Monday, December 22, 2008

mist...robin, malt whisky

Posted by Picasa ... over the Common.

I stand on the corner of the Grove and look and listen. A child kicks a red football to his big dad. Dad kicks it back. The child runs after it. The shouts of other children drift across the twilight. From the branches of the oak, under which I am standing, comes the song of a robin, but I cannot see the bird. Then, there it is, on a high branch. It is so small, that it is hard to believe it capable of so full and persistent a sound.

An article in the paper on malt whisky, this weekend, reminds me of a whisky tasting I once conducted in Edinburgh. Although I was accustomed to regular wine tastings, the language and lore of whisky tasting was new to me. So I needed a lot of help. I was fortunate in being able to assemble a number of leading experts, to whom the idea of limiting the tasting to the peaty distillations of the Scottish Islands, seemed attractive.
Used to the language of wine tasters - body, fat, flabby, finish etc - I was eager to know how the distinctive malts of Islay and Jura, would be described by the experts. It was clear that the slurping, mouth-rinsing and spitting procedures of wine tasting were out in this case. Too much alcohol would be absorbed to allow for a balanced assessment. Instead, we had to be content with swirling the whisky in the glass and relying on a long sniff of the rising aroma. These were the famous, peat flavoured malts - remember - which require sympathetic and accustomed palates, to give them due appraisal. And what terms did my tasters use? I no longer have my notes, but two in particular stay in my memory. "Aye, it has the genuine smell of engine room!" was one mark of approval. While " plenty of oily rag there" was another. I remember thinking at the time how accurate these descriptions of the whiskies were. And that didn't mean that I was not then, as I am now a fan of Island malts.


Roderick Robinson said...

"... o'er the common" - seemingly at glider height. A creative bit of cutting.

Laphroaig, the great Islay, smells like the disinfectant used in the Gents in old-fashioned pubs. First sip confirms this sad judgement. Second sip and it's golden and as profound as a peat hag. How did that happen?

Verb. sap. Spelling the name of this whisky is about as non-instinctive as you're ever likely to encounter.

Unknown said...

As tactful a piece of sub-editing as I have ever encountered. Many people mis-prounounce it. I never thought I would live to mis-spell it. "Knew" is a new error for me. But then I am clearly losing my marbles.

Unknown said...

The Common photograph was taken from the slopes of Mount Sion facing the Common. The London Road occupies the space between.