The Speyside spirit world | ParkRecord.com

The Speyside spirit world

By Jay Meehan
Park Record columnist

So there I was, wandering up and down the “spirit” aisles at the local Costco over here on Kauai looking for something of the “blended” Scotch-whisky persuasion when my sister, a longtime local in these parts, sort of nudged me toward a particular “single malt” to which I’d previously shown an attraction.

Well, when compared to the sin-tax tithing the legislative watchdogs back in Utah add to the bottom line of such free-agent debauchery, these Hawaiians were almost giving it away. Although recognizing right off that the somewhat hyperbolic prose affixed to the box by “The Macallan” marketing department sounded unfamiliar, I spirited it off the shelf and into the cart.

The Macallan is distilled in the Speyside sub-region of the Scottish Highlands and something about the “sherry” aftertaste of its 12-year version made it my favorite go-to recreational single-malt back in the day. You know, the kind you would toss in your duffle if you were planning on spending two weeks rustically lodged on Hanelei Bay. Or, for that matter, just hunkered-down in Heber binge-watching “Grantchester.”

By “recreational,” I mean its not one of those peaty single-malts from the isle of “Islay” like, say, the Laphroaig 10 or the Lagavulen 16 that often find themselves languishing in my liquor cabinet waiting for a worthy cigar to come my way with which to pair it. Not that I don’t get a wild hair now and then and pour 4-fingers of either in celebration of some arcane milestone.

So, the jug-in-question, rather than being the Macallan 12, is the heretofore unfamiliar “Macallan Gold” from the 1824 Series. Which, in case you were wondering, had been created to showcase “the beautiful range of natural color” inherent to Macallan whiskies exclusively matured in sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain. Or, to quote David Byrne of the Talking Heads: “Same as it ever was.”

Even at this point, after having knocked back a couple of good-sized snifters, I’m still not sure if this is the beginning of a new single-malt relationship. Last evening was really an annual wake-like party celebrating the life of my brother-in-law Billy Terheggen on the third anniversary of his passing.

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Which is to say, it didn’t lend itself to the aloof “airs” that often accompany the inner-connoisseur. I will find time, however, to put whisky maker Bob Dalgarno’s assertions to the test. You know, to see if “this burnished gold spirit presents a lemon citrus nose, then orange peel and an interlacing sweetness that softens but doesn’t eliminate the zest.”

I just love it when they talk like that. In fact, I’ve been attempting to incorporate similar flowery jargon into the characterizations I employ to embellish what is actually a quite dull existence. If truth be known, however, opportunities to insert such phrases without the awkward non-sequitur alarm going off are few and far between.

Like, I’m a long way from being able to flippantly reply with “a quiet note of vanilla is followed by dark chocolate — more assertive yet not overly so — with lingering floral and light oak notes” as a response to “whassup?” But I’m working on it.
It should have become apparent to me that such vernacular was in the works once they began reviewing single-malts in Wine Spectator magazine. Back in the day, I recall going around sarcastically spouting “It’s a BIG ‘Cab'” whenever a Cabernet wearing shoes crossed my path. I’m sure it was the Willoughby clan of Napa Valley that snuck that one into my quiver.

Did I mention that, at least according to a blurb from the box, “The Macallan is celebrated far and wide by experts and discerning drinkers as the world’s most precious whisky.” Hmmm? Precious? Like in cuddly? I’m not sure I ever looked to whisky, even Scotch, for a hug. Possibly it’s the definition dealing with rarity and great value that they’re tossing about.

But I’m getting somewhat far afield from my aforementioned homework, which, today, is to incorporate “Citrus and boiled sweets rule the palate, along with hints of ginger and cinnamon, while soft oak tones reveal toasted apples” as a response in the affirmative to “Wanna grab a bite?”

Why I couldn’t locate a jug of The Macallan 12-year on the shelf of the Lihue, Kauai Costco is anybody’s guess. I’m sure the world’s most precious liquor store (located in the friendly confines of Heber City, Utah, by the way) will remain a reliable connection. How was that for a finish? Medium sweet, malty and slightly dry?

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.