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Thursday, 6 November 2008

from Gauger to Geisha.... without any underwear!

So... election night has come and gone and we now face the prospect of real change in the 'Land of the Free', by way of a crushing landslide victory. Doesn't it feel nice to read some positive words on the front cover of every daily paper at long last? Well done to Mr Obama for seizing the reins and good luck in steering a clear path to prosperity.
Anyway, this post is not about political high-fives, so back to the whisky, that is, unless the President is a secret malt maniac and fancies an interview on our favourite subject.

Caskstrength recently had the marvellous opportunity to travel up to the heart of Speyside and to The Glenrothes, as guests of the distillery. Flights were booked and noses honed for what shaped up to be a wonderful experience- but as you will see, it is always better to follow the instructions, to avoid total embarrassment.
Arriving at Gatwick airport on a cold and frosty Tuesday morning in ones fine, but slightly tight fawn tweed trousers is a good way to get a few smiles from the assembled air hostesses, especially when surrounded by hundreds of unremarkable businessmen with 'bright brown' ties and impending Powerpoint presentations.
After scooting through security, I settled down with some light refreshment- in this instance, a quick dram of the excellent Glenlivet Nadurra, noting how well my trip was going so far- no travel hitches, delays or catastrophes.
So on my arrival into Aberdeen, still on time and in a chipper mood, I met the even more chipper Marcin Miller and immaculately chappish Ronnie Cox, my hosts for the trip. All good so far, until I noticed Marcin's slight double-take when I said I wasn't travelling with ANY luggage. 'Oh, you do travel light!' he joked, as we went through the plans for the trip. It was at this point that the mention of an 'overnight stay' hit me like a mouthful of new-make-spirit going down the wrong pipe. In my excitement, I had neglected to read the full itinerary beforehand and assumed the trip was a simple one-day tasting event.

Oh dear. No clean undergarments, toothbrush, alternative tweed trousering, or moustache wax.
All this left me with a slight 'gents quandary';
1. Go 'commando' on the 2nd day or,
2. Make an emergency stop somewhere for overnight supplies.

Wisely, for the sake of the other guests, we opted for the latter and about 20 miles out of Aberdeen I was kitted out with new Asda under-breeches and grooming apparel.
My fellow companions for the visit were Miss Malt, aka Helen Arthur, author of the world's best-selling whisky book and Miss Juniper, aka Geraldine Coates, leading authority in the world of all things gin related. Once the ridicule regarding my emergency pants was over, we got down to discussing the wonderful scenery as the miles passed by towards Glenrothes: The stories of the hidden, illicit pot stills and of the gaugers futile attempts to locate them. Also Marcin's experiences of a Geisha, but that is clearly a story not to be discussed here...

Rothes House was to be our home for the next 2 days. A wonderfully appointed old Manse with great views over Speyside, it is a short walk over to the distillery, past a small graveyard. After a hearty lunch of warming fish pie, we headed off for a bracing afternoon of activity, where Miss Malt discovered she was a crack shot and I discovered I was dire at driving blind...

Our evening consisted of sensational supper of fillet of beef and Scottish Toffee cake matched with 2 excellent Glenrothes expressions:

The Glenrothes 1991 - bottled in 2007- 43% - 70cl

Nose: Sweet candifloss, but dig deeper- slight hints of root vegetable and Baklava- honey and pastry, pistachio, musk?

Palate: More vegetables, but sweet and spicy, like sweet potato. A slight aroma of Earl Grey /bergamot notes. This leads into cereal flavours but then gives way dry sherry.

Finish: More spice, sherry notes and green leaves on the death.

Overall: A damn good dram. Ronnie Cox's ethos here is refinement and maturity over age, which clearly wins through on this expression.

The Glenrothes 1978 - bottled in 2008- 43% - 70cl

Nose: Vanilla custard, melon, summer pudding, ginger, slight tobacco, nutmeg, diced apple, cloves and citrus notes (seville oranges) phew!!! a mammoth in the world of sensuous aromas.

Palate: Sherbet, slight orange zest, caramel, cherries, dark chocolate - perhaps kirsh?

Finish: Sweet, spice, fudge - really refined- mature and lengthy...

Overall: A superb after dinner dram, highly complex in aroma but subtle and beautifully refined. A whisky of real class.

As we settle in the drawing room with a cigar or two, waiting for the first US election results to arrive on BBC2, I imagine it to be the sort of evening that one would reminisce about in 30 years time, vividly remembering 'what we were doing' when President Obama bought change to the White House. One thing's for certain; my memories will go hand in hand with the good company, wonderful hospitality and sensational whisky shared and enjoyed that evening. Slainte!!

Part 2 of Caskstrength's Glenrothes adventure will follow shortly....