Whisky

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Having gone a bit soft for the first two editions of WOTM, it’s time to talk about a real bollock-busting dram. The standard Lagavulin is a 16 year old malt, a real beauty of a whisky packed with peaty intensity. Just before Christmas I got hold of the Distiller’s Edition. This is a bit like a regular 16 Y/O, except that it’s been double matured, which means that at least part of its maturation has been inside Spanish sherry casks.

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I reckon this version is absolutely superb. It has the firey yet smooth explosion of flavour seen with the regular 16 Y/O, with a little hint of sweetness from the sherry cask maturation. Towards the end you get the most fantastic warm, slightly salty afterglow. There’s a good bucket-full of peat throughtout. It’s certainly a full-blooded Islay, but with a satisfying complexity that goes beyond the sensory napalming of the Laphroaigs.

lag-2What a wonderful colour… deep amber and delicious. This is truly a whisky to be a savoured slowly. I plan on stretching mine out for as long as possible, sharing it with as few lucky people as I can get away with… It’s a whisky to inspire selfishness.

A couple of years back my dad and I nipped up the road to Pitlochry to have a casting lesson with Ally Gowans. As we strolled down to the river I asked him about his general leader setup for dry fly fishing. He said that he preferred the simplest method possible, that of knotting a tapered leader to the end of his fly line. Carefully weighing up a poisoned barb, I asked him about the use of the dreaded braided loop…

knotter

It turned out that he was the newly appointed Commander in Chief of the Braided Loops Anonymous charity. This is a little known organisation that works to rehabilitate anglers unfortunate enough to have been conned by clever marketing into using braided loops on the ends of their fly lines. He was remarkably adamant about the evil of braided loops, and I could see where he was coming from.

People spend gazillions of pounds/dollars/euros on fly lines. Some of those Scientific Anglers jobs cost more than most of my fly rods. These modern fly lines are a marvel of engineering. Carefully chosen plastic composites are sheathed over intricately woven braid, and the whole thing given a precise and painstakingly researched profile. There are gazillions of profiles of course, each suited to a different condition, a certain size of fly, a nymph or a dry, night time or day time. The profiles taper with nuclear accuracy, honed from the wide diameter of the head, down through the transitional taper to the delicate little section right at the tip. It’s enough to cause my head to spin.

So there they are, ranks of beautifully constructed fly lines, many of them costing considerably more than a fine 17 year old single malt. They’re carefully attached to similarly expensive brightly-coloured backing, presumably made from Madonna’s old tights, and wound onto similarly expensive reels peddled by certain bling merchants as important for catching fish. And the pièce de résistance?  Glue a 50 pence hunk of plastic on the end.

It’s like a sous-chef taking all day to prepare a delicately flavoured bolognaise sauce, using only the freshest ripe tomatoes, the most aromatic basil and the most mature steak, and then lobbing in half a bottle of ketchup. It’s just not cricket.

So, what’s a better solution?

kilt_man

This picture has nothing to do with this post. But tell me, when was a photo of a guy wearing a kilt sporting a head digitally-substituted with a bunch of flowers not a good thing?

Well the old Wise-Man of Pitlochry uses a simple Borger knot, tying his leader straight onto the end of the fly line. This inevitably causes a slight hump from the wraps of the knot, but it’s a hell of a lot less intrusive than those braided loops.

In an earlier post I waxed lyrical about the method of gluing a leader into the end of the fly line. This is still my preferred method, and the one that unquestionably gives the smoothest transition between fly line and leader, and ultimately the smoothest turnover.

The only downside is the slight hinging effect that happens between the stiff end of the leader butt and the limp fly line. I’ve found that over the course of a few months, particularly when you’re fishing a lot, a bit of a crack can sometimes develop in the fly line at this hinge.

Personally, I can’t be bothered with trying to re-glue a hingey fly line to leader connection when I’m out on the river. Nowadays I therefore tend to adopt the Wise-Man’s approach, and use a knot.

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And here we come to the crux of this ramble. Whilst browsing around a year or two ago I came across a groovy nail knot tool that makes it really easy to tie a secure connection between leader and fly line. The Wise-Man disapproved of course, saying that any angler worth his salt should be able to tie knots without a tool. Again, I can see his point, but I like my damn tool. It’s small, cute and does the job very nicely. I’ve tried doing nail knots with no tools, and while it is perfectly possible, this wee tool lets me do it in a fraction of the time. Most importantly however, I feel more inclined to trust the final knots.

The Old Pulteney 12 year old has been a favourite of mine for the last year or two. It’s becoming widely available in supermarkets, and can be had for under £20 on special offer. At that price, it’s an absolute belter. I notice that this website rates it very highly indeed.

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I recently came into possession of the 17 year old version. This is another wonderful offering from the far northeast of Scotland, a place I normally associate with wonderful landscapes and trout fishing. It’s double the price of the 12, at about £45 from reputable dealers. For me that’s a lot of money to spend on any bottle of juice. But this is a fine, fine juice..

My experience was quite close to the distillery’s tasting notes. Definitely apples in there on the nose. Stick your nose into a good scenting glass, close your eyes and repeatedly inhale.. I get spicy apples and a hint of toffee, maybe some of the butterscotch mentioned in the blurb. I try to avoid reading other people’s tasting notes before I try a whisky. In this case I managed to do so, and still agreed, so I guess that means something.

Very first impression on the tongue..spicy. Wait a few minutes…try again, now used to the alcohol. A beautiful melting of vanila and butterscotch, soft and very, very warm. The slightest, far-off suggestion of smoke. Lingers for a long time. Very, very nice. Mmm…. Got to be one of my faves I think. A really smile-inducing whisky, not at all aggressive like my usual loves the Islays. A really wonderful gift of a whisky, and definitely more interesting than the 12.