I have given myself a year to develop a relationship with whisky. At the moment, I would say that I have a crush on it. I am attracted by whisky’s beauty. I could go on a date with it and quite enjoy its company. But I’m not in love. More time in whisky’s company is needed for that magic to happen. And I am looking forward to us stepping out together.
It’s August and Mr Malt and I are heading to Spain for a week’s holiday, so there probably won’t be any whisky dates during that time. There is a small chance that single malt and I could find each other in a balmy Spanish bar and develop a steamy bond of sorts, but I anticipate that opportunity may not arise, so I am resigned to going without.
We are holidaying just outside Valencia at a lovely converted farmhouse and there’s no whisky here. Or at least I don’t think there is. It’s hard to know what’s available as there is no such thing as a menu. You just tell a staff member that you would like something to eat, then they (every time) suggest some cheese, ham and bread, and you say yes – because their English is rudimentary and you studied German at school – and hope it won’t cost €15 (it will).
Anyway, we head to the supermarket to get some supplies that we know the price of. I excitedly wander over to the spirits section to see what whiskies are available. There are some names I recognise and some which are quite clearly Brigadoon in a bottle: Passport Scotch, 100 Pipers, Blended Gold Kiss, Mr Francis (who?).
Then I spy a bottle of Cardhu 12 year old single malt. For only €24. A quick Google check tells me that is £19 and that it costs £35 in the U.K. I don’t know what Cardhu tastes like or how cool it is, but €24 seems like a bargain. I decide to buy it.
I read later that Cardhu is actually the most popular single malt in Spain because its sweet honeyed tones go well with the warm weather. Ooh, this is exciting! I like sweet things and I like warm weather. I can’t wait to try some whilst sitting by the pool.
Incidentally, a few days later, in a different supermarket I spot the Cardhu again. They have the 12 year old for €24 and a Special Cask which is €10 more. The bottles are on different shelves and as I point them out to Mr M, a nearby shop assistant suddenly swoops in and starts moving all the bottles onto the same shelf.
I instantly assume this woman doesn’t know what she’s doing and that she thinks it is all the same type of whisky. She clearly doesn’t know as much about whisky as I do (I’m Scottish, you know). I try to enlighten her by pointing at the figure 12 on one bottle then to the area where there isn’t a 12 on the other bottle. But she ignores me and carries on re-stacking.
I try again and point and say “no, no, no,” adding urgency to the tone of my voice. Still she ignores me.
Mr M has walked away by this stage, wanting nothing more to do with me.
And, to be honest, there isn’t really much more I can do. But I do now know that I am starting to care about whisky. And its image in overseas supermarkets.
We open the Cardhu after dinner in the hotel room. Because I am still learning to like the spirit, I prefer a helping hand when working out what smells and tastes I am searching for. I think this will help me to develop a more extensive whisky vocabulary. It’s kind of like having stabilisers on your bike until you are confident enough to go it alone.
The Cardhu smells kind of Drambuie-ish. It’s sweet and oaky; it’s like a log cabin; like warm honeysuckle evenings; like a syrupy satsuma; like warm buttered scones. OK, I am throwing smells out there, but those are genuinely the things coming to my mind and they must be coming for a reason.
The taste is kind of sweet and peppery. It is definitely the sweeter toothed person’s way into whisky.
The finish also seems sweet to me. I keep trying to taste different things with each sip and wonder if I should stop straining so hard and just enjoy the whisky.
I do get a big mouthful of something almost herby at one stage. Green veg maybe? Caramelised peas? Honeyed Brussels’ Sprouts? Something like that, anyway. It’s quite enjoyable and I think it does go with the warmer weather. Hopefully, though, it also goes with freezing weather as I will be taking the rest back to Scotland to consume there.
Since I have been back in Scotland I have used the Cardhu 12 year old as the basis of several whisky cocktails and have to say, I do think that both whisky cocktails and Cardhu are a great way into whisky for anyone who is finding the strong taste of the spirit a bit too much to take. More about all this in upcoming posts.