Fit For The Glens: 10 weeks to go…

Alright, alright. So I cannot actually speak of any real training since my last post because there hasn’t really been any since my last post. In my defence, however, it isn’t my socialising at the stiletto’d feet of which I must place the blame, rather that which has moved to joint pole position as the most important use of my time before April: work to earn money so that I can do this at all. 

Four hours of sleep (whilst a luxurious lie-in compared with Wednesday) was not sufficient rest to allow me to start my shift in the restaurant at full throttle. This was unfortunate because January 30th felt more like July 30th such were the hungry hordes which only Lauren and I were available to seat, serve and tidy up after. When she had to stay past the departure of the last bus, I volunteered to take her back to where she lives, in the depths of snowy Northumberland. Not having driven on the snow since I expensively dented the car before Christmas, and fully aware of how my sleep-deprived person was approaching the limits of his attention span, I was both drained and delighted when I finally returned home at 11.30PM, not having killed anyone. Another mammoth shift the next day, during which we served almost as many Sunday lunches as we would in the summer only, with it being winter, one waiter less, floored me utterly.

As far as living is concerned, then, it has been one of my busier weeks. I would not have had it any differently, though.

My friend’s birthday night out was a revelation. After the meal, organised by me at the very last minute, I was bracing myself should our group end up wending their way towards The (Hateful) Gate. As it was, the birthday girl took us in the opposite direction and this is how I now know about Baby Lynch.

To the left of Newcastle Central Station as you approach it from Gray’s Monument, this was to be my first Newcastle club. After having had my ID checked (both irritating and intimidating) in I went. I was impressed. The decor was original and comfortable, the music good without being deafening and they had five single malts behind the bar. This

“Lookee! Bowmore!” I can’t tell you how overjoyed and relaxed finding this unlikely outpost of malt made me. Ross was happy with his mojito, too. Photo by Frances Hawkins.

Bar looked like the floor of the London Stock Exchange after everything started to go wrong. Bartenders rushed between tills and bottles and glasses, mixing all sorts of incredible drinks. To my complete surprise, I felt at home. I bought a mojito and a double Bowmore 12-year-old. Although these totaled more than £12, it was entirely worth it for the sensation of soaking up this new atmosphere whilst drinking something I actually like. Would you believe it, but this has never happened before. Sipping and sniffing, this drink lasted me for the remainder of our time at Baby Lynch. As we roamed around trying to get into other places (too much to get into Tup-Tup Palace; a ticket-only night for Digital) it started to snow. While sitting in Gotham Town and juddering around in a couple of other places prior to leaving for our taxi, it started to snow a lot.

2AM arrived, but no taxi. We were standing in the huge concourse of the station with streams of people emerging from the blizzard, hopelessly under-dressed and trying to track down a taxi of their own. Charlotte was one of these under-dressed folk, and because she is n’t really of Northern origins, I feared she was going to perish of hypothermia. After donating my hoodie to her, I thought I was. The taxi came at long last, though, and on the way back we saw why he had taken a bit longer to reach us. Everything was white. Someone plainly doesn’t want me riding on the road.

Therefore, it is another turbo session once I have posted this, plus overshoes and one of my new base layers. I don’t need a cold on top of everything else! For one thing, it would get in the way of my other branch of training, which has been going very well indeed.

As you can see from the picture, I have been giving my senses a refresher course and I feel they are back up to speed.

“Ten green bottles…” Some of my favourite malts, and a great test of my sensory abilities.

 To my delight, I have discovered a heightened sensitivity (or would that be imagination?) regarding terroir-related flavours. It is these aspects of the whiskies I’ve sampled which I have use to compose the tasting notes below. The originals were much much longer!

Bowmore Legend 40%

Colour: Fresh gold with smooth ambery depths.

Nose: (Full strength) The sea experienced in a close driftwood shed. Salt and spray fly above a solid, heavily-peated base. Cool and moist: a warehouse on the shore. (With water) Smokier: thick, fragrant palls of the stuff. Rich, iodine-y seaweed.

Palate: Initially it is an island of peat on an energetic ocean. Lots of seaweed.

Finish: Salty and seaweedy. Peat smoke lingers in the background but reservedly.

Mortlach 16-year-old 43%

Colour: Deep burnished ochre with amber/bronze highlights.

Nose: (FS) Very intense, rich, moist and round Sherry wood aromas. Fudgy. Not quite “outside”, not quite “in”. A quiff of heather essence and within a closely-contained peat/smoke note. (WW) Becomes drier, sweetly earthy and floral. Fruitcake and honey. Wonderful caramel.

Palate: Very sherried malt with spoons of rich honey and a dab of fruit. Dries a lot and there’s an explosion of peat smoke.

Finish: Long, thick and moist. Bitter chocolate. Figs. Orange and cloves.

Old Pulteney 12-year-old 40%

Colour: Bright broom-yellow gold.

Nose: (FS) Very pronounced May seashore sweetness: dry grasses and flowers. A light dash of dessicated coconut. Seawater in a plastic bucket. (WW) The butter and sugar have become a full sponge mix with lemon zest. Still quietly floral only these flowers are wilder: broom and sea cliff flowers.

Palate: Medium-sweet, hot, lots of honey and increasingly malty.

Finish: Flavours of flora: flowers again, but also grass and the dark shade of a tree.

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Colour: Smooth nutty Sherry brown with golden highlights.

Nose: (FS) A powerful humidity is first out of the glass with the characters of Sherry wood, dry malt and some smoke. Tarry notes and pencil lead. Finally we reach equilibrium: smooth and authoritative with marram grass and hot white sand. (WW) Not quite the same smoke and a little clearer. Leather tarps, tarry buckets and well-used wood. A delicate, smooth, sweet and fragrant vanilla/citrus note. Dried peat put back in the bog. You could nose it forever.

Palate: Very intense and aggressive. Wash-like fruity malt which is soon overtaken by thick black peat smoke and burning heather roots.

Finish: Burning cask staves. White chunks of peat. I even taste the whitewashed stones of the distillery itself. Takes an age to diminish.

Longmorn 15-year-old 45%

Colour: Full yellow/gold.

Nose: (FS) Honey and vanilla ice cream with a herbaceous border of floral notes. Butterscotch. A definite, soft fudgy sweetness with fresher minty qualities. (WW) Lighter and more moist with added juicy fruitiness. Warm and spicy oak. All light and delicate flavours with a lot of space between them.

Palate: Very lively malty sweetness leads into a drier biscuitiness, then assertive and flavoursome seasoned oak.

Finish: Vanilla and flowers dominate the quiet, measured and creamy finish.

Talisker 10-year-old 45.8% (See ‘Most Hotly-Awaited’)

Colour: Polished fireside brass with clean gold highlights.

Nose: (FS) Very dry, smoky and peppery. Volcanically powerful. Smoked molluscs. Subtle heather honey. (WW) Much more easily-defined smokiness: burning driftwood and smokeless heat from the peat. A wooden rowing boat on the sea loch. Clinging sea mists.

Palate: Begins with heat, raw wood and peat. Then you taste the peat fire.

Finish: Long, salty and seaweedy. Lovely smokiness in the rounded wood flavours.

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