A wee dram in Dundee

Fine single malts are not the average drinking fare of a cyclist – especially when riding.  I recently spent a couple of days in Dundee with work, and by chance was invited out to dinner with a Scottish member of the Scotch Whisky Society.

Now in general I can take or leave whisky.  I am no fan of blended malts, preferring a single malt – but even then I might imbibe three or four drams a year.  However tonight was something of an education for me.

Having arrived at the hotel, which incidentally is the Taychreggan Hotel in north Dundee, we sat down before dinner to a few well chosen whiskies.  This institution is one to behold – located in a well-to-do suburb known as Broughty Ferry, it boasts over 450 Scotch Whiskies, by far the most extensive stock for many miles around.

My first, after consulting with our dining and drinking companion, was a glass of Bowmore ‘Dusk’ Claret Casked.  50% proof.  A gorgeous, deeply flavoured malt whose initial flavour masked its considerable strength.  My drinking companions enjoyed variously a Caol Ila 1993 with a Moscatel Sherry finish, which, at 43%, was a more mellow whisky with a caramel overtone, and a Clynelish 1992 with Oloroso finish, once again a serious Highland whisky bottled by Gordon & McPhail.

The bar at the Taychreggan Hotel

The bar at the Taychreggan Hotel

We sat and reeled from the tastings for a few minutes, mine having rather improperly been made on the base of a number of pints of lager, it having been a hot evening back at our hotel.  The interesting quality with the different malts is the way they introduce themselves to you; some, such as the Bowmore, are slow-burning and expose their personalities only with continued effort, whereas some of the second round of the tasting, especially those rough Islay boys, positively explode through the front door and demand, “Where’s the Party?”

So, we then moved on to our second tasting round.  This time I was guided towards a 12 year old Macallan Fine Oak at 40%.  Now I have drunk Macallan many times; it is one of the more ‘mainstream’ single malts.  However this was a revelation.  Subtle, yet again with the depth and complexity as a remote highland loch, it was a revelation to the palate.  My companions this time enjoyed a Balvenie in rum wood (14 years old), which at 47% was a strong and rumbustious Speyside experience, and most notably a Rosebank Flora & Fauna 10 year old, which at 43 percent was a lowland malt from a deceased distillery, bottled by Gordon & McPhail.  This was the one which, in our mutually agreed and by this time considerably lubricated condition we agreed was like fireworks on the tongue; one of those phrases which sounds lovely but clearly cannot be taken in any sense literally since fireworks on the tongue might actually imply severe and embarrassing burns, as opposed to Burns, aye.

The food, incidentally, was excellent, the service was attentive and the ‘somellier’ of the whisky, Stephen Garland, proved to be an impeccable guide on our wayward journey amongst the great whiskies.  We sensibly cut short our experiences at this point, and I have to say that the hangover was a unique one the next day, which extended nearly a hundred miles south and to Edinburgh, which is another story.


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