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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Shock and Oar: The Glenrothes 'Titanic' Whisky

Whisky is often used to commemorate great achievements, memorable dates and times of celebration. Take, for instance, The Macallan Royal Wedding bottling from last year. Or the John Walker & Sons £100,000 offering to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee (of which I'm sure there will be other bottlings). Even the most mundane of occasions, Queen Of The South FC's 75th Anniversary for example, got its own bottling.

But what do all these events have in common? What is the theme, the thread that holds them all together? Well, all of the events are times of joyous celebration. A time when people gather together to hold street parties, hang bunting and turn their traditional half-and-half from a beer and a dram of Black Label to a glass of champers and single malt. Except for those celebrating QOTS's 75th Anniversary; I hear a deep fried Mars bar and an bottle of Buckfast did the job in Dumfries, that day...

Today is the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Titanic. I'm sure this fact hasn't escaped any of you, what with the insane amount of TV programmes made about it, as well as the over-hyped, over-advertised new 3D release of Titanic The Movie.

You'd think that the sinking of a ship only four days in to its maiden voyage killing 1,517 and leaving 710 survivors wouldn't be a reason to celebrate. And you'd be correct. However, as with every tragic event such as this, heart-warming stories of courage and bravery spring up like wild flowers in a forgotten weed-ridden garden.

One such story is that of the Countess of Rothes. A passenger on the ship when it stuck the fateful iceberg, she was one of the lucky few to make it into a lifeboat. However, the seamen who were charged with rowing the occupants to safety were weak and unskilled, so the Countess took charge over the vessel, rowing herself and organising the team of women onboard into shifts to keep the boat moving.

A contemporary account at the time from a Dr. Leader says: "The Countess is an expert oarswoman. She practically took command of our boat when it was found that the seamen who had been placed at the oars could not row skilfully. Several of the women took their place with the Countess at the oars and rowed in turns while the weak and unskilled stewards sat quietly in one end of the boat." This action earned the Countess the nickname "Plucky Little Countess".

A grand old lady of the sea, the Titanic was fitted out like a luxury hotel of the time and part of the high standards of this ship would have been the food, wine and spirits served onboard, but part of the ship's job was to transport goods to New York, the final destination for the passengers, crew and cargo. As London's premier supplier of high-end wines and spirits, Berry Bros & Rudd had several cases of wine and whisky purchased from them by wealthy New Yorkers, all of which was lost in the terrible tragedy.

As a result, the owners of the Titanic, White Star Lines, sent a letter to Berry Bros & Rudd detailing the loss of 69 cases of their wines and whiskies (Berry's Best, Berry Bros & Rudd Vatted Malt and Berry Bros & Rudd All Malt were the titles of the whiskies being carried) for insurance purposes which were aboard the liner. The letter, dated April 16th 1912 was sent just 2 days after the disaster.

Since then, something quite remarkable has happened. Due to a series of acquisitions, Berry Bros & Rudd today owns the rights to the single malt whisky Glenrothes, produced in the small Speyside town from where 'The Plucky Little Countess' hailed.

As a tribute to the memory of those onboard the Titanic on that fatefull evening and to remember the heroic efforts by the Countess in Lifeboat No. 8, Berry Bros & Rudd have a released a single cask Glenrothes, limited to 100 bottles only.

Berry's Own Selection / The Glenrothes - Single Cask No. 015190 - 13 Years Old (1998) - 45% abv

"Well matured In Sherry Wood" - this has been in 1st fill Oloroso sherry barrels

Nose: The first thing that comes to the nose is dark chocolate coco powder, followed by leather, apricots and stem ginger. Some toasted oak notes is backed up by freshly Bergamot peel, figs and runny honey.

Palate: A lovely soft sherry influence, with more of the Bergamot, some unsalted, hand churned butter on toasted hot cross buns (mixed dried fruits, baked white bread dough). Burnt sugar and figs (again). Orange creams and Pontefract cake.

Finish: Candied orange rolled in white sugar, some spices, gee and toasted pine nuts.

Overall: A really lovely whisky and a very good example of a Glenrothes. The sherry is not too dominant, leaving enough room for good distillery character to come through.

A fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives on the Titanic, yet a great way to celebrate the small, heroic moments which saved so many lives. This story shows that the Countess of Rothes really was one of the Premier Cru aboard the Titanic.