ABOUT THIS DRAM
Being a part of the selection panel when we chose our casks has been a highlight of my career so far, and it was a task that I and my whisky loving companions didn’t take lightly. We had over two dozen casks to choose from – and we took an afternoon to wade through each and every one. We compared and contrasted until we came to our conclusion, revelling in every minute detail of the differences and similarities between them. That being said, it’s personal confession time… I was drawn to this one from the very beginning.
The unassuming little bottles all lined up with cask numbers sharpied on them didn’t look like much to the unknowing eye. But for me, it instantly took me back to my days working at Bakery Hill in Australia. One of the little fortnightly treats I would enjoy there was to help our owner and stillman David Baker sample a small selection of the casks. This time though, instead of basically being there to watch a master at work and try and learn – it was up to me to lead the four of us in picking a cask to share with all of my friends and colleagues through the Dram Association. The pressure was on.
We took a single cask 14-year-old Speyside with us as a benchmark to aim for. Admittedly we had all made the assumption that Shelter Point would be a solid step down from it, but that simply wasn’t the case. Even the youngest tasting and most spirit-driven samples held their own against this unnamed Scottish stalwart. We didn’t have much to go on in terms of details for the casks. All we had were numbers, oh and a few letters – but we’ll get to that later.
Cask 94 stood out to me. As I said, I was drawn to this one from the beginning. The colour had a more rich nutty brown hue. It stood out against a sea of flashy yellow-golds and red-golds. This one was a little more centred colourwise, a little more refined. Not just that, but it almost glistened with a visible viscosity that made my mouth water.
When it came time to taste this cask, I knew that I was in love. It’s true that you should never judge a book by its cover though – and there was a distinct danger of a placebo effect taking place on my palate. Did it just taste good because I wanted it too? I decided to reserve my comments until my three companions had made theirs – careful not to sway any opinions. The first words out of Frank’s mouth though were “I would buy this over the (insert scotch name here)”. Which seeing as he had just bought a bottle of said scotch the day previous, was high praise! Grant, the man with control of the purse strings, had a satisfied grin and an empty glass. Emily (not deKorte, our now former events coordinator) was also rather impressed, and she was the first to throw tasting notes out to the room. I breathed a sigh of relief before revealing my own glowing opinions.
About another hour went by I believe before we made our decision. We whittled it down to a group of finalists and then tasted again to make our final choice. Some of the younger more spritely samples made it quite far actually. They show great promise and will be a fine dram in a few years time – but in the end, this whisky was too hard to say no to. But what about those vials with letters? Well, you’ll have to read about Dram S17 below!
The aroma of this dram first revealed a bouquet of herbs. Cloves, cinnamon and even rosemary joined slithers of candied orange peel and a cranberry balsamic reduction. Then there was a whiff of freshly baked croissants in a wicker basket, served with a pot of hot salted dulce de leche.
The palate discovered buttery rich vanilla and fudge notes. There was a solid malty base to this dram that was reminiscent of graham crackers. Slightly underripe raspberries, with that hint of a vegetal note, were draped in a coat of thick luscious ricotta.