Waylaid by Whiskies and Love
Peered sadly through the closed door of Le Benaton, hoping for a glimpse of a cake of Brillat-Savarin but the cheese larder was fairly empty. There was still about an hour to go before a dinner appointment and the wander next door to The Connoisseur Emporium to look at some Cubans provided an unexpectedly delightful education on independent bottlings and single cask whiskies. Really enjoyed the fact that Heru’s enthusiasm for the malts meant he was more interested in sharing about the delights of bottles than any hard selling that would have had me dash out the store and never return to discover the treasures within.
The Connoisseur Emporium specialises in un-chill-filtered and un-coloured drams, mostly from previously mentioned independent bottlers who bottle single casks.
As far as i understand it, a “single malt” comes from a single distillery (that is, not blended with the product of another distillery, though it can be a blend of that single distillery’s products from several years), contains 100% malted barley (with only the addition of water, yeast and E150A caramel colouring allowed), and is distilled in traditional pot stills.
Many distilleries sell whisky by the cask to blenders and sometimes to private buyers. Some of these buyers (“independent bottlers”) then bottle such casks as single malts. These independent bottlings may be very different from an official bottling, which has led some distilleries to distance themselves from such products.
A “single cask” refers to whisky that has not been vatted with whisky from any other casks (duh). So the bottles usually have a label with details about the date the whisky was distilled, the date it was bottled, the number of the cask that produced the bottle, the number of bottles produced, the number of that particular bottle. Generally bottled whisky over 46% abv is non-chill filtered since the spirit generally remains unclouded at this level of alcohol.
Whisky enthusiasts’ beef with chill-filtration is that they believe it removes some of the flavour and body from the whisky, and so consider unchill-filtered whisky superior.
We started with an independent Duncan Taylor Rare Auld bottling of Isle of Jura 18 yo 1990 (Duncan Taylor 2009, 52.4%, Cask #6401, 312 bottles). Previous experience with Isle of Jura’s Prophecy made me expect this to be similarly smoky but it was slightly flinty, sweet grassy and quite light on the palate. Unfounded assumption that all Island single malts were peaty like the Islay ones went out the window.
The Single Cask Glenrothes 22 y.o. (bottled for The Connoisseur Emporium by Edition Spirits Limited) was aged in sherry cask – unfortunately no information could be had as to what sort of sherry had been in the cask – fino, oloroso, amontillado, manzanilla, px, palo cortado? Other than some sweetness, can’t remember much about this bottle other than the discussion about how sherried whisky is usually darker or more amber in colour, while whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks usually spots a golden-yellow/honey colour.
The Càrn Mòr Celebration of the Cask Collection from The Scottish Liqueur Centre included:
an Invergordon Single Grain 1972 (Bottle 86/259, Cask Numbers: 60478/63675, 46.6% abv) from the Highlands that was aged in a bourbon barrel and bottled in 2009 – I considered it for daily drinking but figured the cost would go a long way towards purchasing the other bottle i was eyeing; and
a Tamnavulin 1968 (Bottle 102/335, Cask Number: 3659, 40.6% abv) from Speyside aged in Hogshead whose nose of strong garlic made me think of chicken rice.
And from The Scottish Liqueur Centre‘s Wealth of a Nation series:
the Bladnoch Distillery from the Lowlands 1990 (Cask Number 2425, 46% abv) was pleasant and lightly fragrant – a very easy drink;
while the Caol Ila 2000 (Cask Number: 39535, 46% abv) was cleanly peaty – a lovely smell of the summer I had backpacking in Scotland though Heru mentioned some people were reminded of hospital wards. Not quite as complex as i like ’em though but apparently a favourite of Johnny Walker. 😉
The Ben Nevis 10 y.o. Rare Aged Scotch Whisky (1999/2009, Duncan Taylor bottled, 46% abv) from the Highlands finished in port cask had a slight grapey? sweetness; and
from another Duncan Taylor series, The NC2 Range, the Bowmore 11 y.o. (1998/2009, 46%) from Islay had two distinct aromas of smoky minerality and flowers. Interesting but i didn’t like that they stood at a distance staring at each other.
The motherlode was the Glenfarclas 40 y.o. from Speyside, distilled in direct-fire stills and aged in oloroso sherry casks. Not single cask nor limited release, and slapped with a rather unassuming standard label but i rather liked the rich imagery on the palate – old oak and leather, mellow fruit…though, to be honest, it wasn’t completely mindblowing.
Still, who would have thought so much joy could come out of so humble a grain as barley? Gobsmacked by the smorgasbord of flavours from permutations of different sorts of malted barley used for each cask (varietals, terroir), the process of malting (the water used, stage of germination reached), the process of peat-drying, the mashing and fermentation (type of yeast used, method), distillation process (type of stills used, method, number of times distilled), and the aging in barrels.
Birth of single malts from blends in 1990s, single casks – single origin beans, microbrews. No longer about brands (mass market, conspicious consumption) but about names (more authentic, individualistic)
That morning, the message was from Malachi 1, which opens with God declaring that he has loved Israel. But Israel retorts, asking how God has shown his love for them. God’s reply is surprising:
“Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says,”We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says,”They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country’, and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry for ever.'” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say,”Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5)
That is, God has shown his love to Israel by choosing Israel instead of Esau: hundreds of years ago, God had made promises of land, descendants and blessings to Abraham first, then to Isaac his only son. Esau as Isaac’s older son should have inherited these. But even before the twins, Esau and Jacob, were born or had done anything, God had already chosen the younger over the older (Genesis 25:23). Yet in the same chapter, Esau of his own volition also sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew – he thought so little of it (Genesis 25:29-34). (In many places in the Bible, both God’s absolute sovereignty and man’s responsibility for making right choices are stated, without any explanation of how they relate to each other.) Israel was the metonymy for Jacob’s descendants and Edom for Esau’s.
But to the Israelites in Malachi’s time, this might have seemed a bit of a joke. If God had chosen Jacob/Israel over Esau/Edom, why were they destroyed and scattered by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. and allowed to endure 70 years of Babylonian captivity, while Edom remained intact and seemed only to benefit from Israel’s loss?
Because God’s timing is not ours. Edom would not escape God’s judgment – in due course, the Nabatean Arabs forced the Edomites from the home they thought was impregnable and destroyed their previously arable land. While Judah was restored after her punishment in Babylonian exile, reflecting God’s love for his people, Edom’s judgment was permanent and irreversible. Petra, according to some historians, stands as testimony to this.
So signs and wonders and miracles (or lack thereof), and health and wealth (or lack thereof), are not signs of God’s favour (nor the lack thereof, signs of his disfavour). The ultimate expression of God’s love is for us to have a relationship with him, which is why:
- John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”;
- Hebrews 12:11 says “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”; and
- Revelation 3:19 says “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
That we have not yet been destroyed means he has, in his mercy, given us time to repent of not acknowledging him as God, and a chance to rightly worship him before the judgement day comes:
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:8-10)