A few days ago I began the tale of our grand adventure in Scotland, also known as the Land Where Scotch Grows. However, after yesterday’s visit to the beaches of Normandy I wanted to write that post while the experience was still fresh in my memory.
Prior to leaving Scotland, Rob, Rita, and I found ourselves on a fantastic tour of The Glenlivet distillery, courtesy of the 20-something-year-old tweed-vested James. After tasting a dram or two from a 39-year-old keg, we returned to the main room of the visitor’s building to really begin the tasting experience.
The room was filled with a long oak table suitable for formal dining. A map of Scotland was lightly etched into its surface. The room was sufficiently lit to enjoy the various amber colours of the scotch, but not so much as to affect the relaxed but somehow formal ambiance the room created. The far end of the table was punctuated with a beautiful display that showcased a variety of Glenlivet scotches.
We took our seats closest to the display case. Before each of us was a collection of 7 drams. James sat at the head of the table to guide us through the tasting. Before him stood a bottle for each of the drams we were about to try, save for the Founder’s reserve. Apparently we’d retired that bottle even before arriving.
As I sat there in anticipation of sampling the drams before me, James gave us a rundown of what was to happen. He informed us he wasn’t going to tell us which flavours we should expect from each of the scotches (although he would tell us after we sampled each how he read the scotch). Ultimately, he said, scotch is a personal and subjective experience and it should be enjoyed as such. He also wasn’t a fan of turning a tasting into something more than what it was. Since scotch began in the homes of farmers and peasants and not in the domain of high society, we shouldn’t worry too much about etiquette.
I liked his approach.
He drew our attention to the first dram. This wasn’t a dram of scotch, but instead a dram of the heart of what would become scotch after appropriate aging. In its current form, it could best be described as moonshine. It had very strong fruity aromas, but also a very harsh taste. We would return to this dram often throughout the tasting to remind us just how much scotch matures and changes as it ages in barrel.
The remaining 6 drams included The Glenlivet’s
- Founder’s Reserve,
- George & J.G. Smith Limited Edition,
- Uisage Beatha Single Cask Edition, and
- XXV (25-year-old).
Prior to this tasting, I had already tried the 15-year-old, but the others were all new to me. I was particularly fond of the Nadurra – a peated version of The Glenlivet. Where other distilleries infuse their scotches with peat and smoke flavours using a smoke-drying process, Nadurra’s flavours were pulled from the oak barrels it was aged in. Being a fan of peat and smoke, this was one of my favourites from the bunch.
I also very much enjoyed the Uisage Beatha (meaning water of life) and the XXV, the latter being incredibly smooth and well-balanced.
As we sat there listening to James answer our various scotch and Scotland-related questions, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s not every day that I get to sample a collection of scotches as varied as this, and in the very land where scotch is grown.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I’m one lucky bastard. I’m going to be even luckier (and more bastardier?) when I can plan a return visit to Scotland. The Glenlivet is only one of many distilleries that I’d like to visit. Clearly I have a lot of work to do.