Thursday, October 9, 2014

Have Tomatin Cù Bòcan 1989, will travel!!!!

Every October, NOTHING scared me more during my childhood then the stories my grandfather told us about the black dogs of hell. The mythical red eyed creatures that roamed the wooded areas of Ireland howling and stealing bad little children. 

Nothing good ever came of the people who saw them and of course my grandfather relished in the gory details that made us squeal and wriggle in fear. Was enough to make me run all the way to bed, pull blankets over my head and wouldn't allow my grandmother to turn the lights off. I was scared half out of my wits for years... Now that he's gone, I miss those stories and him very much. 

As most of my regular readers know, I had the trip of a lifetime this past spring spending an entire month in Scotland. Lots of spooky stories along the way, especially at the distilleries. I often found my thoughts drifting to grampy and I'd smile wondering if he would scowl at the thought of me "swilling" uisge beatha or if he would have been proud :) 

Not long after my first trip to Scotland I realized we had driven right by the Tomatin distillery. Didn't know it = didn't stop. So this time, I made sure this was one of my chosen and planned stops. What I didn't expect was to spend most of an entire day visiting the distillery and WHAT A DAY it was!!!

Two of my very good friends Ansgar & Thomas (the duo that makes up Whisky Speller) were there with us as well, which of course only made it even more memorable.  Here is their account:

I personally fell in love with Tomatin whiskies in 2013 to the point where they replaced Talisker which was my favorite Scottish distillery for almost 7 years. Thus far, not one single Tomatin whisky has disappointed me. 

The tour itself was most excellent (blog about that soon!) but the biggest thrill for most of us geeks is getting to sample whiskies not yet available to the market or only available at the distillery. I have a bottle of the Cù Bòcan (on my 2nd one) and love that it's an easy going, sippable every day dram for excellent $ value. It's a hybrid that slips in really well somewhere between a Speyside and Islay whisky. Sweet, slighty smoky dram. It's truly one of the better NAS whiskies that came out in 2013 that I love to share.

Trying to look "calm" 
So when we went into the tasting room and Graham Eunson took out the Cù Bòcan 1989, needless to say my mouth began to water and I was trying really hard not to show my excitement. However some of those present that day didn't exactly hold back?! Errr wait, oh...that is me in the picture isn't it?! Ok, ok so I may have squealed, danced and possibly yelled "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER!!!" a few times... Let's just say the group had many good laughs at my expense that day because I don't hide emotions that well. Worse poker player ever. 

But I digress, back to the whisky... a small sample was poured for all of us and I was tempted to take out my note book but didn't. This entire day was simply about enjoying the moment. We didn't overindulge as we are responsible whisky people. We did however leave at the end of the day with samples to enjoy later, purchases of distillery only bottlings, glassware, clothing and a few other goodies to take home with us. The cars were loaded! But even so I wanted to ensure that everyone had a really great experience so I was happy to share the 1989 Cù Bòcan sample with the Spellers and sent some home with them back to the Netherlands. 

A few weeks later I was in now visiting Paris. I was alone for that portion of the trip. It had rained most of the day and I had been out walking around the Père Lachaise cemetary. I was soaked when I got back to my hotel room. I had a headache, I was a bit homesick and was in need of a nice warming dram. I went through my bag picking through sample bottle after sample bottle and nothing was really speaking to me so I gave up & went to take a hot shower. When I came back to my room I grabbed a pair of socks and that's when the Cù Bòcan fell out. Perfect! I happily sighed and reached for a Glencairn (At that point I had almost 20 from the trip) I opened the window blinds, turned off the overhead light and lay on the bed with my dram & notebook. No sooner did I write down the words: campfire ashes, did my window light up and a loud crack of thunder boomed overhead. It started to rain really hard and I could hear people scrambling to get out of the storm. A symphony of angry car horns, bicycle bells and rain bouncing off the cobblestones were mixed in between the thunder and light show. I left my bed and walked over to window with my dram. I opened the two large windows as wide as I could, grabbed a chair and watched the world unfold below me. It lasted a good 30 minutes and I sat there completely mesmerized. It wasn't until the storm was over and there was nothing but a few raindrops left behind that I realized that like the storm my whisky was gone. I looked back at the bed where my notebook was and peered down into my now very empty glass. Oooops.... Two words. That was all I had written down. I had simply enveloped myself in the warmth of the whisky while being completely enraptured by the glistening streets of Paris. I again had apparently very much enjoyed this whisky but without taking notes. I wanted to kick myself. Dejected I rinsed the glass, closed the window and fell into bed. My trip continued and it was fabulous but alas it was time to go home. 

Once I settled back into my life in Canada I started making enquiries as to whether or not this particular bottling would be available here and if so how much. I was determined to get my hands on some more. October I was advised and it would retail for $400.00. Frack, fudge, fallopian tubes!!! Well, that's that I thought but then, as always my horseshoe appears. 

On our very recent trip to Toronto (late September) we had a #whiskyfabric get together and a very dear friend Rick Culver (@rmculver) PULLED IT OUT OF HIS BAG... Lucky Lassie you say?  Hell ya I say...

Happy dance = redemption = WRITE NOTES this time you idiot!? And so... I did. I poured myself a dram and snuck off to our bedroom for just a few minutes & dug out my notebook. 

I didn't want to turn any lights on so I sat on the floor next to the bed, covered myself with a blanket and used the flashlight on my phone. Nose in glass and pen at the ready I balanced my I Phone as well as I could so that I could see what I was writing. Having created a bit of a blanket fort, the smell was surrounding me completely and it was it was purely sinful & delicious... 

Nose: The smell of the left over ashes after a bonfire has died down. Tinned pineapple pieces (the kind that my mom put in my school lunches). It has an earthy quality to it, like a wet mossy forest. Honeyed, creamy... 

Palate: Oh my... greeted by dark chocolate covered crystallized ginger pieces. Quite rich and there's hints of dried figs or prunes. Almost meaty in quality like walnuts or Portobello mushrooms (I wrote a ?). Mouthwatering and zesty orange on the swallow. 

Finish: Long, lingering and smoky. The taste of a good cigar after one exhales.  

Notebook closed and I turned off the flashlight app. "Thank you" I whispered in the darkness and off I rushed back down the stairs to the rest of the party. The company was awesome, the evening now perfect because I had been reunited once again totally by chance with the "dog". I nursed that dram for almost an hour, refusing to drink any other whiskies afterwards. 

Tomatin whiskies have provided me with some very memorable drams and moments. Most often they come to me through serendipity. This one only cemented that yet again. I tend to believe in karma and the supernatural. After all, some things are simply not meant to be explained but just enjoyed. I will forever have not one but three great stories of this whisky: first with fantastic friends in Scotland at the distillery with the people who created it, on my own during a dark rainy Paris storm and yet again in my homeland on Canadian soil tucked under blankets with a flashlight. 

So... grampy I often feel that you are the angel that is always here ensuring I make it through life's lessons but also allocates some of the good things that place too. In this case, I'm going to give you credit for this one and hope that this is payback for all the times you scared the beJesus out of me with your stories of howling hell dogs. I'm much older now and I can safely say in this case after three glorious attempts the "dog" has finally been tamed... for now at least.  

With just over 1000 bottles of the Cù Bòcan 1989 made it is available worldwide (except USA) but is somewhat scarce and rare. I recall hearing some might still be available at the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and the Good Spirits Co. in Glasgow. 

In Alberta Canada now, appx retail price $375 - $400. Check out places like Kensington Wine Market & some Calgary Co-op locations as well as Vinomania or Wine and Beyond in Edmonton. Nova Scotia will get in early 2015...

Graham MacKenney if you are reading this I have a birthday coming up and of course Christmas is right around the corner. I'm just saying - I could be really brave and take a 4th chance on encountering this smouldering dog. ;)


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