More pics here from Jonathan Hogg
It’s maybe all about perspective, but to be honest, it wasn’t that bad! From the photos, it looks like it was a pretty minging day for the 2016 Whisky Chaser, but it could have been so much worse… According to the Met Office beforehand, conditions were due to be okay till about 4pm, then there was a 90% chance of double blobs of rain till about 8pm, then it would be okay again. The Chaser starts around 4pm and takes about 3 hours. Bum. I have to admit that I spent part of Saturday morning slightly obsessively watching the Met Office rainfall radar as a solid swathe of sogginess swept inexorably up through Northumbria and the Borders. But hey, we have a bad weather option which we haven’t had to use yet, so if we did, it would just feel like a different run!
As it happened, things were pretty pleasant as Chris and I popped out and stashed a couple of bottles in preparation. Back at the Steading we settled on a comfy sofa as people started arriving, kags at the ready, and things were still okay as we headed out just after 4. At the first stop we recovered a 13 year old single cask independent bottling from Auchentoshan – “the breakfast whisky”, and not far off for Jeff, who’d done the Mikkeller beer run in the morning, and just continued on through to the Chaser – full marks for stamina, both running and drinking. As for the Auchentoshan, it was easy drinking, rich and with plenty of flavour – general consensus seemed to be that it was a good start, and it gave us the opportunity to raise a glass to Antipodean Carnethy Mike O’Connor, who was celebrating his nuptials the very same day.
On past Boghall and up to the woods, a Scapa Skiren was our next choice. Nothing wrong with it, but a little anonymous maybe? Fortunately most people seemed more taken by it than I was, but it was still the day’s only whisky which didn’t get too much clamour for seconds. Shortly after this came crunch time – up and over Woodhouselee to the broken sink, we had to decide whether to cut-off on the bad weather option, or stay high. It was raining lightly but the worst of the weather hadn’t arrived and the Moorfoots were still visible, so the consensus was to do the tops – there be spirit (in more ways than one) in these here Scaldies! (A contemporary reference which will make no sense at all in future years when this waffle sits in isolation on the Whisky Chaser webpage…).
The top of Castlelaw, or to be more accurate, just off the side of it, gave us a 15 year old BenRiach, finished in Sauternes casks – a very nice dram with a noticeable but not overwhelmingly wine-y character. This year’s Digby whisky? Sorry Diggers!
Then downwards, onwards and upwards to Allermuir where the west side of the summit gave excellent shelter for us to sup a 12 year old Royal Brackla. I hadn’t realised beforehand, but the bottle for this whisky was an absolute beast and weighed a ton, so much respect to Jimbob for carrying it all the way to here. This was a much sweeter whisky – lots of sherry cask influence giving a sugar bomb finish.
Murky clouds were dropping rapidly at this point, and started to scud across us en route to Caerketton, making things nicely atmospheric. But we still managed to get some shelter on the leeward side of the fort for our final selection – a 15 year old Bowmore Darkest, which was, well, pretty awesome really, and some final satisfaction for the peat-heads who’d been waiting patiently for their time to come. We also took the chance to raise a glass to absent friend and original Whisky Chaser co-conspirator Andy Millard (a second émigré to the lands of the Southern Cross), and, in a somewhat bizarre twist, were joined for this celebratory toast by Nick’s plastic skull. In later news, the skull made it down to the Steading and apparently ended up sitting on one of the cisterns in the ladies toilets telling shaggy dog stories to anyone who’d listen…
Anyway, surrealness aside, the usual skip down to the Steading was swift, and we re-gathered for rehydration (we were all so dry…) along with food and a good blether. Thanks to everyone for turning up despite the “soft” forecast, and particular thanks to Chris and Jimbob for their help with stashing and carrying whisky up the hills, and also for bringing the empties back down again!