Dhu you like a good adventure story?
Yeah? Me too. Like other Malt writers – and, I suspect, Malt readers – as soon as COVID-19 hit and lockdown commenced, my alcohol consumption rates dramatically increased. At some point in late spring or early summer, it became clear to me that was not a tenable position, and thus I began looking for other activities.
An easy and fairly on-topic opportunity dawned on me when I realized that I had a pile of whisky notes but no organized system of storing them. With a love for a good spreadsheet and a need to kill time, I started obsessively tracking all the whisky I drank in the past. The archaeologist librarian in me dug up tasting notes and photos of whisky bottles going back nearly a decade.
My findings revealed a contrast of way more records of consumption than expected, with a shocking amount of obvious omissions, which can only lead me to believe there were tons of less obvious ones. I should also clarify that many of the records that did exist were certainly not thorough.
As a recent example: right before the pandemic, in December of 2019, I went to a Glenlivet tasting. I distinctly remember eating some great filet mignon and pouring 15 Year French Oak over French vanilla ice cream. Remember tasting events? Those were the days. Anyway, I am 100% confident I had other pours. I am 100% confident I thought all of them were decent but not mind blowing. I am also 100% truthful in being utterly shocked that, in a decade of drinking scotch, that 15 Year French Oak is the only single record I have of drinking Glenlivet… one of the most market saturated whiskies. On the other side, there was no record of ever having Ardbeg Uigeadail, which is near blasphemy because it’s such a go-to choice for me and a safe harbor at many venues with a lacking spirits list.
A more significant observation of all this chronicling was that I became more aware of the distilleries I have yet to try, or at least for which I have yet to make legitimate attempts at tasting notes. As some basic knowledge, research, and auction hunting tells me: there are 128 active Scottish whisky distilleries, and 27 that have been closed since 1975. That sums up to a total of 155.
One of the reasons why I love Scottish whisky is that it’s broad enough to have diversity, character, and differentiation of its product, while still maintaining some measure of sanity in regards to producer counts. It’s ambitious but entirely possible to try all 155 Scottish whisky distilleries. To contrast, the task of trying the 2,000 plus (and rapidly growing) number of American bourbon distilleries would be utterly daunting. Trying all the wineries in California (of which there are over 4,000) would require a seriously fanatic quest.
For me, drinking whisky is the perfect hobby. Accessible, but not so affordable I’m tempted to dabble in it willy-nilly. Luxurious, but not so opulent that I feel awkward or shameful for the indulgence. Thought provoking and serious in quiet moments, but equally as enjoyable with friends. Nerdy enough to indulge my inner geek, but not overwhelming in its complexity.
This disclaimer is only to rid myself of any judgement that might come from the perception of my being a box-checker. While trying all 155 distilleries is certainly a goal, it’s not for vanity. I have no desire to bandy a list of dead distilleries, pretend I’m the coolest cat on the block, and proclaim myself the authoritative expert. I am merely a mild adventurist.
Now – as life has more or less returned to normal – I found myself traveling to Kansas City, Missouri. This was my first trip there, and I went in with high expectations as some light research and recommendations from friends all indicated that the city had some incredible drinking dens. To wit, on my first night in the town, the free and utterly delightful city tram dropped me off a couple doors down from Harry’s Country Club. I was greeted warmly by both the bartender and the real-life Harry, the bar’s namesake. Upon inquiry, I was handed the binder, and began combing through all the alcohol in their “medicine cabinet”. My eyes quickly fell upon a 33-year-old Dallas Dhu from 1979 with a very fair price, given market conditions. A few drams later, my night drew to a close with my first ever pour from said deceased distillery.
The notes and score shall soon follow, but let me say the adventure was great as the whisky. From the three hours I spent drinking great whisky while listening to tall tales from Harry – who is an encyclopedia of remarkable life experiences – to blitzing the electric scooter through an empty city on the way back to the hotel, it was a night to remember. Over my life, scotch has been the impetus for many similar experiences, and for that, I am infinitely grateful.
Gordon and MacPhail Dallas Dhu 1979 – Review
Nose: Disclaimer: this was poured into a tumbler at the bar, which I must say is an appalling choice of glassware for a non-peated 33 year beverage bottled at 86 proof. With that noted… A dark and musty bar with sawdust doors (Goodness, I miss sawdust floors). Blackberries, plums.
In the mouth: Very similar to the nose. Like your deceased grandmother’s musty, slightly perfumed, oak closet. A richness belies the proof, yet does not feel heavy or carry any alcohol burn. It tastes old in the way only an old dram does. I can’t quite explain it, but if you know, you know. It’s so comforting. The finish continues all the delightful flavors from the palate for quite a while and as it starts to fade away, light oak notes remain, while quality vanilla beans start to reveal themselves.
It falls just short of a 9 point score due to its proof. I don’t think I’d want this at 100 proof (50% ABV), but 92 (46%) or 94 (47%) seems like it would be a solid number compared to the 86 (43%). I think it would really help the mouthfeel and add an exceptional layer of complexity.
That said, this dram is a true sipper. Give me a bottle, a cozy chair, a crackling fireplace, and check on me in a couple years, please.
Photo Courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer.