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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Leg Over Wicket

Ah, the weekend. Possibly the finest of all God's creations, one is allowed a lie-in, a fry-up, pints of larger and sporting events galore.

This weekend it is the turn of cricket and there is no greater soothing sound than Test Match Special's dulcet tones emanating from my radio. The sound of leather on willow backed with gentle applause, makes for a relaxing Saturday morning, curled up on the sofa with a weekend newspaper and scrambled eggs on toast. Who couldn't love stuff like this, on the radio:

However, it is not long now until the start of a new football season and with it comes tension, expense and ultimately, disappointment. Contrary to relaxing on the sofa with the sound of an English game acting as sonic wallpaper to my weekend, I shall instead be waking early to catch planes, trains and auto-mobiles, navigating my way from coast to dreary-coast in the vain hope that I may return from my travels with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

One of the small pleasures of supporting a yo-yo football team who seem to go down-and-up-and-down-again with the ease of a thirty year old single lady from Swindon on a Saturday night, is the fact you get to visit some new places from time-to-time. Spending a four season tenure in the lowest professional league in England, the Football Conference, took me to such places as Lewes, Southport, Eastbourne, Ebbsfleet, Barrow, Droylesden, Morecambe, Halifax... the list is almost endless. One more relegation and we'd have probably been playing Hogwarts.

But the point is not to avoid these places, but to embrace them, learn from them and let them broaden your knowledge of this great island we call home. I relish the chance to visit a new football stadium, if nothing else for the excuse to visit that town and learn something about it. Eventually I would like to end up having visited all 92 football league grounds plus others not listed in the football league. So far I'm on about 55. Not at all bad, me thinks.

The same desire runs true for me when it comes to whisky distilleries. As we delve deeper into the list of Scottish distilleries, you always come across one which you think

"I think we drove past that last time we were in Speyside".

Out comes the books, the maps, the guides and you release that, indeed, you were just a stones through from the front door but couldn't make it in due to engagements elsewhere.

"Next time. We'll certainly pop in next time..."
you wishfully think to yourself.

Thankfully these places have left us small post-cards, snapshots of their days in the form of bottles of whisky. Every time I sniff a Lagavulin, it takes me right back to the moment I first pulled up outside that white-washed walled distillery. The same is true of The Balvenie floor maltings. The moment the cork come out of the bottle of Doublewood, I'm back in that shed with the waft of barley in the air.

A new distillery to have hit my visiting wish-list is Aberfeldy. Just a few weeks ago, when visiting the always hospitable whisky writer Ian Buxton, we passed just a stones-throw from the distillery, but with a post-supper drive all the way back to London, there was no justification for stopping off. A real shame as their latest offering, a single cask which has yielded less than 200 bottles, made me want to jump right back in the car and redeem my missed opportunity of a visit:

Aberfeldy - 14yo - 185 bottles - cask no. 3618 - 58.1% - £99

Nose: Heavy butterscotch, sherry resonance, musty, mossy forest floor,raisins in rum, superb fudge notes

Palate: slight rubber note, backed with treacle tart dried apricots and muscavado sugar.

Finish: drying, some dark sugar and oaky sherry notes. Sweetened Coffee with dark chocolates comes through.

Overall: Very nice indeed and at a good price, sub-£100. We tasted with a few friends and some liked it with water, others less so. Personally, I though it cut well but would rather sip it neat.

This is the first Aberfeldy we've reviewed, but if this single cask is evidence of the quality of spirit being made at the distillery, it certainly makes me want to explore the rest of their output and stop off next time we're passing so close.