The story of the day is simply a question: when you should drink whisky and when should you store it away? Which is in turn, closely followed by the question when should you invest in a bottle or just in a dram? And where do you find the very best treasures to be savoured or stored away? The answer to one of those questions is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Honest food, he says. “What is that, exactly?” I ask. Meanwhile, dessert is a difficult choice between chocolate tart and the exquisite cheese selection. I’m having lunch with Fraser Shenton, head chef at FISH at Hilton Auckland. Chef decides on the chocolate tart which is indulgent. Thankfully I’m good at indulgence.
As night fell, the smoke and mist rose up in a late autumn haze and we ducked under the cover of our own darkened den, a safe haven underground called the Jefferson.
The beauty of this vertical tasting is to explore the Ardbeg Day whisky as part of the Ardbeg story.
Half the pleasure is in seeking the treasure. It’s not that this whisky is the best whisky ever made. But in nosing the glass and enjoying the spirit, we are participating in the golden age of whisky experimentation and re-definition.
Reminds me of an orange and almond cake I make. Caramelised vanilla sugar crust with the sharpness of citrus developing. Now I taste elements of Persian orange water. Slowly more baked apple emerges with cinnamon and nutmeg. Big, tobacco leaf and old leather starts to emerge out the back where the peat overtakes any leftover smoke. Now it’s starting to feel like a true Ardbeggian expression.
The bottle alone is something to gaze at. Be warned, it doesn’t pour that well and takes a practiced hand. You’ll get plenty of practice though, because for a young whisky it exudes character beyond its years. Not surprisingly, because this is a Talisker and I believe whisky is indelibly marked by the people who make it and the place comes into being from.
Delightful things happen when delicious ingredients are shaken, muddled, thrown, stirred and strained together. Scotch whisky is notoriously difficult to use in cocktails, however there are a few classics that not only stand up to Scotch whisky but cry out for the complexity, richness and smoke of a classic Islay single malt like Ardbeg.
The crisp white wall of the distillery buildings and the signature name etched along the foreshore stands firm and concrete. I wandered down to the foreshore and skipped stones into the sea, smelt the freshness of the ocean and thought to myself, some things find a way to survive so long as they are loved.