Plans are now well underway to host the first Omaha tasting by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The Date is September 10th from 4 p.m. till 6 p.m. at the Dundee Dell, 4964 Dodge Street.
The cost is $40. Invitations will be mailed to those on the current mailing list. If you are not sure or want more information please contact the SMWS directly at 407- 791-0118 since they will be handling the registrations.
In September we will also set the schedule for tastings the remainder of the year.
From there we drove to the Birks of Aberfeldy. This is an area made famous by the Robert Burns poem, and is quite beautiful. There is a 2 plus mile nature walk through the area, so wear comfortable shoes that you won't mind getting a little dirty/muddy., The area was created by several waterfalls that flow down from the Highlands past the town of Aberfeldy. If you don't want to hike up to see the falls, you can walk down through the town, which boasts an old abbey and other historical sites. The Aberfeldy distillery is near here, but it was not on our itinerary.
Back on the bus, we made our way past historic battlefields to Edradour. The tour guide was adamant that I pronounce it correctly. It rhymes with sour, not moor, because dour (rhymes with moor) has been used to describe the Scots, and refers to someone who is glum or gloomy (ah, the intricacies of the English language). Edradour is located near Balnauld (BAL-no), which is just above Pitlochry, a nice little "holiday-type" town that possesses that austere Highlands beauty. Its claim to fame is that is the smallest distillery in Scotland. It normally produces in a year what the big distilleries can produce in a week. Michael Jackson's 2nd Edition of the Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch writes that they maintain a staff of three, but they have increased by 33 percent since his writing. The picture on page 78 of the book shows nearly the whole facility behind the barrels is a bridge across a creek fed by the spring that provides their water, the bridge leads to the gift shop, which the tour guide opens after the tour.
The tour itself starts with a tasting of their 10 year old which I enjoyed immensely, followed by a 10 minute video presentation on the history of Scotch and their distillery. Then the tour goes upstairs for a look at some old tools and more in-depth talk about Edradour and it's past. It is rumored that Edradour was for a time owned by the Mafia, and that it did a great volume of business with America during the Prohibition days, but the stories cannot be substantiated. It wasn't until the late 1980's that Edradour started bottling and selling its 10 year old single malt. Before then, their pride came from the House of Lords blended whisky, which they produce by order of the House of Lords. It was here that I learned the old Gaelic toast offered over a dram-- "Slainthe" (pronounced SLAN-jeh), which means to your health.
The gift shop was small, well appointed and stocked, and not nearly as outlandish as Gelnturret's and though the shot glasses were a little steep at 6.50 pounds ($10), I did buy one to go with the bottle of 10 year old I bought. I even got a bottle for my father-in-law, I like it that much.
Well then--there it is. For 14 pounds (plus expenses) I got to do and see it all. If you ever get the chance to visit Edinburgh, see the castle (especially the war memorial, very stirring for me), walk through the Royal Mile, follow the Scotch Whisky Trail and visit the Scotch Whisky Heritage Society but don't buy in their gift shop, avoid the Camera Obscura, and by all means take the guided whisky tour from the travel office upstairs in the Waverly Mall.
San Francisco is truly a wonderful city. Its rich history, spectacular landscape and cosmopolitan atmosphere hold delights for everyone. Still, I was more concerned with one thing after I deplaned at SF: Where was Cannery Wine Cellars? I had been informed by my on-line friends that it was a first-rate source for single malts. Finding it wasn't nearly the challenge I thought it would be though, as it is a part of shopping area known as (surprise!) The Cannery. The store itself seems to specialize in a wide variety of gourmet items, fine wines and single malts.
The array of choices for single malts was truly staggering. It is one thing to read about the Black Bowmore, 21 YO Glenlivet, 30 YO Glenfiddich and 50 YO Macallan. It is quite another to have to decide whether or not to buy a bottle! The prices on these rarities were more than a little daunting to say the least.... the cheapest was $275.00 (Bowmore), and to be honest, the 50 YO Macallan wasn't really for sale. (The Glenfiddich in its spectacular decanter was $3,500.00) The second thrill was to see labels heretofore only admired in the pages of Michael Jackson's guide. Glen Grant, Strathisla and Linkwood were just a few of them. The selection of independent bottlings includes a substantial number of Cadenhead, Gordon and McPhail and Whyte and Whyte (?) bottlings. In some cases you may select between different independent bottlings of the same malt!
I spent over an hour agonizing over my choices before selecting a Deanston 10 YO, Glenfarclas 105, Glen Garioch 21 YO and Rosebank 17 YO (Whyte and Whyte bottling). The staff was wonderful, happy to offer their suggestions or just let you browse unmolested. The store layout is interesting, with the regular malts on standard shelves, while the more unusual selections are lined up alphabetically in a rack over your head just out of reach. I had to hold my breath while my bottle of Rosebank was pulled down from its perch, since there would be no chance that it would survive the drop! They do have a list showing what's available and what it costs (which helps to save your neck and eyes on the high rack). The prices aren't cheap... you pay a premium for both the selection and the location. Ordinary malts were a few dollars higher than I was accustomed to paying and a few of the more rare finds bordered on outrageous, unless you're including the cost of a plane ticket to London in the price. For the serious collector, Cannery Wine Cellar is a definite must if you're in the Bay area.
Upon entering the shop, I looked around at the vast array of selections on the shelves and made my way to the counter. Behind the counter stood a substantial individual who greeted me warmly and asked if he could help me. One look and I instantly knew to whom I was speaking. I said: "You must be John Milroy". He responded: "Aye, laddie, and how would you know that"? I introduced myself and said that he was quite well-known throughout the single malt world and I had heard a lot about him through the Inter-net. He said he had heard about the Web sites and some of the conversations concerning him, his brother, and the Milroy shop. He then exclaimed: "Well, lad, that calls for a wee dram", at which point he grabbed a bottle and poured me a taste of a 12 yr old Caol Ila which was bottled under their own Milroy label. It was cask strength and he suggested adding a little drop of water.
After tasting this one and sharing comments about it, we proceeded to chat about various single malts, the sources we have in Omaha for obtaining them, the Dundee Dell and our own ScotchWatch Society, and many other items concerning single malts. We continued to try some other bottlings and exchanged addresses. It was a very pleasant afternoon and John could not have been more helpful and hospitable to a wandering Yank from Omaha. I promised I would send him a copy of our ScotchWatch Newsletter and he seemed eager to receive it.
I highly recommend a visit to Milroys on your next trip to London. It is located on Greek Street in Soho--just ask any bobbie for directions! If you are lucky, John will be there himself.
P.S. Several of us tried the bottle of Milroy's Caol Ila I brought back at the last tasting we had at the Dundee Dell. The response was positive. Several indicated it was not as harsh as some of the other Isleys and many commented on the smooth, rich, character of both the nose and the finish; however, we all enjoyed it even more after adding a little water as it is 63.4 proof.
Have a good summer!
Anyone with ideas or suggestions please forward them to Bill or B.J. Thanks in advance for your help.
B.J. Reed (firstname.lastname@example.org)