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Issue 9 - Desert island malts

Whisky Magazine Issue 9
April 2000


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Desert island malts

Derek Cooper, the winner of the 1999 Glenfiddich Lifetime Achievement award, reveals his selection of the eight favourite whiskies he would take to a desert island and includes the world's first organised malt.

I started playing the game of choosing our favourite malts with a Manhattan American while on a cruise down the Nile 15 or so years ago. He had spent a year in Scotland and become an enthusiastic connoisseur of malt whiskies. In turn we chose our top eight single malts. We agreed to exclude blended and vatted varieties.

Yet, however often I play the game I always start on the Isle of Skye, an island I first visited when I was six weeks old. At Carbost on the shores of Loch Harport they have been distilling a unique and egregious whisky since 1830 known as Talisker. It radiates power and pungency; in musical terms it is the brass band of malts, complex and uncompromising. The finest glass of Talisker I ever tasted was in the manager's office at Carbost. It was over 100 proof and had been drawn from a cask that morning. Recollecting the experience I noted that it was spirited enough to fire a jet fighter. The slightly oily, peaty ruggedness of the bouquet mounted into my nostrils. The corpus of the drink advanced like lava from the Cuillins down my throat. Then vroom! Steam rose from the temples, a seismic shock rocked the building, and my eyes were seen to water. Cheeks aflame I steadied myself against a chair. Talisker is not a drink, I decided, it is an interior explosive, distilled central heating. It depth-charges the parts, bangs doors and rattles windows.

Next I'd like a bottle of The Glenlivet, historically the most famous malt of them all. The first man to take out ...

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