Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Talisker Eclipse, Shackleton's Dram and more from India

(This post is from the Nippy Sweeties blog)

What a night! It was beautiful, mild and clear over Shetland; the lunar eclipse was simply stunning. Enjoyment was helped along by the superb meal provided by our friends Neil and Yvonna, not to mention a couple of glasses of Neil's excellent home brew. And then, at home, with astronomy student Magnus back from University, we got out the Talisker and the binoculars.

Talisker under the stars: And after the Amrut and the Three Ships (see below) this was the real deal: Nigh on 46 per cent alcohol, 10 years old, and full of mountains, sea, salt and tangle. I sometimes think that whisky can only be enjoyed properly out of doors.

Magnus was able to point the glasses (the optical lenses, that is) in the direction of otherwise invisible astral objects - a nebula here, a beehive cluster there. It was magical. And the Talisker helped. Undoubtedly.

Ernest Shackleton's epic 1907 polar adventure, was whisky-fuelled. Mackinlay's provided the drams for the trip, and now some of the actual cratur involved has turned up, buried in the ice beneath Shackleton's expedition hut, unopened and in apparently perfect condition. What's the betting that a 'Shackleton's Dram' makes its appearance in due course? Perhaps a bit like that 'Whisky Galore' bottling of 20-odd years ago, when tiny amounts of salvaged 'Polly' were blended with other whiskies, bottled and sold (with very nice labels)at a huge premium. I remember consuming some, illicitly, straight from the bottle in an Oban bar during a Royal National Mod...but let's gloss over that, shall we?

Mackinlay's is owned by Whyte and Mackay, which in turn is in the throes of transfer to Vijay Mallya (see below. There's a revealing piece in the Sunday Herald about Mr Mallya's future intentions. I don't like the sound of this dismissal of 'whimsical' interpretations of what 'whisky' actually is. If you're going to make a spirit out of molasses, surely it's rum and not, as is being insisted about some Indian products, a 'whisky' or 'whiskey'?

Not that there's anything wrong with a tot of Trawler, Stewart's (Shetland-owned) or for that matter Havana Club in the right circumstances. I once had some home-made, herb-infused rum in a disreputable shack on the Caribbean island of Monserrat. It was served from an unlabelled bottle by a slightly confused guy with impressive dreads, and it was one of the smoothest alcoholic spirits I've ever tasted. Six months later, that part of Monserrat was destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

I don't think the two events were connected.

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