...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Meditations on Stay-At-Home Fatherhood and also Glen Spey 21 year old 1989 (Diageo 2010 Special Release)

Today's four meditations:

Your child's excretory proclivities will be of boundless interest to you and your partner, but no one else.

Your arm muscles will adjust as your child gets heavier and heavier.  Soon her 25 pounds seem normal, while infants who weigh 15 pounds are almost dangerously feather light.  You begin to think, I'm getting so strong!  Then you go back to the gym to start lifting again and you discover, no you are actually not stronger.  You are weak.  You only have Dad Strength, a currency useless with everything else in life.  Meanwhile your back muscles are fucked.  Sorry dude.

You will now treasure every time you can go to the bathroom alone.  Sometimes, half the reason you go to the gym is to hand your daughter off to the child care brigade so that you can utilize the fitness club's dirty-ass latrine in semi-peace, serenaded by gray matter curdling pop-dance beats.  Otherwise, enjoy the challenges faced by your own excretory proclivities at home as your infant crawls between your ankles while you are upright or attempts to climb into your lap while you are in a state of focused repose.

FACT: Every time you are unable to stop your child's weeping 10% of your soul dies.  It exits the body through the sternum and vaporizes in the troposphere.  The good news is that, thanks to math, your soul will never be reduced to absolute zero.  Unless you run for public office.

Today's single malt:

This whisky has appeared on this blog before.  I reviewed a sample of it in April 2012.  It was referenced again in January 2013.  And then in May of this year, I mentioned it was the bottle I opened to celebrate Mathilda's first birthday.  It gets so many mentions because I enjoy it thoroughly, and also because I often repeat myself.

Part of this whisky's charm, and why it's probably difficult to compare it to other Glen Speys, is due to its creative maturation.  Back in 1988, someone at Diageo for some reason thought it would be a good idea to season 20 to 30 virgin American oak casks with sherry before filling them with newmake.  The mix of the new oak with the sherry and the fruity Speyside malt is a hell of a thing.  I'm not sure if anyone else has released something like it since.  Especially anyone named Diageo.

Distillery: Glen Spey
Owner: Diageo
Age: minimum 21 years (1989 - 2010)
Maturation: new American oak seasoned with sherry
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Alcohol by Volume: 50.4%
Limited Release: 5844 bottles

The color is a reddish gold.  The nose starts with rye and corn.  Or is that my nose interpreting the oak's influence as rye whiskey and bourbon whiskey?  Then there's lime peel, nutty sherry, and almonds in toffee.  There's a note that exists somewhere between cookie dough and Play-doh.  Then milk chocolate, pencil shavings, pipe tobacco, and roasted coffee beans.  Vanilla bean and incense.  Hints of honeydew.  The palate has a whole bunch of ripe fruits in sugar: think loquats, apricots, and tangerines.  Wood spice, like an oaky old rye.  Baklava with rose water syrup.  It gets more floral (definitely roses) with time.  Cigar tobacco.  A subtle bitterness appears, but I'm not sure if it's from the spirit or oak.  It finishes floral and sweet, citric and toasty (both grains and oak).  Vanilla, halvah, toffee, tangerine-ish citrus, and a hint of tropical fruits.  Some drying tannins.

WITH WATER (~43%abv? I don't know, I had a foot cramp mid-hydration and lost track of how much water I added but I never add water to this whisky anyway and run-on sentence.)
Lots of maple and vanilla in the nose.  Some tropical fruit, but also a bit of wood pulp.  The palate is very tannic, bitterer.  There's tart grapefruit, vanilla, some nuts, some pencils.  The finish is woody.

At times it's as if someone mixed a little old rye or high-rye bourbon into well aged Speyside.  Not only does it work, but damn this thing sings.  The oak, the sherry, the spirit all combine into something that's both pretty and muscular.  BUT, I concur with MAO, do not add water.  Neat only.

Also, this was released back when Diageo's annual special releases didn't cost as much as a mortgage.  In fact, this one went for $150ish in some areas -- I found it for $120ish in the UK -- but it still stayed on many retailer shelves for 3-4 years.  Considering how many lesser whiskies sell out much quicker while being more expensive and less limited, and considering how many great reviews this got (from MAO, Sku, Murray, and Serge), it took considerable effort for the hoard-happy whisky community to avoid cleaning this out years ago.  And I am thankful for it.

Availability - Still lingering around in a couple dozen specialty shops around the world
Pricing - $150-$250
Rating - 91 (neat only)


  1. I wonder how long that sherry stayed in the American oak casks? Macallan, for example, state that they mature sherry in their casks for two years before shipping them to Scotland.

    Michael, I don't suppose you've started making Dad Jokes?

    1. Sadly I was making Dad jokes long before I was a dad. It's a terrible thing.

      Regarding the sherry, Diageo rarely disclose anything. Other than Mortlach and some of the Distillers Editions they're really not known for richly sherried stuff. But I wonder if new US oak would absorb a lot of the wine quickly.

    2. Louie has some 12 years on you with the dad jokes, but you're on the right path!

    3. Sherry aged in American oak is pretty common since there are many American producers of sherry. Which is why I'm not too surprised Diageo got some American oak ex-sherry casks for this Glen Spey. I'm of the opinion that American oak doesn't absorb much sherry character so it's more of the American oak that is doing the maturation work.

    4. @Florin -- It's funny but I thought Eric was referencing the infamous Dad Humor. You know, that tendency for men to suddenly start making unfunny, embarrassing, often un-PC "jokes" around their family as soon as they become fathers. Otherwise, I won't attempt to catch up to Louie's skills. His standup stuff about his daughters is some of the funniest work I've ever seen.

    5. @Eric -- Yeah, US oak makes up the majority of the so-called "ex-sherry" casks being used. But in this case they were definitely using virgin oak that was likely heavily charred. The result is really fascinating.

    6. Yep, I was referencing cheesy dad humor like using a stud finder on yourself (the first thing that came to mind).

      I think I've said this before but someone seriously needs to compare sherry matured in American oak against European oak.

    7. Note to self, "Use stud finder joke ASAP..."

    8. Your wife has my full permission to groan and hide her head in shame...

      I think you should pick up a sample of Benrinnes if you haven't already. The special release has gotten a bit of a cult following on the whisky subreddit.

    9. Re: the Benrinnes, if I can I definitely will. The reddit reaction to the old 23yo is hilarious. I do think that many of Diageo's Special Releases are probably very good, or at least a big change of pace from the regular Classic Malts, it's just the pricing that's a shame. Meanwhile, many of these releases from the past two years haven't moved from the shelves.

    10. If it weren't for the insane pricing I think Diageo picks some very interesting whiskies for their special releases. While the closed distilleries get the most attention I like to see which obscure distillery got picked for the line-up. Benrinnes and Glen Spey being two such examples.