the weekend than with a wee whisky.

One distillery that Neil and I have always been in the vicinity of, but never quite managed to get to, is Springbank. Situated in Campbelltown, just down the coast from the ferry terminal to Islay, the distillery produces three different styles of whisky (Springbank two-and-a-half times distilled, the more peated Longrow which is distilled twice and the triple-distilled Hazelburn) and owners J & A Mitchell / Springbank Distillers have to good grace to put them all in a bottle embossed with the words SPRINGBANK DISTILLERY. Other distillers take note.

The Springbank which is sitting in my glass is from Single Malts Of Scotland, an independent bottler owned by The Whisky Exchange. Never shy of a good cask, let us see what this offering brings:

Springbank – 1999 - Cask No. 114 (Sherry Butt) - 53% Vol

Nose: This whisky is a rich mahogany red and the moment you pour the liquid in to the glass, the aroma jumps straight out at you, like an escaped prisoner running hard and fast to avoid the search lights. Energy and guile emerge and, after settling down, rich sherry tones backed with cherry jam, a hint of ginger, loads of really fresh wood spices, like a newly split oak log. With additional time, the waft of a second hand paperback book. Not much changes with a dash of water, save for a drier wood tone.

Palate: The oiliness of the whisky coats the mouth and brings with it a hint of smoke, sweet cure bacon, maple syrup, toffee apple coating. With water, the palate opens up a little more with an enhancement of the sweet, juicy summer fruits which this time add plums and a back palate hint of over ripe kiwi fruit.

Finish: Rich, red cherries (newly picked, warm from the sun), deep wood polish and a hint of minty strawberry and lime cordial. With water, the finish is curtailed a little too soon, but the powerful, sweet and juicy notes from the palate still linger. The slightest hint of salt.

Overall: I thought this offering was fantastic; I wasn’t prepared for quite the assault of rich, sweet and juicy flavours, coupled with great oiliness and real depth. Pow!

Well, what better way to see off a weekend than with a rich, oily and juicy whisky such as this. It almost makes Monday morning seem palatable.