An ideal way to spend an hour or so on a December evening: Re-reading Howards End, sipping The Balvenie DoubleWood 12, and attempting to quell thoughts about recent news events. Helena Bonham Carter (who is the face and embodiment of Helen Schlegel for me now) and theosophy are certainly more pleasant to contemplate than are Charlie Rose, John Hockenberry, James Levine, Roy Moore, et al, and the tax legislation before the United States Congress, and the beautiful taste of the DoubleWood helps me sublimate the angst I feel about North Korea, Foggy Bottom, the Oval Office, and the sclerotic political response to the deteriorating infrastructure and educational standards in the U.S. Doing away with tax deductions for graduate students, for money they will actually never see, but giving Betsy DeVos special treatment? Heaven help us.
Yes, E.M. Forster’s masterpiece is giving me much solace, as is The Balvenie.
“It will be generally admitted that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man,” speaks a character in the novel. Is The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 the most sublime spirit that has ever passed my lips? I don’t know that I can state that, though a reliable source has told me that it’s the favorite dram of the inestimable David Stewart, the Malt Master at William Grant & Sons. I’m honored to share his preference.
Speaking of reliable sources, I had the pleasure of meeting Mitch Bechard, a brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, at a special tasting this past Saturday at Costco, and I have to say that William Grant has good taste when it comes to its personnel. Bechard’s relaxed manner and jocularity, not to mention his knowledge and obvious passion for spirits, meshes well with the personalities that are Jonathan Wingo and David Laird, two ambassadors for The Balvenie (Gleniddich and The Balvenie are owned by William Grant), and the three gentleman are engaging, lively, and thoughtful representatives, and they’re fun to drink with to boot.
Brechard, who lives in North Carolina, opened the following bottles — prices listed were special to the tasting; check your favorite merchant for yours — at the event, and if you want to buy something special for the holidays, go for the Ghosted Reserve. You’ll remember each sip for a long time.
Here’s how William Grant’s team describes what I and the other participants tasted:
Ladyburn Single Malt 42 Year Old – Among Scotch collectors, few Lowland distilleries are held in the same regard as the long shuttered Ladyburn. It was open only between the years of 1966 and 1975, and few bottlings of what was produced there as standalone single malts exist. Tastings notes: very soft with notes of apricots and honey. A spicy and toasty palate – quite mouth-watering. Good length with a grassy and slight almond finish. ($1,400)
Ghosted Reserve 26 Year Old – a blended Scotch from the Ladyburn and Inverleven distilleries. Interleven was “Ghosted” in 1991 and Ladyburn being closed back in 1975. It is truly one of a kind Scotch, limited to bottles on hand, never to be reproduced. Tasting notes: rich and creamy with notes of citrus and almond. ($350)
Girvan Patent Still Single Grain 25 Year Old – the original Girvan Patent Still was built by William Grant’s great-grandson, Charles Gordon, in 1963. After distillation, this whisky was aged for an incredible 25 years. Tasting notes: complex velvety smooth with an incredibly sweet flavour. With time, the flavour evolves into deeper, richer notes including chocolate orange and bake apple pie. ($270)
Glenfiddich Single Malt 21 Year Old – Using casks that once contained our own premium Caribbean rum, this expression spends its final months finishing in these Rum casks selected by our Malt Master. Tasting notes: peppery with a touch of smoke, oak, lime, ginger, and spices. ($130)
The Balvenie Port Wood 21 Year Old – The flagship single malt from The Balvenie’s little group of Port Wood whiskies. This bottle was finished in thirty year old port pipes and is a veritable masterclass in poise and balance. Tasting notes: dried red fruits, floral heather, nuts andd wood spices. ($160)
The Balvenie Single Barrel 25 Year Old – Introduced to The Balvenie single malt Scotch whisky range in 2014. Released in batches, each bottle is one of no more than 300 drawn from a single cask. The casks that Malt Master David Stewart selected for this release are chosen for having the richly spiced, sweetly honeyed character. Tasting notes: great combination of subtle spice and honeyed sweetness. ($400)
Returning to my solace, The Peat Week is another Brockhaus selection from The Balvenie. Back in November, I had lunch with Wingo and Laird, and we sampled the peaty drink from The Balvenie … read about The Peat Week here, and if you like subtle smoke, pick up a bottle for yourself or for the whisky lover on your gift list.
“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” That’s a rather famous sentence of Forster’s, from the novel nearest to my hand now, and when I read it again I thought of the way many of us will connect this month, at parties celebrating birth and renewal and friendship. Do connect. And if you are looking for a white wine for your parties, I’m recommending a great one: the 2016 Cantina Riff Pinot Grigio. It’ll cost you $10 or so, and it’s versatile and delicious. Read about it here, and get your party dress ready.
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