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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Spoonful Of Sugar, Helps The Medicine Go Down...


As our name suggests, our constitution is pretty much as strong as an ox, when it comes to ailments and illnesses. Apart from the odd cold, Joel and myself tend not to be struck down with anything, a feat that we always attribute towards a refreshing glass of edifying whisky. Nothing like a whisky to revitalise, revivify and restore one's power to tip-top condition.

So it was a surprise to me the other day, that after a discovering a niggling, persistent pain in my throat I had to head off to my local hospital for a closer examination. Nothing serious mind, just a routine procedure. The doctor had prescribed what is known in the trade as a 'Barium Swallow', effectively the Hors d'oeuvre to the 'Barium Meal'. On paper, neither of these things sound particularly appetising.

I had initially hoped for a pan-seared scallop, paired with thinly sliced Lancashire black pudding, followed by a well cooked steak, perhaps glazed with Normandy butter and fresh herbs, then a couple of tablets to swallow, but the actualities were far more prosaic. A small cup of greying sludge, the consistency quite reminiscent of your average MacDonald's milkshake sucked back through a straw.

On my way to the hospital, I had been told to expect an awful, metallic tasting liquid, but on arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. This greying gloop, though not particularly attractive to look at, actually tasted reasonably good. So for completest reasons and to expand the scope of my flavour references, here are my tasting notes:

Barium Swallow - 2011 vintage - 0% abv - 70ml - Batch 384972

Appearance: Battleship grey undercoat paint, with a slightly metallic hue.

Nose: Initial wafts of artificial strawberry sweets (think Barratt's Candy Sticks), MacDonald's strawberry milkshake and a vaguely mineral-like/chalky note. Over time, (and bear with me here, as the staff nurse seemed to be losing her temper after I asked if I could add a dash of water to 'really open it up') slightly rubbery notes, surgical gloves and sealing wax come to the fore.

Palate: More of the strawberry candy sticks, followed by a tour-de-force of highly chalky blandness and a strange fizzy, sherbet note. strains of a metallic, dare I say, coppery flavour develop before the palate becomes overcome by the chalk.

Finish: Lingering fruit and rubber, give this baby a reasonably lengthy finish -something definitely to write home about.

Overall: I enquired as to the comparisons to the 2010 vintage and even the legendary mid-1970's vintages, to which the doctor pointed out that this year was certainly the best yet, the 70's bottlings lacking the more pronounced fruity undertones. This is certainly up there with the likes of Calpol and is certainly in a different league altogether compared to the more austere Milk Of Magnesia, but I can't help thinking that it lacks the vibrancy and aromatic power of something like Covonia, known in the trade as the 'Laphroaig' of orally-administered expectorant medicines.

With my test over, I headed back home slightly dazed, feeling in need of something brilliant, palate cleansing and a bit special to give my day back its zing.
What I reached for was not the crusty bottle of vintage Covonia, but a new single cask bottling of 27 year old Dailuaine from our good friends and prescribers of fine spirits, Master Of Malt. I believe this is the first Dailuaine we've reviewed (other than as part of Compass Box's superb Oak Cross, which is a vatting of Clynelish, Dailuaine and Teaninich)

Established in 1872, this Diageo-owned Speyside distillery turns out around 3.4 million litres of spirit a year, contributing a 16yo to the Flora & Fauna collection.

Master Of Malt's bottling was bottled early in July this year and was distilled on the 2nd November 1983 matured in a refill sherry hogshead. After quickly checking our medicine cabinet, which also yielded several tubes, pastes and tinctures from the same year, (all now consigned to the bin) it was time to get my summer back on track.


Dailuaine - 27 yo- Master Of Malt - Single Cask bottling - 53.60% - 70cl

Nose: Wonderful nutty notes- green hazelnuts, brazil nut shells, a light waft of marzipan, melted white chocolate, freshly charred oak and aromatic Fino sherry notes. Quite the aperitif whisky in fact. With water, a slightly more perfumed note develops, with pollen-encrusted lilies and a some oak sawdust.

Palate: Wow, a spicy, licorice note hits the palate first, with sharp gooseberry fool, some medicinal menthol notes and clean cereal notes. With water, a creamier note comes to the fore, with the menthol and spice fading into a more pronounced sweet, nutty and vanilla-laden flavour, with perhaps a touch of Nutella about it.

Finish: The oak begins to dry the palate, with the emergence of some slightly bitter coffee grains, but there's enough of the tingly spice left to make its mark.

Overall: As is the phrase- 'just what the doctor ordered'. My palate is now fully cleansed from its Barium Hors d'oeuvre and the restorative powers of whisky have triumphed once again. Hurrah!! This decent summer sipper has done the trick and I feel refreshed and revitalised. What's more, my throat pain has today subsided a little. Coincidence?? Who knows, but with any luck, there will be no need for a return visit to Chez Beckenham Royal and their rustic menu of metallic delicacies.

£64.95 For more info visit: Master Of Malt