I’ve attended numerous whisky tastings. Okay, numerous might be an understatement. More than numerous. And I’ve hosted numerous tastings as well.
One thing I find at all of them is that either the host of the event I’m attending – or me myself and I if I’m hosting – tend to say something along the lines of: “What I find in this whisky may not be what you find.” And: “If I mention a flavour note or smell I’m getting, you’ll likely pick it up too.”
It’s easy to find oneself naturally drawn into smelling or tasting what someone else does. Often that’s because you’ll know there is something there in that glass of whisky that you just cannot put your finger on but which immediately comes to mind when someone else mentions it. There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just one of those things to be aware of.
But, never before have I had a situation where the topic of the evening literally trails into the next day to affect someone’s experiences.
Having recently attended the launch of the latest batch of Bowmore’s Devil’s Cask (read my review of last year’s release to compare, here) I can say this is just what happened.
My dear whisky convert friend Ms Lucy and I arrived at The Sign of the Don near London’s Bank station on a muggy evening, only to head down, down, down into the bar’s lower stone and red-walled confines. It was close, haunting and candlelit – an homage, as it were, to the rather devilish tones of the evening.
The bar, which opened last year, occupies a building with a most interesting history – from the 14th century, the space (then owned by the Worshipful Company of Drapers) actually extended into a tunnel network to allow wine and port to be smuggled from the river docks through to the venue. In 1798 it was purchased by the Sandeman family, who owned it until 1967 and bottled their namesake ports and sherries on-site.
The venue – chosen for its vault-like links to Bowmore, which has the oldest whisky maturation warehouse in its Number 1 Vaults – was apt and Ally Dickinson, the brand ambassador, was an effervescent addition to the night.
One of his stories was, of course, around the origin of the name of the Devil’s Cask release. According to Ally, the tale goes that the devil arrived in Bowmore village one night and, in an attempt to escape persecutors, attempted to hide out in the church. However, he soon noted one major problem: Bowmore’s church is round and, therefore, not welcoming to any ghastly creatures attempting to escape gaze. Fleeing the church, he found the next best place: Bowmore distillery, just down the hill. He managed to hide away in a cask of Bowmore and, it is said, escape to the mainland without detection.
All of this was explained to us attendees with a haunting soundtrack to up the slightly spooky tone. And, it seems it worked – for the next morning, I woke up to find a note from dear Ms Lucy in my inbox saying the following:
“Devil’s Cask really affected me! I woke up in fury and found myself yelling at other cyclists and motorists to get out of my way on my morning commute. I practically had a devil’s tail! Hopefully you aren’t feeling the wrath quite so acutely!!”
And so, dear readers, I shall leave it up to you to decide if this whisky may or may not have the same effect on you. My advice? If you’re keen to find out, you’d best look out for it on whisky websites soon. There are only 90 cases of this limited dram (matured, rarely for Bowmore, in first-fill sherry casks for 10 years) available to the UK market at a cost of £60 – a steal, in my opinion.
Here are my thoughts on just what it tasted and smelled like…
(c): Brimstone brown
(n): Dark cherries, black liquorice, chocolate notes lead – really balanced and not overwhelming at all for the strength. Then buttered burnt toast, a hint of smoked mackerel and a lovely underlying candied sweetness (I was personally thinking cotton candy and vanilla pods).
(p): Very dark/rich, slightly dry but with lots of dark fruit sweetness. Some peppercorns and treacle, burnt pineapple, sea salt, pencil shavings. Oily in texture. Very intense flavour wise but, again, not so intense strength wise.
(f): Long finish, with notes of rubber bands and smoky black cherries.