Dalmore Rivers Collection: The Tay Dram

Photo by Jackal1

It’s not often you get charity whisky. And you wouldn’t necessarily associate your favourite dram with an ecological cause. But Dalmore have launched a series of whiskies specifically to raise money to protect Scotland’s rivers.

It’s not the first time they’ve done this – the Dalmore Dee Dram was launched last year and sold out in nine weeks, raising £35,000 to enhance this iconic fishing spot. Yes, it’s about tourism, but it’s also about sustainability and conservation.

There are four river projects in this new set: Dee, Tay, Tweed and Spey (from which we get the term ‘Speyside’, with which you’ll be familiar as a whisky region). They’re hoping to raise around £400,000 a year through the sale of these whiskies to help protect salmon, otters, rare birds and other plants and animals. But what do they taste like (the whiskies that is, not the rivers – or the otters)?

I thought I’d try one a night over the next few evenings… starting with the Tay.

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Pre-Santa Fettercairn tasting

Fettercairn Fior

Seasons greetings, whisky enthusiasts and people who have stumbled across our blog by mistake while looking for something else entirely.

We decided to squeeze in one more tasting before Christmas, partly because we’re not going to be in the same place at the same time for a few weeks, but mostly because we’d come into possession of some Fettercairns that promised very fine and seasonal things.

We started with the limited release Fettercairn Fior. Not much information on this – it was a bit of a mystery, and the box is filled with the kind of fanciful rhetoric you might expect from a bottle of whisky which takes as its emblem the unicorn – but it looks dark, rich and lovely. And indeed, it pours like a syrup. Off to a good start.

Nose: treacle, smoke, zest, vanilla
Palate: all spice, pepper, peat, molasses, menthol
Finish: medium, thick & intense

Really surprisingly great.

We also had a range of other treats to sample from the Fettercairn range, and they varied in vintage from 24 years old, 30, to 40 years old.

Normally the chance to try a 40 year-old whisky is a rare treat, but it was in such good company, its specialness diminished somewhat. Remember, while older usually means ‘more expensive’, it does not always mean ‘better’ when it comes to whisky.

24 year-old
Nose: Lots of cereal, malt, grapes, golden delicious apples
Palate: touch of salt, peach, vanilla, oak, cream
Finish: Thick, peaks, then gently fades

30 year-old
Nose: slight toffee, almonds, pears
Palate: Cinnamon, cocoa, stewed fruit, very slight creamy note, sherbet,
Finish: Very nice – crisp, but too short.

40 year-old
Nose: Marzipan, fresh pastry, pineapple, mint, old books
Palate: oranges, cream, cereal, more citrus, sherbet
Finish: Medium and precise.

If we were celebrating, and had a bit of spare cash (£140 give or take), the 24 year old would be a definite top choice. Most impressive and satisfying of the lot, by a good stretch. By contrast, the 40 retails for upwards of £700 a bottle which would place it squarely in the “collectors only” camp.

But for the price of a standard single malt (around £35), the Fior is very highly recommended. Superb value, extremely good drinking and an exceptional Christmas dram. You should definitely treat yourself to a bottle.

Have a great, safe and cheery Christmas!

I can’t go for that…

Knockando 1975 miniature

We got together for a bit of a pre-Christmas tasting. We started proceedings with a miniature bottle of 1975 Knockando (bottled in 1989 – so that makes it a 14 year old). The cork had all but disintegrated, and the level had dropped significantly, so we suspect that some of the alcohol had evaporated from it, leaving it less than its advertised 41% abv – but we thought we’d give it a try anyway.

Nose: light, menthol, lemon, fig, pencil shaving
Palate: slight, takes a long time to come through – sherbert, creamy, smooth, very little depth
Finish: tanin, vanilla, smoke

As it was, you could drink that, quite happily, with a meal – but not quite the special treat we were hoping for. We followed up with an AnCnoc 16:

Nose: Great. Banana. Floral.
Palate: Woody, mulch – leaves, apples, melons
Finish: Short, but peppery.

Much better. Definitely worth a try. But now we’re really looking forward to this Fettercairn tasting we’re going to try and squeeze in before Santa comes…

The Jura Project

A Halloween toast

We’re on the isle of Jura all this week, working on an online music project. Whyte and Mackay have commissioned Clutch to be a composer-in-residence on the island, and we’re staying in the Jura lodge, which is right next to the distillery.

The Jura Project is a process of composition and recording on the island to raise awareness and money for the direct ferry from the island to the mainland, which is under threat from subsidy cuts.

And, in fact, while we’ve been here, this has been underlined by the fact that the other ferry that connects Jura to the outside world has completely broken down. In its place, a small passenger boat is taking people to and from Islay, but cars can’t get across – and, more importantly, supplies are completely cut off.

The distillery has stopped mashing, and the stills will be shut off by Friday at the current rate. That’s potentially an enormous loss to the distillery’s production, and a crippling blow to what is already a delicately balanced island economy.

With that backdrop, Clutch has been working with the islanders as well as with some of the features of the island itself to create music that will be released online as a fundraiser. My job has been to capture that process and present it online at http://thejuraproject.com.

Some of my highlights so far have included a visit to the local primary school to talk about generative music composition, and how the children themselves can become part of the music; a Halloween party in the Jura Hotel; meeting resident flautist Sheena Amos, and getting her involved in the project; a scenic drive to the top of the island, and discovering that the lodge is haunted.

We’re here until the end of the week, and intend to have a playback in the hall of the finished (or nearly finished) composition.

Follow the project here.

One trip remembered, another planned

Off the back of my recent trip to The Glenrothes Distillery, we were gifted with a lovely bottle of 1985 Vintage, which, as it says on the label, has rich, creamy, dried fruits as a significant characteristic. Clutch says Garibaldis, but as that’s not a biscuit I’m familiar with, he might as well have said Geronimos or Galaxians, and I’d have been none the wiser.

But we’re not here just to taste the delicious treats from previous escapades. We have also met to plan a major project coming up on the Isle of Jura.

At the end of this month, Clutch and I will be spending a week on Jura to work on a project that weaves together music, whisky and the internet.

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