I feel lucky to have gotten the opportunity to taste such an old whisky

What better way to celebrate two years of the Empty Whisky Glass, (I missed mentioning the first posting’s anniversary on the 23rd) than with what I started off doing here: “notes from an empty whisky glass.” Though I’ve veered a bit recently, let’s celebrate with a very special whisky I feel lucky to have tasted last night in Oostende.

This is a bottle of Dewar’s White Label 8y from around the 1920’s. My friend Geert thought I should taste it since it has actually become tainted from its old lead cap closure. This unfortunate mishap has given the whisky a slightly murky green color. No not completely colored as said, but rather the edges, like an older red wine displays brownish hues when fanned in the glass, or as an aged white wine yellows. I instantly nosed this, or so I thought. What’s that smell I wondered? It was familiar for sure. Oh! It’s that stuff cat owners use when they have to “bomb” their house for fleas! Yes, remembered from my childhood, the powerful scent of flea foggers. Wow gosh how interesting indeed is this old, lead-tainted blend Geert informed me was probably all malt whisky. So exciting to taste such an old whisky, tainted, spoiled, ruined, whatever! But was it really? I proceeded to smell the hard rubber bar mat the whisky glass stood on and understood that the flea poison I was smelling wasn’t the whisky at all, but the rubber mat. I moved away, the poison dissipated as I kept my nose in the glass, trying to find off notes, something offensive or off, anything. I couldn’t really, nothing recognizable anyway. Obviously this is a well made whisky, high or all malt content as Geert suggests. Even with the lead interaction, this whisky has kept its ground. Great, let’s continue!

As I sip my mind works backwards and forwards, like randomly thumbing a history book while wondering what this whisky has lived through, now finding its way in my lucky, soon to be empty glass. Crazy indeed to taste a whisky like this! I continued to work towards my empty whisky glass tasting notes rather than becoming distracted by all of the history swirling in and around this bottle attempting to overwhelm me.

The glass was eventually, cautiously, painstakingly emptied, so I proceeded to roll it around allowing the remaining bit to distribute itself evenly around the glass. Old whiskies tend to have a bit of dustiness to them, which this whisky didn’t seem to contain at all. Had I not known what was poured into the glass I probably wouldn’t have known it was something so old. But then again, whisky doesn’t age once bottled! So this in fact was just an 8 year old, high or all malt blended whisky; I consider this as I attempt to go back in time to its first release. And of  good quality for sure! This is exactly what it was I realized as I nosed the now empty whisky glass, still somewhat young and fresh. Raisins! Fresh raisins, not completely dried ones from a small box. After the raisins came fresh pastry, sweet, doughy, stretchy pastry dough, but not yeasty at all. And still no dust, cardboard, or old notes, aged, yes, but not old. I continued to dig, dive, hunt for something else in the empty whisky glass, anything, but these notes continued, eventually fading, understandably. A whisky so special, distilled and bottled so many years back, and who knows the rest of its story?

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