The secret of a good tasting is that air of enchantment, the stories, the quirks, and the provenance.
I can’t think of a better location than Channings Hotel, the former Edinburgh home of Sir Ernest Shackleton for a tasting that includes Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, the whisky painstakingly recreated from samples of the bottles the explorer abandoned in the Antarctic, frozen in the ice for nearly 100 years.
I’d been invited by Jenny Lovatt, the Community Manager of social networking and review site Yelp.
The setting was beautiful and intimate, and there was a menu of canapés designed as a tribute to the food Shackleton’s expedition provisions. Refreshing salmon “cooked” in citrus juice, spicy mock turtle soup, the Carpaccio of venison was lovely, but the Stornoway black pudding bon bons were tremendous!
Graham Rushworth, the Premium Brands Manager for Whyte & Mackay led us on a tasting through the company’s single malt portfolio – Isle of Jura, Fettercairn, and The Dalmore.
First we were in the Western Isles for Jura 16 years. Rich and woody, amber in colour this was a good start to proceedings, with a touch of chestnut and vanilla. The finish was drying with mineral notes like a salty beach pebble on a warm day.
Next up it was over to the east coast near Dundee for Fettercairn Fior (Fior means “pure” in Gaelic). A vatted malt with whiskies aged between five and fifteen years. With well balanced fruit salad, creamy cappuccino, custard and a touch of orange peel. The finish was like salty milk chocolate. I’d love this as a session dram. Yum!
Now the exciting bit, Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, affectionately known as The Shackleton. A blend of 24 whiskies, some of which no longer exist, only 50,000 bottles of this were produced making it really quite special. As it’s getting closer to impossible to get any of it now, when you get a chance to try it you grab it.
At 47.3% it has a bit of a kick, but once you get over the shock it has a rich fruity nose with dusty old books, wild flowers and crushed grass.
Finally the piece de resistance of the evening, from Alness north of Inverness, we had The Dalmore Cigar Malt in the Garden with a Cuban cigar. The Master Distiller Richard Paterson worked with cigar importer Hunters & Frankau to marry together the perfect match of whisky with cigar.
The Dalmore is well known for its creamy chocolate and rich zesty orange marmalade notes, but as the final maturation of this was in cabernet sauvignon barrels it imparted soft red fruit into the palate. Mixed with the cigar smoke the balance of flavours were brilliant.
Overall, it was a fantastic evening from start to finish. Beautiful food, great whisky, and as always, wonderful company.