This story first appeared in Cheek to Chic, a superb online magazine
I want to share with you the day that was the highlight of my whisky life. In ten years of talking whisky around the world I’ve had many people ask me for my job. I suppose it sounds glamorous: the travel to exotic destinations; five star hotels; seven course dinners and of course, the pleasure and privilege of drinking rare whiskies, some that cost way more than a luxury motor car.
But whisky people are different. We are happiest in the quiet times, sitting alone with our thoughts and a glass of history, or with close friends and a bottle of something special. After years of festivals and airports, we can become jaded. I was. I needed something special to revive the romance, much like an old oak cask, filled once to often, I needed to be rejuvenated and restored. And a few weeks ago I got what I needed, and a lot more.
The week started with Saturday at Old Trafford, the home of my beloved Manchester United; Sunday, the final day of the British Open, from the luxury of a hospitality tent; then four days in Scotland, the a search for the Loch Ness Monster (no, we didn’t find it), a day in the countryside – clay pigeon shooting, 4 x 4 driving and archery – and of course distillery visits.
It was a week to take the bucket list, tick off a few things, but ultimately to enjoy what that time; patience; skill and dedication bring to something as simple and as complex as whisky.
At a glance, it was an average day, a small group of whisky lovers sitting in a warehouse in Scotland enjoying a wee dram. But it was far from average. A group of whisky lovers from South Africa went along to the Glen Grant distillery in Rothes, in the northern part of Scotland. The person pouring the whisky was Dennis Malcolm, a 53-year veteran of the whisky industry. The whisky was The Glen Grant 50 Year old. Some perspective in today’s world of instant gratification: On the 28th October 1963 Dennis hand filled the cask; on the 25 November 2013 he decided that the whisky had reached its high point and released the cask for bottling. How many of us can comprehend the patience needed to do that? How many of us would give in to temptation and want to share that special spirit, perhaps before it was ready?
The whisky is spectacular. But more than the taste, the colour, the aroma, the most special part of the day was immersing myself in the history of the distillery. Walking through the lush gardens along a path to a waterfall where there is a safe built in to the hillside. In the safe we found whisky and crystal tumblers. To the whisky we added water from the stream, perhaps much like James ‘The Major’ Grant did a century ago, after his hunting trips into Africa.
Drinking a whisky that was distilled before I was born gave me a sense of history. It was not the oldest whisky I’ve ever had, but it was the oldest, by some years, that I’d enjoyed with the person who filled the cask.
There were only 150 bottles produced, 15 came to South Africa, 10 have been sold, 3 are on display and 2 are being sold this Xmas. R 150 000 will buy you a piece of history and a lot of love. And if you buy it, give me a ring, I’d love to share it with you.