2016 Whisky Wind-down, 4: Taste Memory


Today’s dram: The Balvenie, DoubleWood, 12-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: Before I tell you about the whisky, let me remark on the glass.

That is one of a pair of genuine Glencairn glasses, a holiday gift from The Empress of Whisky. Naturally, I had to pour my next dram into one of these beautiful glasses, the design of which is said to be ideal for appreciating whisky.

Hell, the Queen of the United Kingdom agrees — the design won the 2006 Queen’s Award for innovation. Also, many master distillers swear by this as the perfect vessel in which to properly appreciate a dram of whisky; in particular, the shape concentrates the aromas for easier sniffing.

The joke, of course, is on me.

A fucking head cold has settled in, and my sense of smell is wrecked. My sense of taste isn’t that great, either. Fact is, I might not be able to properly taste whisky for the rest of the year.

Blarg.

You’ll just have to trust me that this one is good. 

The Balvenie isn’t the only distillery to use multiple casks to mature a single whisky, but the DoubleWood is famed (or well marketed, anyway) for the technique. After an initial rest in used American bourbon barrels (very typical for Scotch whisky), the DoubleWood ages in used sherry casks. According to the distillery, it is this second rest that imparts so much of the sweet character for which this whisky is known.

Today’s thoughts: I remember.

I remember the joy this particular whisky brings me.

I picked it up at my favorite bottle shop a few years back. The Empress of Whisky and I were there — on what you might call “routine business” — when she remembered some gifting occasion for which she had promised me a bottle.

Pick one, she said.

So I browsed a bit and my eye fell upon The Balvenie DoubleWood.

And I half-remembered something one of my whisky heroes, the writer Barry Eisler, said about this one, a memory he related about trying it for the first time by the fireplace in a bar on a chilly day while reading a book about Tokyo, and how drinking it takes him back to that moment and time.

I am enamored of that story probably because I have long been the sort who can place my first tastes of particular drinks at certain points in time, with certain people, certain moods … they are personal hallmarks of history, treasures in my mind. 

Sometimes, I plan for them.

So I picked the DoubleWood, and I set it aside, waiting.

The moment came when I invited some friends to join me at a mountain cabin to celebrate my 40th birthday. Much whisky was had that weekend, but two particular drams stand out in memory. One is the subject of a Whisky Wind-down post yet to come. The other is the DoubleWood.

I opened it, and poured a dram, and walked outside, to where there were several friends lighting a fire, including The Empress of Whisky. And I stood back, and watched, and smiled at their antics, and enjoyed that these people were here together, because I had invited them, because they cared enough to travel to this remote location, to share a fire and drinks and friendship.

It doesn’t matter what The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 actually tastes like; I will always think of my friends when I have it.

Today’s note on aging: I was a bit bummed to turn 40. I think that’s required, isn’t it? 

It’s an auspicious age, the middle of most lives, the turning point when less lies ahead than behind.

Yet less isn’t lesser.

The years before me, whatever their number, I intend to spend in good company, in the best cheer possible, fighting the good fight where I can, making my little observances, attempting to add wit, whimsy, and ruminations … ’til darkness falls. 

Today’s toast: To aging: It beats the alternative. 

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