I’ve been working in Belgravia for 6 months now and beginning to get really riled up at having to schlepp a mile in every direction to find a decent pub. Either that or I endure the insults and indignity of Balls Brothers and their vinegar-laden wine-list, foul staff and dubiously sticky chairs. I mean come on. Who’d drink in a pub called Balls?So imagine my joy to discover that a holy trinity of Jazz, Cigars and Single Malt Whisky – decked out in uber-Scots paraphernalia and decadent tartan no less – sits but a mere 100 yards from my office’s front door in the form of Boisdale’s of Belgravia! Wunderbar! This is the sort of place I want go to when I die. But in the meantime, I’ll settle on making it my new post-work boozer whilst I am still alive.
I was there to attend a Glenlivet tasting hosted by two charming chaps: Neil and Joel of Caskstrength a peppy, smart whisky blog I discovered through work. I do like a tipple but admit I know as much about single malt as I do about X-Factor. And whilst I’m proud of the latter, I am ashamed of the former.I am also ashamed at the rather hasty exit I was forced to make when I discovered, a third of a way into a cigar that I am apparently not equipped to drink oodles of champagne followed by 6 glasses of whisky. No doubt measuring myself against the fellow sitting opposite me (let’s be polite and call him a “big-boned Scot” in his middling years) was a pretty rubbish idea.
The dinky canapes, delicious as they were (mini haggis! with neeps! on St. Andrew’s Day! *squeals of joy*!) didn’t quite soak up the flowing rivers of heavenly nectar that followed and I rather bobbled home like the Churchill dog in the snow, swaying a bit like Elton’s candle in the wind. Which can only be the indication of an evening well-spent.
We sniffed, observed, sniffed some more and tasted our way through six Glenlivets after a brief, but insightful introduction by Phil Huckle, the Glenlivet UK brand ambassador and his nifty flatcap.
We started with a The Glenlivet – 12 Year Old First Fill, which, according to my at this point still coherent scribbles, has a “nose” of pineapple with bananas, coconut and vanilla. This followed by a palate of baked apple and the sensation of slowly melting into my chair quite comfortably. I even managed to complete an aroma spider chart succesfully – possibly the last moment of lucidity before my notes and brain descended into pleasant fuzzy chaos.
The second tasting was of a 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve, aged in Limousin oak and American oak and smelling – this time deduced from a degenerate scrawl – like burnt caramel, tea cake or Christmas Pud, nutmeg and sultanas. This was one of my favourites until I returned to the 12 Year Old at the end of the evening and it had taken on a warming quality rarely matched even by a cashmere-covered hot water bottle. Again I got my aroma spider chart pretty much bang on, thus revealing I am either psychic, or have a better palate than I thought! All the wine-tasting paid off then!
The Nàdurra Triumph was next, aged 16 years and described in my tasting notes book simply as “TANG!”. I seem to remember this one had a punch of buttered popcorn and lemon peel and it completely knocked me for six, in a very pleasant way…
Moving in a serious direction towards ever older and bolder whiskies, we (or I) launched into the 18 Year Old Glenlivet like a juggernaut. Top notes of toffee, blackcurrant lockets, pear drops and cherries – even roasted macadamia nuts. If there was a finish – I am at a loss to reveal what it may be, but the book suggests “lasting, oaky and gingery”. not my fave out of the bunch though, a bit too much for my delicate wee self.
I somewhat coasted through the XXV 25 year old Glenlivet – ensconced in my chair like a Notre Dame gargoyle. Chocolate and strawberries, furniture polish and lavender all got jotteed down under “Nose” and an intense sherry punch. This is a real Christmassy whisky, with cinnamon, allspice orange peel and in my opinion apparently, like a pomander in a bottle.
The glory of the evening – to pantomime-esque “oooohs and aaaaahs” – was a Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, of which only 1824 bottles have been made (the year Glenlivet was founded, officially, geddit?!) Aged 21 years and retailing at £250 a bottle, this is one my Dad will NOT be finding in his stocking.
The opening aromas are chocolate boxy – not Thornton’s, more like Lindt Noir Arabica. The spice comes out on the palate, but I had ceased to be discerning somewhere between the fourth and fifth glass and was getting carried away with the craic (note, I said craic, not crack). Which is when I decided a cigar must be the way to rectify my inebriated predicament. Last thing I wanted to do was embarass myself in front of the dapper chaps of Caskstrength.net nor lose the thread of the incredibly interesting conversation I was having with the charming couple at my table.
Sadly, one puff into my Cohiba (it may have been something else) I realised the end was nigh and made my swift exit (like Batman and Robin down the fireman’s pole – though I was sadly devoid of Batmobile). And on I stumbled, into the wintry, snowflake pocked night, clitching my goody bag like a life raft and praying to the Uisgh gods I wouldn’t fall under a bus. Wednesday morning was treacherous, but boy what divine memories, worth every headache…
Glenlivet, a slamdunkingly good tipple. Merci Neil et Joel!