Sometimes it is the whisky that makes the evening. And other times, it is the evening that makes the whisky.
Recently, I found myself escaping London to the relative quiet of what is reputed to be Europe’s purest lake – Lake Annecy, just south of Geneva (but on the French side).
I was there for work (in my other guise as a moonlighting travel writer, something I still dabble in from time to time) and found myself back at the hotel where my friend Miss Nathalie and I were staying for the weekend.
I’d not had a chance to sit down and review a whisky or two for a while and, with an hour to spare before dinner and a balcony with a view, it seemed all too appropriate.
And I can’t help but wonder now these days later how much the environment affected my experiences that evening. The whiskies were top class, that much I can be sure of, but the pure air, the floating notes of jazz drifting up from the restaurant below and the view from my balcony all made me take a moment to, well, enjoy the moment – to really absorb myself in what I was drinking.
It is at these times, especially, that I love whisky: with the fresh air and a cool breeze drifting by, when I can really pause and stop my mind from swirling as it so often does. I once spoke to Morrison Bowmore Master Blender Rachel Barrie about this on a visit to her lab – that afternoon, we spent time trying whiskies inside the lab, in the office and outside in the Japanese gardens that abut the place where she masterminds new blends. It was clear from the experiment that we both took more pleasure in the whiskies when outside while breathing in that fresh air, the nature from which whisky’s ingredients and important components – barley, water, oak – come from.
And so, that hour I spent relaxing into these two whiskies from the Single Malts of Scotland range will stand firm in my memory. I not only tried whisky, but I tried to live in the moment – something many of us, I fear, too rarely do.
Upon returning, I discovered that one of these – the Clynelish – is no longer available to buy. But, I’ve put my notes below in case you happen across it at a friend’s house or in a bar and want to know more.
And I encourage all of you to take a moment when next you have the time to head outside and enjoy a wee dram – see if it tastes different than normal, see if you experience it in another way. Most of all, I hope you enjoy it, and the moment.
Clynelish 1995: 19 Year Old: Single Malts of Scotland: 57.5%:
(c): Pale straw
(n): Overripe apples, banana split (banana, vanilla ice cream, something nutty), then lemon sherbet and honey – very gentle for the strength.
(p): Oak, grass, toasted almonds, vanilla and honey: quite spicy and zingy, then a nice creaminess before a real drying kick and slightly bitter note mid-palate.
In conclusion: really enjoyable. Beautiful, delicate nose; a more intense palate. Great Clynelish sweet and grassy palate. Really opens up a lot when left in the glass for a bit.
(c): Burnt caramel
(n): Dark strawberries dipper in chocolate, warm gingerbread, oranges with dark brown sugar and something floral (maybe rose?). Later, coconut and honeycomb. So appealing: rich, seductive and alluring.
(p): Cinnamon and dark chocolate at first – slightly spicy at the tip of the tongue. Then cacao nibs and cardboard, caramel fudge and waffle cones. Works its way around the whole palate. Later on after it’s aired in the glass for a while, something almost lavender-ish and icing sugar both came out for me.
(f): Butter and honeycomb.
In conclusion: Really wonderful to sit with for a while. The nose combines both red fruits and dark caramel notes, but remains delicate and long lasting. Palate has more oomph and nice sticky character. Very drinkable.