Like golf, cigars and hip replacements, I’ve been saving whisky for my later years. It requires a complexity of taste and character, and the deep pockets of someone who can afford to spend $150 on a 750ml bottle of liquor. That being said, I’ve started the journey to appreciation, and lately have been enjoying a couple fingers of Johnny Walker Black on occasion, occasionally more on occasion, and occasionally it’s not Johnny Walker Black at all, but Glenfiddich or Glenmorangie or Glensomethingelse-ich.
It’s my first visit to Cape Breton, and after playing the fiddle at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre and popping into the Rankin Family’s Red Shoe pub in Mabou for a pint of Big Spruce’s Pale Ale, I was delighted to be shepherded to Canada’s first single malt distiller, Glenora. Now you can’t call whisky a scotch unless it comes from Scotland, but that didn’t stop the Scots from suing Glenora for using the word Glen in their name. Cagey bunch those Highlanders. I guess they really believe there can be only one (pop that culture reference!) Glenora won because damned be a tartan squirrel if they aren’t located in Glenville, in a glen (a valley). They also have a fantastic restaurant, which, thanks to the courts of Canada, proudly serves justice.
Anyway, Glenora whisky ambassador and manager Donnie Campbell showed tremendous patience showing me around, explaining the history and processes of whisky, which I’d explain here, only I had a few tastings and the facts are swilling in my head just as surely as the caramel liquid was swilling in my glass. Blends vs single malts have something to do with cereals and houses and barrels and how many black flies are about when all this is being explained. Regardless to say it is very interesting, especially learning about the Highlands and the Lowlands and the Scottish History of Cape Breton and the mashing and distilling and warehousing. Did you know cask whisky is 65+% in alcohol, and is diluted with brook water to make it palatable? I even collected the water from the MacLellan Brook myself. Did you know most Scotch whiskys are stored in used American bourbon barrels? Did you know a spirit must be aged at least three years before it can be called whisky? Now you do.
I’m told Glenora is also the only distillery in the world with an attached inn, where I am staying tonight. There will be a céilidh, pronounced kay-lee, which is a Gaelic party of song and dance and drink. Then another one. I am spending Saturday night in a distillery on beautiful Cape Breton. Ice, water, neat – it’s all going down splendidly.