We end up in one of the warehouses, sampling a couple of astoundingly good
whiskies. One is a 12- or 13-year-old, about 62 proof, out of a bourbon cask; very phenol-
ic, slightly carbolic but zesty, and - once it's pointed out to me - yup, has notes of Amer-
ican Cream Soda, which was my favourite sugary drink when I was young. This is deeply
wonderful whisky, and tasting it in the fume-heavy coolness of the dark warehouse while
the clear spring sun beats off the pure white walls opposite and illuminates the golden
liquid in the sampling column can't help but heighten the experience. Oliver and I swap
superlatives, but I'm not sure that Stuart hasn't made a mistake here; I'd have led with
whatever comes next and finished with this, because this is simply wonderful; one of the
best whiskies I've ever tasted.
I am, however, wrong, and Stuart knows exactly what he's doing.
The second whisky is 28 years old, is down to about 46 proof and is from a fino sherry
cask (most sherry casks used for whisky have held oloroso). This stuff is just colossal.
One taste (albeit a taste that takes a few minutes, from first amazed sniff to last lingering
sensation at the back of the throat) and it goes straight to the top of the list. Very peaty,
smoky and salty, but that's just the start; there's a rich creaminess here too, powerfully
but sharply sweet in a way that would swamp a less muscularly peated dram but which
here is part of a kind of dynamic of phenolic smoke and something like musky perfume.
It's a changing dynamic, too, like having some immensely complicated integrated equa-
tion of taste working itself out in your mouth, developing as it's held there to swirl from
wood-smoke to sea-spray to sherry and back again; one moment it tastes like barbecued
licorice, next it's changing to honey-glazed fruit (though at the time my principal impres-
sion was, Wow!).
I look at my empty glass, then at Oliver the Editor.
'This is the best whisky I have ever tasted,' I tell him.
'You mean we've found the perfect dram?' He looks worried. 'This could be a short
I smile at Stuart and nod at the cask. 'Is it possible to buy any of—?'
Stuart is already shaking his head. 'All already spoken for, I'm afraid.'
I nod sadly and tell Oliver, 'I think the search has to continue.'
'Your readers will appreciate the efforts and sacrifices you're so determined to make
For a moment I think I detect a hint of irony, but surely not.