Whisky Magazine Issue 13
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A mystery flavour, a grand tasting and French chemists- all involved in Gary Regan's whisky adventure.
Sitting in an upmarket restaurant drinking single malt scotch that retails, in the USA, for $7,000 a bottle is how adventures should begin – exactly how my rancio odyssey started.
In 1997 a group of writers and whisky enthusiasts were invited to taste the 40-Year-Old bottling of Bowmore that had just been released in New York. Jim McEwan, the Brand Ambassador, expertly led the tasting in his usual witty manner and informed us that the small portion of whisky sitting in front of each of us was worth between $300 and $400. We didn't gulp.
A strangely flavoured whisky, it was as if it had gone through a metamorphosis and transcended into another dimension after so long in the wood. Very intriguing, especially as one particular taste element of the spirit completely eluded categorisation by my taste buds. I could only decipher it as being an earthy, cheesy, mushroomy flavour that held hints of soy sauce
On my way home that day I discussed this flavour with my friend and fellow spirits writer, Paul Pacult. What the heck was it? We were both at a loss to explain this flavour. Eventually our conversation came around to rancio. Maybe that was the answer. But how could we ever know for certain? The tasting was over and we weren't willing to spend that much money for a whole bottle. Suddenly, Paul was inspired – “Let's hold a tasting of the oldest malts we can get our hands on,” he suggested. And that's exactly what we did.
We managed to persuade 13 distilleries to delve i...