The whisky I plan to open, and the story that goes with it.December 22nd, 2011
Every Christmas Eve, before I got to bed, I open up a special bottle of whisky and enjoy a dram of it. Regardless of which whisky I chose to open, there’s a story that goes with it. That’s one of the reasons why it’s special. I make sure that I drink the bottle before the next Christmas Eve, when I open another special bottle.
I have an emotional attachment to whisky, and I make no apology for it. Whisky isn’t just about the flavor or rarity. There’s more to it than this. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t always open a whisky that I buy right away. Instead, I’ll wait for a special occasion.
Maybe that’s why I have over 300 unopened bottles of whisky, with a room in my house set aside just for them. With all this discussion lately about whisky collecting and whether it’s a good or bad thing to do, the reality is that it’s just not that simple. Like many things in life, it isn’t black or white, but rather some shade of gray.
I don’t think of myself as a collector. I refer to what I have as an accumulation rather than a collection. And I fully intend to drink, share, and savor every bottle I have before I die.
Take this bottle, for example. It’s the whisky I am currently planning to open this Christmas Eve. It’s a Glenmorangie Distillery Manager’s Choice. I’ve had it for 13 years. Every time I look at this bottle or hold it, it it brings back a very fond memory.
This whisky was bottled in 1998, but the story actually begins a year or so before this. My wife and I were visiting distilleries in the Scottish Highlands. We made an impromptu stop at the Glenmorangie Distillery on our way back from visiting other distilleries farther to the north. We went to the distillery office and asked if Bill Lumsden, then Distillery Manager (and friend), happened to be in. Well, he must have heard my voice from his office, because he came running out and gave Amy and me a big hug. Then, without skipping a beat, he said: “There’s something you have to taste!”
Bill grabbed some keys and we ran through the pouring rain to one of the Distillery’s warehouses. Inside, in the dark, damp, chilly warehouse filled with with heavenly whisky aromas, he took me to one particular cask. He pulled the bung out, stuck a whisky thief into the barrel, and poured me a sample of what was inside.
I nosed the whisky and then took a sip, nosed it again and took another sip. Bill then asked, “what do you think?”
I told him I thought that it was the best Glenmorangie whisky I ever tasted.
“I agree, John,” he said, “and it would be a shame for this one barrel to be blended in with some other Glenmorangie casks. I’d like to bottle this on its own, cask-strength and not chill-filtered, but I just have to figure out how to do it.” I said to Bill if he ever does bottle it, save a bottle for me. He said he would.
Shortly thereafter, the Glenmorangie “Distillery Manager’s Choice” was born, and this was the cask: distilled in 1981, aged in an ex-bourbon cask, bottled in 1998 at 54.5%, and sold at the distillery. Bill kept to his promise, saved me a bottle, and I’ve waited for the right moment to open it–this Christmas eve.
Thank you, Bill. And a big thanks to all of you who take time out of your busy schedule to stop by and read whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment. I wish you all the best in the New Year and hope it is filled with many memorable whiskies.
How about you? Are you opening anything special this holiday season?