A while back I was randomly visiting the local liquor stores, specifically ones I had yet to visit due to their seedy appearance, when I walked into the local Thirsty Camel Drive Through Bottle Shop.
Yes I did walk into the drive through.
So I walk into this drive through bottle shop, with my wife looking quite exasperated and amused with me. I take a quick look around and am disappointed. Just the standard fare, Ardbeg, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam,the usual with the usual inflated prices when the shopkeep comes out and asks if I need anything.
I glance around the shelf and comment that I'm just looking around for whisky. When I say this he looks at me and asks if I'm a whisky man?
My wife at this point snorts before I can say anything and I grin and inform him "But of course I am!"
The shopkeep informs me that his name is Ash and that he's a whisky man and we start talking shop.
And wonders of wonders he actually is. He's not a poser who says he only likes single malts and hates bourbon and when you ask him if he prefers a Speyside whisky or an Islay whisky looks at you with blank, vacant, glassy eyes. This man actually knows his whisky.
I love this! So we keep talking about preferences, good whiskies we've had, what's worth what, how overpriced the store is and my eyes alight on the top shelf.
On it are several bottles, covered in dust, in little cardboard boxes. I can faintly see some handwritten notes.
At this point I ask him if he wouldn't mind grabbing one of each bottle down for me to check out.
"Not at all"
Down come three cobwebbed and dusty bottles.
Three Glenrothes. A 1985 Vintage, a 1991 Vintage and a Select Reserve, from 2006.
I grin as he replies to my question if people ever come in for whisky.
His answer is that yes they do and his reply to my question as to what whiskies he recommends them is a laugh.
"I tell them that the good stuff is always on the top shelf, problem is that their eyes always end two shelves below the one yours ended at." He laughs.
I eye these whiskies with envy and lust. I want them, but I've already spent my months whisky quota and my wife has been very patient with me so far, mainly laughing at the 15 minute conversation and the look of awe on his face when he finds out that I converted her to a whisky drinker.
"Thank you very much for bringing these bottles down for me" I tell him. Then I tell him I'm sorry I can't purchase any today.
He laughs and says not to worry, but to remember his name and the next time I'm in he'll give me a discount.
My first serious contact in the whisky industry over here! A low level one, but hey we all started somewhere!
So I go home and weeks pass, bottles come into my house that were higher on my priority list, but always in the back of my mind are those three lovely little Glenrothes.
In the meantime a problem that had slowly been rearing its head finally took center stage in my wife's and my whisky life, oxidation.
Almost everyone of our Speyside whiskies was being adversely affected by this bane of my existence and many of my lovely whiskies were becoming quickly unlovely.
My wife and I then decided that no new whiskies would be opened until opened bottles were finished and we had the oxidation under control.
Now this would normally be very difficult for me to live with, but thankfully god and the kind people at the distilleries invented samples!
So I spent almost two weeks trying Auchentoshan's and basic entry whiskies and then a lovely 30 year old Secret Cask from Abbey Whisky.
But alas I soon ran out of new whiskies to try. I would occasionally drink from some of my open bottles which I love to do anyway, but it felt like the sense of exploration was over for the foreseeable future.
Oh well to hell with not BUYING any new whiskies!
Quickly a Four Roses Single Barrel and Stranahan Colorado whisky made it into my cabinet. Then a 30 year old Port Ellen.
And still no open bottles.
So then comes the epic day that Glenrothes makes its first appearance into my cabinet.
I'm sitting on the internet as I'm often found doing and I'm going through the main bottle shop in my area, Dan Murphy's.
As I scan through the site I think back to the Thirsty Camel and Glenrothes and decide to see what Dan Murphy's has in the way of it.
Holy crap they've got a Select Reserve going for around $70 bucks that scored a gold in the San Fransisco competition.
So I head on down to Dan Murphy's and conveniently enough, Thirsty Camel.
My plan is to swing by the Thirsty Camel and see what, if any Glenrothes they have left, then swing by Dan Murphy's and purchase accordingly.
If they both have them, I'll snag Dan Murphy's 2012 over Thirsty Camel's 2006 since I know Dan Murphy's has a large turnover on some of their whiskies.
I once again walk into the Thirsty Camel and all three bottles are still there. Still dusty as ever.
I then head over to Dan Murphy's to see their 2012 Select Reserve. I get into the store and head straight to the whisky section, which is sadly way too small.
In it I see a Glenrothes Select Reserve, but not the award winner. I wander up and down the aisles hunting for this elusive 2012. But to no avail.
Finally a lowly clerk notices the perplexed look on my face and deems to help.
I inform him of what I'm hunting for, and he looks at me and he goes,
"There's the Select Reserve right there"
"Yes, but that's not the award winner"
Huzzah for customer service in Perth!
I finally convince him to look it up on the computer where he comes back with..."Can't find it"
Oh well back to the Thirsty Camel I go!
I head in, ask to see the bottles, and decide!
Today the Select Reserve shall be mine!
As the clerk (who sadly wasn't Ash, no discount for me) rings up my purchase I ask him how long the bottles have been there, the clerk is an older gentleman with a gruff and surly manner and looks at me to inform me,
"Ever since I bought the place. No one's ever bought one of those bottles"
WOW. Just Wow.
I head home, happy with my purchase, eager to show my wife, like a child with a new toy.
But I can't open the bottle. Oxidation.
Then my wife a few days later finds this little 240ml jar. It seems to have a tight seal. I might, just might, be able to use this to decant my whiskies into. My wife has sadly got this little jar for spices and some other household things.
I convince her that for the good of the cause I need this bottle, it's to save the whiskies!
She finally acquiesces.
The next night I crack open the bottle of Glenrothes. I'd originally told my wife that I was opening the Four Roses, but had changed my mind on reflecting that the bourbons didn't seem to be suffering any negative effects from oxidation, it was just the Speysides.
So I crack open the bottle and pour us a nice dram, then immediately decant as much of the remaining whisky into the little jar. Here goes nothing!
We sit down for dinner and the smells coming off the glencairn are AWESOME!
The bottle said ripe fruits, but they didn't say it all! Pears, apples, grapes, sultanas, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, and some oak.
This smells delicious!!!
I, patiently, wait for my wife to finish her dinner so that we can taste. This takes longer then normal because my wife is...
I actually don't know why it took so long for her to be ready to take a sip of the whisky. It normally takes 40 minutes or so for her to be ready. Tonight it was over an hour.
By the way, that hour was an eternity.
I'm totally serious.
But finally, she's ready!
So I hand her the glencairn and she briefly smells it and then takes a sip.
Bam! She's gasping for breath and once she can talk informs me that she knows it's over 40% ABV.
I inform her that it's sitting at around 43% ABV and now I'm starting to get worried. Does the alcohol flavor kill this whisky?
I cautiously take a sip and I love it!
The apples and pears shine through along with the vanilla and cinnamon. There's definitely oak in there and there is an alcohol flavor in it, but it's not over powering. It actually compliments the whisky quite nicely.
The finish is short to medium length with the pears and apples coming through the strongest, with just hints of the vanilla lurking underneath.
This is a very nice whisky and a steal for around $70 AUS. Enough so that soon I shall be going back for their second and last bottle of this. Sadly and luckily for me I haven't seen this year of the Select Reserve except for the Thirsty Camel near my house. I sadly get the feeling that once I buy all their Glenrothes they won't be purchasing anything that the other liquor stores don't already have.
However Glenrothes Select Reserve can be picked up at most Dan Murphy's for around the same price so it's not too hard a bottle to come by.
Now to save the whisky. I get to come back to the bottle in a month. I get to cross my fingers and see how the main bottle has oxidized then compare it to the portion that has been decanted. If the decanted portion is close to what I tasted tonight I know the seals on these bottles will be tight enough after which it's time to go pick up a heap more of these bottles and decant away!
I'll report back in a month so wish me luck!!