(A RETIRED) AMBASSADOR'S TALES
From dreams to reality
We all have dreams, in a variety of guises – winning the lottery, travelling in space, eternal life and more. But how many of our dreams turn into reality? David Smith decided to have a go, with the help of five Society bottlings and his own small oak barrel
THE START OF A DREAM
I had a dream – to turn a blend of single malt whiskies into an exciting and truly flavoursome blended malt. Late last year I started my dream for real. I blended six single malts and filled a treasured five-litre cask with the blend for maturation. My dream was that even with my limited (well, non-existent!) experience of blending an eclectic mix of Society malts and single malts they would, after a period in a small wooden cask, mature into a blend with depth, character and outstanding flavour. A dream indeed. You can read the tale of the small cask and how it came to be filled with a blend of single malts in the February issue of Unfiltered.
The blend, christened Electric Dreams, has a mid-gold appearance with few tears and a liquorice tinge on the neat nose. The palate is peppermint but with added water marmalade and syrup come to the fore. Filling the small cask was exciting as this was the beginning of a new journey for the unsuspecting spirit blend. During the succeeding months there was always the temptation of taking a sample to check on what effects the magic barrel and the cool environment of the Berkshire garage were having on the spirit.
Unable to resist the sight of the cask sitting on the bench, the occasional sample could not be resisted. As the months rolled by the spirit increased in viscosity, the colour darkened and the aroma and nose became more complex. It was always a pleasure to enter the garage, even on cold winter days, as the faintest wafts of whisky would be hanging in the air. Not a true dunnage, but just as enticing.
THE MAKING OF REALITY
The question then arose as to when to bottle the spirit. How to make this decision? After five months and with the changes becoming less pronounced, I bottled the whisky. Was this the right time? A distillery manager would know, but as a novice it was pure instinct that the time was right. I will never know if further time in the cask would have changed the characteristics of the whisky for the better.
With a mixture of old and new staves in the cask, some wood elements could have been expected as the whisky was drawn from the cask. Decanted through a coarse muslin filter there were very few impurities captured by the filter. With a total volume of over four litres of whisky drawn, the angels had certainly been in the garage and had their share. Six used Society bottles were filled, and I labelled the new matured blend Electric Reality. Dreams had become reality.
Now to enjoy the whisky. The deep gold colour engendered by the new staves and previously sherry filled cask gave the whisky a very appealing profile. The tears in the glass were now more pronounced and the neat nose had mellowed to one of nutmeg and syrup. With water the nose had become less minty and one of marmalade and teak oil. The unreduced palate was now spicier and with a little water unctuous and woody. The finish was one of a complex single malt with a glossy coat. The original pieces of the jigsaw had now produced a vibrant and colourful picture.
But that was my opinion – how would others view the whisky? Who better to ask than my friend and Society master ambassador John McCheyne. I duly sent John a sample bottle of Electric Reality and awaited the verdict. A short and somewhat nervous wait and John replied with his tasting notes and overall view: “The thoughts I’m left with are of a walk in summer in Speyside, with the gorse blooming and the heather starting to flower. Marvellous!”
But what would Society members and friends think of Electric Reality? A few days away with some golfing and whisky drinking friends would provide the opportunity. One evening was designated as whisky night. A brief history of the whisky’s provenance preceded the tasting. It was then with some trepidation I awaited their verdict. First tentative noses were taken, unsure of what lay ahead, then approving nods and a pronouncement of a fruity damson aroma and a honey sweetness. The neat palate solicited dates and an unexpected smoothness. Water was added tentatively, first a drop then a more generous measure. The smoothness continued but this time with caramel and a hint of chocolate and an overall softness in the mouth. Electric Reality had passed the test of discerning friends. As one of my golfing friends remarked, you get the same satisfaction and exhilaration from the dram as “creaming a four iron from the fairway onto the 18th green”.
I had three differing views of the whisky, but all unanimous that Electric Reality was indeed a particularly good blend. A great endorsement for an adventure in blending and maturing your own whisky in your own cask. As for the cask, it has now been cleaned and refilled with supermarket sherry, ready for its next magic trick. As for the bottles of Electric Reality, they stand proudly alongside Society bottles of whisky. Who says dreams never come true?