Desert Island Drams – Bill Linnane

“A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn’t think he’d remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn’t see me at all, but I’ll bet a month hasn’t gone by since that I haven’t thought of that girl.” – Mr Bernstein speaking in Citizen Kane (1941) 

Being Irish, I have a romantic sense of tragedy. It’s part of the reason I love whiskey – the thought of all those lost Irish distilleries, of how we went from being world leaders in distilling to being an also ran – it all lends itself to my deeply ingrained sense of loss. 

Given my nationality, I almost chose an Irish whiskey as my desert island dram – Powers John’s Lane, a tribute to a distillery that no longer exists – but instead I’m going for something I’ve only ever had one small sip of but can’t get out of my head.

Last year I attended the Spirit Of Speyside festival. It was an incredible experience, and a real education. 

On one snowy May morning we ended up in Dufftown, where we took part in the Independent Bottling Challenge in Mike Lord’s legendary Whisky Shop. 

We sampled seven drams blind, and scored them accordingly. I don’t recall too much about the first six, but the last one was so good it practically gave me distortions of time and space. It was this incredible molasses colour, and with a depth that I had never encountered (and have rarely encountered since). Given that this was the 11th dram I had that morning (we were at an important bacon buttie and whisky pairing earlier), the fact it stood out at all is remarkable – but what was more remarkable was the fact that it was an Adelphi bottling of a 2007 Glenrothes. 


It was young without youth, the product of an exceptional marriage of spirit and wood. A singular cask had helped create this amazing dram – it was like a Never Ending Gobstopper, a kaleidoscopic avalanche of flavour. It taught me a lot about whisky – that maturity is no guarantee of quality, that not all casks are equal, and that you don’t have to break the bank to buy a great whisky. 

 I’ve never had that Glenrothes since that morning, but – like Citizen Kane’s Mr Bernstein – I think of it often, as it was one of those drams that snags in your mind. So if I was going to be stranded on a desert island, I’d like to be reunited with it. I think it’s one that I could spend some time exploring, sharing it with my monkey butlers, or Wilson, my football with a face, as I slowly succumb to delirium. If nothing else, at least it will be interesting to see how my romantic sense of tragedy enjoys starving to death on a beach. 

 

Bill Linnane is a failed journalist, failed blogger and Father Of The Year (quarter finalist). Like many Irish drunkards, he has too many kids (‘around four’ he thinks) so he is usually very busy playing Call Of Duty with them. When he does get a spare moment, he blogs on MidletonRared.com about life and whiskey, in that order. He doesn’t know a whole lot about either topic. 

3 comments

  1. Love it! Funny how sometimes that fleeting sample that blows your away takes on a different poignancy. That was my experience with a cask strength Lochside 1981… a friend heard this and acquired a bottle at 43% and I’ve been afraid to open it for fear it simply won’t be the ‘show stopper’ the sample I had years ago….

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