Nothing exists in a vacuum. I mean, that’s pretty much the definition of a vacuum. If you try really hard, you can isolate something to look at it all on its own, but that’s kind of missing the point. Everything relates to everything else, and that’s especially true of the sense of taste. Every now and then I’ll read something about how a group of people tried some food with a clothes peg on their nose, and then tried it without, and it was totally different. I’ll think, “Hah, isn’t that cool!” And I’ll go and not put a clothes peg on my nose. It’s all part and parcel of the experience, and I’d rather get the full package.
That’s not to say it can’t be interesting. There’s a restaurant in London called “Dans le Noir”, where the whole deal is that you eat in the pitch black. Without the distractions and preconceptions of sight, you’re supposed to experience the full flavour of the food. And it worked, the flavours were clearer, more distinct. But for me, the experience of the meal itself was less complete. Plus, I kept holding my fork the wrong way round. I’d recommend them, absolutely, but it’s not something I’d do twice.
Anyway, it’s good to remember that our perception of the taste of a whisky is coloured by our other senses, and for that matter our mood and state of mind. I cracked open a bottle of the Singleton of Dufftown Spey Cascade during a trip to the Peak District, and to be frank, it tasted extremely bland. Not that I was expecting it to stack up to the Tailfire and Sunray, both of which I love, but there was genuinely nothing to get a handle on. I have a tasting journal which, in the foreword, states that, “a mark of 5/10 indicates that yes, this is a whisky.” On first impressions, the Spey Cascade would definitely have got a 5.
But since getting back and starting on the rest of the bottle, I have to admit that my first impressions missed the mark. It’s not a whisky packed with distinct flavours, granted, but it’s certainly a very drinkable one, and great for a quiet night with a film. The nose is a touch sharp, but with some very pleasant cooked apple and dark sugars (I’ll call it muscovado, because it sounds good). There’s a little bit of orange coming out on the palate, but again, the dominant impression is those dark sugars and a bit of vanilla. It’s not one that lingers, and you’ll need a quick second sip to remind yourself what the first was like, but the Beeblebrox tactic isn’t so bad once in a while. As I discovered, it’s not one to have when your nose still remembers the smells of the countryside and your legs remember a solid day’s walking, but all in all it’s a pleasant, easy-going whisky, and not bad with a bit of dark chocolate.