For one day, I was the luckiest American whisky enthusiast. It was not because I was enjoying some hard to find bourbons like Old Rip Van Winkle 10 or William Larue Weller. That was the previous day in a kitchen in Surrey. Those are whiskies still being made, albeit in very limited quantities.
So what could be more special than that? 7 Scotch Single Malts and an exceptional blend from closed distilleries. Sadly Scotland is littered with shuttered and demolished distilleries over the past two centuries, many of these lost within recent memory. But their legends live on, in casks and bottles usually at ridiculous prices. So how is a mere mortal like myself be able to taste true history? Through whisky clubs with members willing to share their treasures. In my opinion, there is none better than The London Whisky Club (TLWC).
The club brings together members not only from the greater London area, but regularly from all over the south of England. However their membership is not limited to any geographic locations, many members are from the Midlands, northern England and Scotland, but also Norway, Canada and several from the US, including myself. A truly open and welcoming club, with most tastings open to non-members as well, so if passing through London at any point in time, reach out to the club and see what tastings might be scheduled. Being a member, however, does have its benefits like advance knowledge of events and discounted participation for tastings. This tasting was of those events, that when listed several months earlier, I knew it was one I had to attend. I paid for the tasting and booked my airfare.
So now, on to the tasting event from March 11 2020 at the Tappit Hen in Central London. About 22 members, non-members and even a drawing winner gathered that evening to try 7 whiskies from closed Scottish distilleries.
The line up, nicely outlined on our tasting mat were as follows:
- Ladyburn 40 y.o. (1975)
- Littlemill 28 y.o. (1990)
- Banff 40+ y.o. (1976)
- Imperial 23 y.o. (1995)
- Cambus 26 y.o. (1993)
- Caperdonich-Peated 18 y.o.
- Old Guns Scotch-Blend (1970s) reported to contain 66.6% Port Ellen
- and a surprise guest, Millburn 25 y.o. (1975)
Everyone agreed that on any given night, each of these could have won top whisky in a tasting. For many the stars of the night were the Millburn and the Banff. I truly enjoyed and savored every one, but my favorite of the evening was the Littlemill with a big thumbs up for the Caperdonich too. But the most enjoyment came from the people you connect with. Having met many last September, is was great to rekindle those friendships, but meeting new people is the most exciting. Some I knew from the online whisky community and several I was able to connect with for the first time. These are friendships started, that can be rewarding and fun, and which will prove invaluable on anyone’s whisk(e)y journey.
Any trip to London is often bookend-ed with visits to the great whisky shoppes like Cadenheads, the Whisky Exchange and Berry Brothers & Rudd, as well as the spectacular whisky bars like Milroys, the Melody Bar and Black Rock Bar. On this one day, I only missed BB&R and the Melody Bar. It was a very full day, but I was able to squeeze in a bit of cultural history too with visit to the Handel/Hendrix Museum.
“Oh, we can be heroes just for one day” – David Bowie
By Jimmy Jensen